Blood in your Vomit
It’s not possible to be as big a fan of The Hangover as Todd Phillips. He liked it so much he made it twice. The sequel, pitched to expectant audiences as “part II” or, as we used to think of the term, a continuation of a story begun in the first part, was in fact, a remake. Original writers Scott Moore and Jon Lucas had seasoned the first film with jokes, but when Phillips and Craig Mazin assumed the same duty they discovered that being funny was a tougher gig than imagined. Was it the same as being crude? Would embarrassing the audience provoke guilty titters? The answer, it turned out, was no. The result was a film that followed its forebear beat for beat – a phenomenon known as The Escape from L.A Effect. Part the second even managed to throw in the same cameo; convicted rapist Mike Tyson. The racist and misogynist Mel Gibson had been deemed undesirable by the cast, and this in a film that was racist and misogynistic. Poor Mel must have wondered what the problem was.
Despite being universally reviled and cited as one of the laziest, most mercenary sequels ever defecated into cinemas, Phillips believed his work wasn’t yet done and so we have this final part; an end to a trilogy that technically, if original material is used as the metric, is only two films long.
The Hangover Part III ostensibly takes a punt on a new story but it’s more a rearranging of the house furniture than a full-on redressing. The Zeppo Marx of the troupe, dull, straight man Doug (though in Phillips’ hands he’s indistinguishable from the alleged comedians in the cast) is once again the human maguffin, his friends still obliged to suffer various indignities – being pecked by chickens, arrested by Mexican police, hanging off a hotel façade, in order to get him back and Ken Jeong is still the unfunny racial stereotype in their side. Sure, there’s a new framing story; gangsters, stolen gold, a bid to save Zack Galifianakis’ irritating manchild from his over-indulged, spoilt rich kid hell, but don’t be fooled – Phillips ran out of ideas two movies ago. These sequels constitute the morning after and the morning after that.
That it relies on mean-spiritedness and aggression to mine laughs from mentally retarded patrons would be reason enough to burn the negative but this underwritten anti-comedy is also unremittingly unpleasant. It’s all the uns. Cognisant viewers may wish to know why the portly Alan’s only chance of love lies with fellow heavy, Melissa McCarthy. Is Phillips telling us that fat can only attract fat? Or does he imagine that no one would understand comic podge being venerated by anything except comic podge? Is it wise to have a major plot point, involving the hunt for a missing car, be contingent on the battery life of an iPhone when any user can tell you that even fully charged, they last 8 hours at best? Do we ever need to see one man sniff another’s backside? Ever? It’s little wonder that there’s a fixed grin on the cast’s gormless faces as they exit this fucking franchise; it’s the look of men who know they’ve humiliated themselves but won’t allow the thought to crown, lest it destroys them. Perhaps it should.
Then there’s the epilogue; a cheap concession to the 6% of audience members who didn’t see the derivative plot of the second film as unfortunate. It lets Phillips have it both ways; telling the new story he didn’t really want to tell, and which he doesn’t think anyone really wanted to see, while tacking on a condensed retread of the first two that pokes memories of the retrospectively tarnished original – so far the only comedy in the series; tricking fans into believing they’re satisfied, when in fact they’ve spent nigh on 100 minutes straight-faced and lost in mental miscellany – shopping lists, girlfriend trouble, venereal disease.
This crude coda also rubbishes the film’s only pretence at an uplifting character arc. The perma-adolescent Alan has abandoned Chow and his destructive, irresponsible life, except he hasn’t. So he’s learnt nothing. What, then, was the movie about? If you don’t know, don’t worry – Todd Phillips hasn’t a clue either.