Like Einstein, Copernicus and Marie Curie before me; I decided to conduct an experiment. Is it possible to enjoy The Hangover Part III without having seen the first two? Is the rich interplay and nuance between the characters and the intricate nature of the plot possible to understand without detailed study of the original two parts of the franchise – or can you drink a couple of ciders and just go with it?
For those that need to be told, the story picks up a couple of years after the Thailand trip and Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha) are staging an intervention for Alan (Zach Galifianakis) who has ditched his meds and is acting crazy. As they transport him to a clinic they are forced off of the road by mobsters and forced to find some gold stolen by the flamboyant gangster Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong). They then go on a wacky adventure that takes them back to Vegas (with the terrible line: “One way or another… it all ends here”) as they have to break in multiple places and try to find/follow Chow.
All plot aside, and much to my expectation, it was entirely possible to enjoy the film having not bothered with the first two. I’m sure that lots of people will have different views of the film being part of a franchise, but as an objective outsider there was much to love in Part III.
The streets of Leicester Square were lined with curious passers-by and desperate twitterati who were trying to get pictures taken with Heather Graham and Bradley Cooper as well as signing something for eBay. Heather Graham has about 3 minutes of screen time and is only in the film as a token female speaking role – or maybe she was in the film simply to give the red carpet some much-needed glitz…
Obviously, most people who watch this film come primarily for Galifianakis and Jeong. All of the other characters are basically filler until these two get back on the screen. All of the biggest laughs during the screening were from the delivery of lines that would definitely fail from other characters. And of course, there is plenty of slapstick that translates well to foreign audiences. (A particularly funny misjudged leap got the biggest reaction in the cinema…)
Watching as a Brit it is interesting to note that the successes of these films reflect America’s continuing comfort with discussing drugs. There are so many jokes in here about pills, cocaine, ‘roofies’ and bath salts that there is no denying that we are living through progressive times. On that note, it was amusing to note that none of the audience got the ‘bath salts’ reference, it was lost in translation I guess; so if you want to prepare yourself for that line then familiarize yourself with the Miami zombie story (beware – it’s grizzly).
On the way into the cinema the PR team were handing out hundreds and hundreds of bottles of Budweiser to reaffirm the films status as drinking-game/social event. It occurred to me afterwards that this plan seemed to backfire as everyone around me drank about 6-7 beers and loved every joke in the first half hour, only to slumber into a beer bubble for the rest of the film and not really engage with all of the big laughs. The one exception was the woman who sat next to me, who for some reason had brought her mum with her (who had also not seen the first films). They were laughing at Every. Single. Line. The elderly mum particularly enjoyed the cocaine references for some reason…
The reality is that this film will be huge and will be quoted for a few months, and then slowly discover its places in the lexicon of aging frat-boy comedies having not really offered anything drastically new. But who cares, the film had a shallow purpose and it served it well.