What Went Wrong With ‘The Hangover Part III’?

A couple strange things happened at the box office this past weekend. The third installment of a comedy series whose first two films each made over $200 million was left in the dust by the sixth movie a hit-and-miss racing series. Why did “The Hangover Part III” fall flat while “Fast & Furious 6” (or “Furious 6, if you go by the title card) marked a series high?

There were a few factors that led to “The Hangover’s” rough morning after that also spelled success for the increasingly popular Vin Diesel led franchise. (Yes, Vin Diesel is still a major box office draw.) Here’s what “The Hangover” could have done differently to capture some of that “Fast and Furious” magic.”

When you’re getting deep into a series, things like original ideas and concepts aren’t always the easiest to come by, but it’s not impossible to recover from a dud or two. Or three in the case of “Fast and Furious,” since “2 Fast 2 Furious” through “Fast & Furious” marked some low points, despite staying more or less commercially viable. All it took for people to reevaluate the series and its place in pop culture was a single movie, “Fast Five,” which smartly adopted a heist story line to spice up the racing action. The efforts by Todd Phillips to do that with “The Hangover Part III” meant abandoning the “forgotten night” structure and unfortunately a lot of the laughter.

Stay True To The Original
But what Phillips and the Wolfpack didn’t realize was that it wasn’t the lost night that made the story of the first “Hangover” worth actually paying attention to. What made that movie work so well was that a mystery drove the comedy, anchored by strength of the lead performances. You don’t need Zach Galifianakis’ Alan to accidentally drug the gang every time, but there should be a mystery to keep things moving quickly and add urgency to the good times. “Furious 6″ took what worked from before — in this case, in “Fast Five” — and just blew it up in scale, which brings us to the next point.

Go Big
This doesn’t mean more explosions, or when talking about “The Hangover,” more giraffe decapitations. Going big is all about upping the stakes. The final movie of the “Hangover” exists to give closure to Alan and tie up some loose ends, but there never was a need for that, as most of America would be OK with him being him for all of eternity. Plus, the driving conflict of the story itself is a race to get Doug back, which has been done already and this time without any real threat. “Furious 6″ added a tank.

Which did you see this weekend? Let us know what you thought in the comments below and on Twitter!