We’re hung in this edition of the Journal. More specifically, we’re looking at the HANGOVER trilogy in all its glory. This article has been updated to include a review of the third film. But let’s look back on the first two before we get to the bad news.
SCOTT’S FILM GEEK JOURNAL: ENTRY 41
THE HANGOVER (2009) – Four friends go to Vegas for the weekend in order to celebrate the wedding of their friend, Doug. After the first night, they wake up to find the hotel suite a disaster, a tiger in the bathroom and they have no idea how any of it happened. Worse yet, they can’t find Doug. The rest of the weekend is spent trying to retrace their steps on an epic night of debauchery where they need to find their friend and get him to his wedding in time.
As soon as I saw the trailer for this film, I knew it would be the hit of the summer. There was just something there that you could tell would appeal to a wide audience of people, clamoring for this kind of epic comedy film. I had friends that were talking about the film more than a month before it came out. It was lightning in a bottle.
I wish I could say that the film is as legendary in quality as it was in financial success, but it’s not. Don’t get me wrong, this is a very funny film, buoyed by a great cast – all of whom have gone on to have big careers outside the franchise. Bradley Cooper in particular delivers a star-making turn. Even when he’s being selfish, he feels completely genuine and you get the feeling that his character is the type of guy you’d love to hang with. That’s very important for a film like this. However, there is some of that awkward humor that I just don’t like. Also, a bit too much ad-libbing, some of which can be pretty obvious. Still, it’s a fun movie that I enjoy revisiting. And let’s face it, Mike Tyson is the man. ★★★ (out of ★★★★)
THE HANGOVER PART II (2011) – Four friends go to Thailand in order to celebrate the wedding of their friend, Stu. After the first night, they wake up to find their fleabag hotel a disaster, a monkey on the ceiling and they have no idea how it happened. Worse yet, they can’t find the brother of the bride. The rest of the weekend is spent trying to retrace their steps on an epic night of debauchery where they need to find their friend and get Stu to his wedding on time.
Yes, I just rewrote the synopsis for the first film while plugging in different words and phrases, Mad Libs-style. Why not? That’s exactly what they filmmakers did. The biggest disappointment of the sequel was that in order to recapture the success of the first film, they simply made the same film all over again. Everyone involved is far too talented to go such an easy route.
Actually, there are parts of HANGOVER II that are funnier than the original. Things get crazier, the jokes are raunchier and everything is a bit more extreme. However, nothing feels fresh this time out and that counts for a lot. This is the kind of lazy crap we we got in the 1980s and we don’t need to go through that again. ★★1/2 (out of ★★★★)
THE HANGOVER PART III (2013) – This time out, the four friends are on the way to get Alan (Zach Galifakinakis) some overdue help. On the way, they are accosted by a group of criminals led by John Goodman. They are looking for Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), who had recently escaped from prison. Taking proverbial whipping boy Doug hostage, the three remaining Wolf Pack members have to find Chow and the money he owes the criminals before something happens to Doug.
Well… the plot is different at least. Unfortunately, this really is a film that feels like a contractual obligation, as if everyone realized this franchise was making too much money to leave it at just two very similar entries. And the actors seem as though they were signed on for a third and couldn’t get out of it. Bradley Cooper, previously the most down-to-Earth and enjoyable presence in the films, is given nothing to do. More often than not, it seems as though he would rather be doing something else, despite his affection for this filmmaking team. Zach Galifankinakis finally goes too far with his Alan role. What started as an enjoyable if unsociable character has metamorphosized into an aggressive, cruel, unlikable person whose lack of social skills and occasional charm can’t mask how aggrivating this person has become. Much of this third installment focuses on how Alan needs to start taking responsibility for his actions, but it is too little, too late. The only person to bring his A-game to this film is Ed Helms. I laughed about a dozen times during HANGOVER PART III and virtually all of them were because of Helms’ line deliveries. It doesn’t matter how big and bold they want to go out, HANGOVER PART III lacks any of the energy of the previous installments. It’s a major tentpole film that feels like an embarrassing secret instead. ★1/2 (out of ★★★★)
You can also read Austin’s review and adjust your expectations accordingly.
Number of films covered in the Journal so far: 192
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