We All Grow Up Sometime
The posters declared ‘It Ends Here’. The sense of finality invested in the last installment of the Hangover trilogy was overwhelming. What started off as a kind of denial of time and age, stretched out into an improbable caper in Bangkok in the last film. Now, the filmmakers seemed to want to tell us, these characters were going to find the end of their winding road.
If there ever were characters that refused to grow up and worse still wanted to regress to juvenile mayhem, the threesome of Handsome Phil, Stu the dentists and Alan the Hebephrenic were crystalline figures conceived in Hollywood, as some kind of gift to fiction. Bradley Cooper’s career has taken off as a result of his turn as Phil, while Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis have forged solid careers as comic actors since the first film. Justin Bartha who played the 4th wheel of this tricycle probably got the worst draw of the straw.Instead, the films have also catapulted the unlikely Ken Jeong as a specialist actor in playing deeply inappropriate Asian men, into a crazy kind of stardom.
If the first film was a celebration of regressing to irresponsibility, then the second film was a strained attempt to stretch out the joy. With this final film, the story comes to an unlikely denouement. Tolkien and Peter Jackson can eat their hearts out.
What’s Good About It
It’s the same old mayhem of warped causation and inappropriate pay offs. The film is relatively free of the need to relive the first film – which was a problem that plagued the second film – and instead develop some of the things that came out of the original Vegas exploit they managed to forget.
The laughs are callow and black. This is good. They haven’t exactly stepped back from the edginess that was established in the first film and they have made no attempt to be toned down in order to reach a wider audience. From the giraffe death gag through to the murder of Black Doug and ultimately the end, there is a very nasty streak in the laughs that leave you uncomfortable. What holds it together a a comedy is the Hebephrenic laughs from Zach Galifianakis and the insane characterisation of Leslie Chow by Ken Jeong.
The third film is also a lot more stylish in its shot selection as well as lighting and effects. The budgets certainly get bigger with success.
What’s Bad About It
It’s always hard to reprise things and find new things about the characters and their relationships. Sequels labour under the burden of developing things that are maybe not as interesting as the first film. The exception to this problem are the comic book adaptations we see so many of today, for they all labour to go through the ‘Origin’ story in the first movie and the interesting action only gets under way in the second films.
We don’t really learn anything new about the guys and we don’t see much of a development save for Alan finding love with Cassie. The romance itself isn’t bad; it’s just that we don’t really get to find out what kind of people Phil and Stu are, when they’re not finding themselves in these adventures with Alan. Maybe it’s redundant and we don’t need to know. the absence allows us to fill in the blank with our own lives, perhaps. But after 3 movies, I’m a little dissatisfied with how little I understand how these characters live with themselves, largely unchanged by these terrible comic events.
What’s Interesting About It
The overwhelming feeling in the film is the desire to get it over and done with. The desperation of Stu, the determination of Phil, and even the odd outbursts by Alan display a sense in which these characters are finding these adventures incredibly tiresome and undesirable. If the first movie was the ‘Wolf pack’ as accidental picaresque figures, the third film places them as indentured servants of their own legacy. The going is tough and for a comedy, the laughs don’t come as often as you’d expect.
The pain seems to be the growing pains of these men having to rediscover some kind of sense of responsibility. There’s a big difference in not knowing where Doug is and knowing Doug s being held by a criminal kingpin. The shadow cast by this setup makes for some tough scenes. The only character that seems to move freely through this narrative is the genuine bad guy Leslie Chow.
In fact, it’s conceivable to say the third film is all about Chow and that the Wolf pack has been reduced to functionaries – and more like a hunting dog pack – in the story of Chow’s escape and robbery of gold. It is also the story of how the renegade Gen-Xers are forced to be tamed by circumstance and life. We all have to grow up some time how we do it is different, but in this film it is imposed upon the Wolfpack mercilessly. Only Chow survives as the true renegade. Across three films, The Hangover movies have turned into the story of Leslie Chow, criminal mastermind.
He’s Great But He’ll Always Be…
I never knew who Bradley Cooper was until the first Hangover film. Since then I’ve seen him in a variety of films. In each of them he drags the shadow of Handsome Phil. The on-screen persona of all his characters are tainted with the possibility that they are a wild party animal on the side. What strikes me is that Phil may be the defining role of his life. This isn’t a crowning achievement like Bryan Cranston doing Walter White here. It’s a solid actor being trapped by a role that is almost a throwaway. Not that it’s a big deal, but it’s something that popped into my head as I was watching. Mind you, did Harrison Ford ever overcome having played Han Solo and Indiana Jones? No. Did it stop him from working? Absolutely not. Cooper’s going to be okay.
Paternity Thy Name Is Carlos
One of the most notable, poignant and peculiar moments in the film happens when Alan meets the young son of Jade. Yes, that was the baby boy Alan had strapped to his chest for the better part of the first film. Alan lies to the kid and declares to him he is the true father of the child, and that at one point his name was Carlos. Yes, it is true that Alan referred to the baby as Carlos for a couple of days, but it stretches the truth to breaking point. Between the outright lie and the hopelessly stretched truth, Alan offers the boy an assurance of his place in the world and thus an affirmation of the boy’s life. In that moment, Alan realises an aiffirmation from his own father. It is a profound moment in the otherwise callow film, and Galifianakis’ performance in that scene is amazing.