By Peter Colaner
Making a great trilogy is essentially making a great movie three times over. Beyond that, a great trilogy typically looks like a great movie, in which a well-paced three-act structure develops the characters and story.
Each act is a movie and each movie needs to play its part, whether it be the setup, confrontation or resolution. Most importantly, a great trilogist will not dilute the value of the original movie by creating sequels for money. Rather, a great trilogist will tell a trilogy to tell a great story.
One of the funniest yet most overlooked trilogies is “The Hangover.” It should come as no surprise that “The Hangover” is one of the most hysterical trilogies, considering it is directed by award-winning filmmaker Todd Phillips.
What does come as a surprise, though, is why a trilogy directed by such a dynamic figure is overlooked. This question is striking, so much so that it makes “The Hangover” worthy of my first blog in this “Trilogy Talk” series.
Over the course of “The Hangover” trilogy, there were multiple writers, all of whom deserve credit for the humorous dialogue. Along with the writers, director Todd Phillips deserves equal credit for creating the wit that persists throughout the trilogy.
Phillips’s best direction comes when he isolates Alan Garner, played by Zach Galifinakis, fabricating the most awkward moments. Placing Garner under this spotlight portrays him as a literalist who fails to gauge his environment. This is one factor that makes the series a comedic success.
Another contributor to the trilogy’s comedic value can be found in its later films’ references to the original movie. Harkening back to moments with Mike Tyson singing, Leslie Chow fighting and Alan Garner making perverted gestures with other people’s body parts rekindles laughs from the original “Hangover.”
What’s weird about the trilogy is that the first film’s success is what made the series worse. It’s possible that if “The Hangover” did not perform as well as it did, its makers would have been more hesitant to make a sequel that is so similar to the first.
Because “The Hangover II” is essentially “The Hangover” shot in Thailand, the second movie is spoiled before it even begins. The deprivation of creativity from the first to second film is the trilogy’s kryptonite. Had “The Hangover II” not been so similar to the original, it wouldn’t feel like “The Hangover III” is the weird step-child. The third film in this trilogy feels unrelated and not a “Hangover” movie as we know it from the first two productions.
Sadly, “The Hangover” as a trilogy lacks the traditional three-act structure that comprises most great trilogies. The making of “The Hangover II” is burdensome to the three-act structure and the trilogy’s development.
The second film represents a missed opportunity to further develop characters and is a void in the trilogy that forces the storytellers to cram Garner’s development into the end of the third film, as opposed to pacing it out.
The original film on its own makes a great movie. A fantastic plot paired with priceless dialogue and a fitting cast, “The Hangover” is undoubtedly one of the best comedies of all time.
“The Hangover II,” however, fails to distinguish itself from the original and contributes to ruining what could have been a great trilogy. Additionally, much of its content is diluted, making it far from a great film.
After looking further into why “The Hangover” trilogy is overlooked, it makes sense. None of the stories connect; you can watch them out of order and still get the gist of what is going on. There is no overarching story that needs three movies to be fleshed out, but rather, the trilogy is piecemealed.
“The Hangover” trilogy is really just a few funny movies strung together, and nothing more than that.