I know it seems a tad hypocritical for me to blast the sixth edition of Fast & Furious, a franchise that falls into very familiar territory with each new entry, only to now boast a defense for the third installment of The Hangover series. And I might very well be a mega hypocrite. But where Fast & Furious constantly proves that cars and explosions will make them easy money no matter how crappy and formulaic it may be, the Hangover Part III proves that it deserves more respect than it’s getting, simply based on the fact that it has completely abandoned its formula and left the comfort zone for this last entry.
As much as people seemed to bash Hangover Part II for being the exact same movie as Part I, I’m in the camp that Part II is not only different from the first, but it’s even funnier as well. Yes, the basic setup is the exact same, and that in itself is one of the intended jokes. But all of the little gags throughout the movie are different from the first. It’s a different movie with a similar framework. So when I hear people say it’s the same movie as Hangover I, I usually roll my eyes (after I turn around, as not to be rude), because I’m assuming that they just wanted an easy excuse not to like the film. What once was popular must be brought down to into the dirt… Ya know, the asshole movie watcher’s credo… Yeah, so they woke up in a hotel again and don’t remember anything from the previous night. Is that literally the only thing you remember? The rest of the jokes are a complete blank? Did you just zone out and rewatch the first film on a projector screen in your head for the next 90 minutes? I don’t know why I get so defensive about The Hangover movies, they probably aren’t even in my top 50 favorite comedies, but I do feel like they get less credit than they deserve.
So after the very dark humor of the second film, which is WAY darker than the comedy of the first one (even my parents even like the first one); Part III goes so far into the abyss that it doesn’t even qualify as a comedy for most of the movie. Todd Phillips doesn’t even attempt to make a joke in the first four or five minutes. It’s as if Phillips has taken the criticism from Part II so deeply into his soul, that he decided not only to completely trash the formula of the first two, but to take it so far in the extreme opposite direction that it almost becomes a drama film. Part III is Todd Phillip’s enormous “Fuck You” to everyone who joked that his new movie would be the exact same as the first one again, before giving it a chance.
Now, whether going that far was actually a good idea is debatable. It felt like a lot of the darkest, most depraved jokes of the other two films (like Stu being a bottom to a tranny hooker) are substituted for a more broad brand of comedy. I guess Phillips had to meet the general audience halfway. He couldn’t make the film he made, with the tone he achieved, and still have nothing but horrifying, awful things happen to the characters. I mean, I would have enjoyed the hell out of that, but that would have made the film so polarizing and strange that it would have completely destroyed its credibility with a wide audience (see: Observe and Report). As a compromise, he put back in all the fat jokes, and the easy physical comedy, and overloaded the thing with Chow’s terribly loud stereotype of a character. They’re broad gags, but they get the job done, I suppose. But there’s always a little subtle dark joke that you can find if you look hard enough. For example, I laughed less at the fairly stupid bit involving Alan killing the giraffe on the highway than I did at the fact that he was quietly chuckling maniacally and drinking beer while driving on the highway; in an empty, borderline depressing kind of way. Like, this is this guy’s entire existence. This is what he does with his time. I like my Hangover movies weird and depraved, and Part III still retains some of its weird depravity.
The characters even grow a little bit in this last film. It’s sad that it took this long for Alan to finally get his priorities in check, but there are genuine moments of character development in this film. Even Phil and Stu seem more mature than in the previous two movies. I’ve always enjoyed watching the bizarre hierarchy that Alan has created with the relationships in his life. Phil and Chow are considered above him to the point of groveling, and then somehow people like Stu and his mother are garbage in his eyes. And the housekeeper, too (the spilling drink joke got me good). Alan has always been a complete train wreck, but at least he makes a few strides for the better in this film. It’s also interesting to look at how Zach Galifianakis has gone from “that bearded guy from The Hangover” to an A-list comedy star in just four years. Though, I’m sure people forgetting that Due Date exists plays a big part in his success.
And then we get to Chow. Hmmmmm. Chow is… kind of… a super annoying character… And he is pushed right to the front of this film for some reason. Though, I think this would have been a fitting end to the schtick Ken Jeong has been putting on for the last few years. It would be great if he never made another comedy film again after this, and all we see him in for the rest of his career is awards-bait dramas. Hangover Part III could have been his swan song of obnoxiousness… But I assume we’ll hear him yelling in a hammy Chinese accent sometime again in the near future… At least this movie had John Goodman to even things out. John Goodman makes everything better.
I read a negative review of this film the other day, where the reviewer said something along the lines of “Now I’m going to have to retire my Carlos t-shirt after this terrible sequel…” Here’s the Carlos shirt, if you aren’t familiar:
Listen, buddy, if one of your favorite jokes from the first film is when they put the sunglasses on the baby (especially to the extent of buying a t-shirt of it), I’m not surprised at all that you didn’t like the tone of the third film. And even less surprised if you hated the second one. The Hangover works best when it’s being weird, and it’s arguably at its most forgettable when its putting sunglasses on a baby. Besides, everybody knows the funnier joke with Carlos is when Alan makes the baby pretend to jerk off, anyway. Again, The Hangover works best when it’s being weird or depraved.
There’s no real point to try to convince anyone to go see this movie. And frankly, I wouldn’t even recommend it to anyone who didn’t already *want* to see it. I’m not surprised that the critics who were “forced” to sit through another one of these god damn stupid Hangover movies gave the film a 20% Rotten Tomatoes score, while the people who went to go see it because they actually wanted to see it gave the film an 88% audience score. At this point, at Part III, you should know whether or not you want to deal with the these guys again. For those of us who still enjoy the franchise; the end of the adventure isn’t amazing by any means, but it’s certainly not the abomination that a lot of people are making it out to be.
I think the best part about the trilogy as a whole is that the characters have been through a ton of awful things, and we got to see it every step of the way; from the Wolf Pack’s haphazard creation, to its horrifying lowest points, and ultimately its eventual disbanding. It’s been a long, fucked up journey, and I’m happy I got to laugh at the misfortune of these poor saps for three movies. While many comedies easily trump each of the individual Hangover films, I’m hard pressed to think of a more consistently good comedy trilogy as a whole. Especially one with a beginning, middle, and end.
7 out of 10