Hung Over: The Tragic Path of a Comedy “Trilogy”
Let’s face it. We live in a world that loves to squeeze as much success out of something good until that something good get’s turned into something lifeless and plain. The Hangover was a film with a modest budget and no expectations that turned into a monster of a hit, banking in at the box office with almost $280 million domestically. It was a film that was unexpectedly heartfelt and introduced the world to characters who were very easy to like, even if they were ultimately hopeless (and possible somewhat deplorable). It was a film that transformed Zack Galifianakis into a household name (even if no-one really seems to know how to pronounce it) and a film that helped Bradley Cooper burst into stardom. The first installment of the Hangover franchise seemed to know exactly when to hit the right beats and when to stop before things got too out of hand.
Then came the sequel. The phrase “it’s all downhill from here” could not be more appropriately applied to what happened after The Hangover because The Hangover Part II, while achieving box-office success, ended up being a disaster of a filmgoing experience, and was one of the most personally insulting attempts at a sequel I have ever tried to witness. Part II was a film that took everything (and I mean everything) that was charming and funny about the first installment and recycled it with an astounding amount of laziness, and added a darker, more serious tone. While many less experienced filmgoers probably enjoyed the 2nd Hangover film (understandably so, since it does at least have humor in it) I found it to be a total money grab that added more of the weaknesses (cough… Ken Jeong… cough, cough) of the first film while recycling the exact same plot and beats.
Now, with the most recent Hangover release, and the final installment of a trilogy (I’ll believe that after I’m dead) the series has reached near rock bottom. While I give some credit to the third movie for trying something different than just recycling the same plot with the same jokes, I’m going to take all of that credit right back due to the lack of anything funny or entertaining about this “final” chapter of the “wolf pack”. From the opening sequence I immediately felt regret. I regretted buying a ticket to a film that was even more of a money grab than it’s predecessor. I regretted that I was obviously going to experience a film that perhaps no one actually cared about making. And, at the end, I regretted experiencing a movie as joyless and empty as The Hangover Part III.
So what exactly went wrong with a series that showed so much promise at the beginning? I could point to a few things. One of my personal theories is that much of the time sequels give the audience more of something that had an initial positive reaction. For instance, I imagine one of the more popular aspects of the first Hangover films was the Mr. Chow character played by Ken Jeong. Looking back at the first film recently, that character was one of the bigger weaknesses of the film and one of the characters that doesn’t work as well as most seem to think (as I was watching, I imagined how much better the movie would have been if the audience would have just been left wondering about the naked guy that jumped out of the trunk of a car instead of expanding on the character). As the series progressed (fell apart) Ken Jeong played a more pivotal role and Mr. Chow became a tired and played out persona.
While the Mr. Chow issue is one that bothers me greatly as it pertains to the history of the Hangover trilogy, that character cannot get the sole blame for bringing the funny out of the series. I’ve already mentioned the laziness that oozed out of the screen in the 2nd film, and the joylessness of the 3rd attempt.
The real problem with the path of The Hangover is the fact that there should never have been a sequel in the first place. A trilogy about the characters at hand was unnecessary and ill-conceived. The creators didn’t really have anything more to do for these people; anywhere to go with them. The first movie gave an audience everything that was needed from Phil, Stu & Alan. It took risks and went all out in providing a genuinely funny experience. Unfortunately, the creators seemed to have the same experience the three main characters had and forgot everything about how they made that genuine feeling of extreme hilarity and decided to give another couple of tries to repeat the success. Let’s hope with this last installment, relatively struggling at the box-office, is indeed the last time we see Mr. Chow and company.
…If only there were some sort of roofie that could be used to make everyone forget about those last two efforts.
What do you think? Leave a comment.