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At first glance, Hangover III is more of the same

The Associated Press, Tuesday, April 16, 2013, 7:37pm (PDT)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — No one ever accused the "Hangover" franchise of trying too hard.

For the second installment in the franchise, the gang of debauched man-children moved from Las Vegas to Thailand. This time, it's back to Vegas for another round of dazed mystery-solving.

The film has been highly anticipated in Sin City, where director Todd Phillips appeared Tuesday at the annual movie-theater convention CinemaCon to plug the film.

Well, "plug" might be an overstatement.

While other directors strutted on stage in suits and presented extended sneak previews of their films, Phillips slid on stage with his sweater sleeves rolled up and played the trailer that has been available on YouTube for days.

"Let's wake this up a little," he said, nodding at Warner Bros. Pictures domestic distribution president Dan Fellman.

In the extended preview, an increasingly unhinged Zach Galifianakis mourns his father and provides nonstop setups for straight men Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms.

The "epic finale" keeps the basic premise of haplessness in the face of mounting alcohol and drug-fueled mayhem. But it appears to have an animating plot this time around instead of jumping off from the after-effects of a wedding-fueled celebration.

John Goodman shows up as a thug who enlists the wolf pack to track down the hedonistic Mr. Chow, played by Ken Jeong. The misadventures lead south of the border to Tijuana, Mexico, and then finally back to familiar Las Vegas.

There's also a point-of-view shot of a giraffe crashing head-first into a freeway overpass.

The original "Hangover" is credited with proving that seriously raunchy humor can sell to a mass audience. In 2009, it became the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time.

The second installment, while seen in some quarters as a lazy retread, was another box office hit.

Hangover Part III might pull off the same trick.

It opens Memorial Day weekend against another film that has also gone to great lengths to avoid messing with an apparently winning formula: "Fast & Furious 6"

Phillips dismissed the competition, saying, "come on, it's Vin Diesel," and adding an expletive.

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Hannah Dreier can be reached at http://twitter.com/hannahdreier .

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