In an interview with Vanity Fair, Phillips was asked about the criticism "The Hangover Part II" received for essentially recycling the first film down to the last detail. The movie was a big hit with audiences, grossing an astounding $586 million worldwide, but critics said it felt just a little bit familiar (just a little!).
Here's what Phillips had to say:
"The way that we would respond to those critics -- what we really wanted to do was do another wake-up movie. [Laughs.] But we thought that that would be short-sighted because we had this other idea. The real response we wanted to do was, 'They wake up in Rio and this, that, and the other thing happened to them.' But there is a little bit of a response to the critics at the end of this movie. If you stay through the credits, you'll see in typical Hangover fashion we have another big credit moment that I think everyone will enjoy. The criticisms were really about the structure -- they didn't know how this could happen to the same guys twice. 'Who would ever have a night like that twice?' So we were like, 'Oh yeah? It's going to happen three times. Fuck you.'"
In fairness, it wasn't just the structure the critics harped on. It wasn't just that "Part II" featured a bunch of dudes recovering from a wicked hangover while trying to find a missing friend. It was that "Part II" featured a bunch of dudes recovering from a wicked hangover while trying to find a missing friend while also sleeping with prostitutes, and acquiring wacky animal sidekicks, and getting into car chases, and fighting with drug dealers, and being pestered by Ken Jeong, and horribly disfiguring Ed Helms' face, and almost missing a family wedding, and hanging out with Mike Tyson. As I wrote at the time it came out, "The Hangover Part II"'s determination to repeat its predecessor in totality was so extreme it bordered on the experimental. Or at least on becoming the comic equivalent of the "Friday the 13th" franchise.
Now, granted, "Part II" made over half a billion dollars at the worldwide box office. So Phillips can legitimately argue that while critics found the repetition odd, audiences did not. Strangely enough though, Phillips did give critics what they wanted in "Part III" -- a "Hangover" that leaves out the previous movies' formula. There's no flashback structure or confused hotel wakeup this time around. There's not step retracing. There are wacky misadventures and men behaving badly, but not in quite such a shamelessly photocopied manner.
Unfortunately Phillips also decided to leave out the jokes, and he replaced them with Zach Galifianakis beheading a giraffe and falling over a lot and Ken Jeong shooting chickens, singing bad karaoke, and eating dog food on his hands and knees. Which I guess is a different sort of eff you to critics and audiences.
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