The Wolflpack Grows Up in Hangover III

Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms in a scene from the movie "The Hangover Part III." CNS photo/Warner Bros.)
Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms in a scene from the movie “The Hangover Part III.” CNS photo/Warner Bros.)
Love and marriage loom large in the Hangover series. After all, the core premise of these films is to jokingly illustrate the confusion that follows a night of drinking and partying, particularly a bachelor party, the typical wild night before the wedding for the groom. The original Hangover showed us the Las Vegas bachelor party of Doug (Justin Bartha) and the struggles that it caused his friends as they tried to find him in time to get married. The Hangover Part II followed a similar vein, depicting a bachelor party gone awry in Thailand for Stu (Ed Helms), and the wild search for his brother-in-law-to-be in the foreign city of Bangkok. However, for The Hangover Part III, gone are the bachelor parties, and gone are the half-remembered drunken escapades to be figured out. Instead, we get a funeral, an intervention, and a promise to fix parts of the lifestyle that led to the extreme events of the first two movies.

The Hangover Part III is surprisingly … mature. Not “mature” in the way that some people use the word as a stand-in for “not for kids” or “containing adult humor or situations” (although it certainly is both of those things), but actually mature — grown up. In this, the trilogy’s final chapter, many (if not all) of the main characters we’ve seen goof off in Las Vegas and Bangkok seem to have gotten a little bit more adult, more responsible, more together. That’s not to say there aren’t wild shenanigans — among kidnappings, heists, arrests, and a trip to Mexico, there certainly are — but this time they’re fueled less by the characters’ drunken ambitions and more by their desire to put all that away and move on with their lives.

Getting your act together
Toward the beginning of the film, Phil (Bradley Cooper) says of his childish friend Alan (Zach Galifianakis): “Put him on a diet, get him a woman; that’s what he needs [to grow up]. The man is lonely.” At first, this appears to just be glib, cynical Phil offering his wry opinion — it plays almost as a joke. But as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that this is the precise prescription of Hangover III: get married and you’ll get your act together. Surprisingly, it might not be as far from true as you would think.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

From St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, this passage speaks of the power of love. Unsurprisingly, it is a very popular choice for weddings. What is so interesting about this passage in the context of The Hangover Part III is what follows it, another rather well-known statement by St. Paul: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me” (1 Corinthians 13:11). It can be inferred that Paul’s choice to include this quick reference to leaving childhood things behind in the midst of a passage about love says something about the correlation between the two. Perhaps St. Paul is suggesting that to have and to give love are marks of maturity, that accepting and loving others is a step toward becoming the best man or woman you can be.

Another prominent Catholic, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., Superior General of the Society of Jesus from 1965 to 1983, said of love:

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in Love, and it will decide everything.”

Arrupe’s observation on love rings true in The Hangover Part III, and in the whole series as well. Over the course of these movies, we see the “Wolfpack” grow as people, and see them changed by love. They learn to love something more than themselves, put others ahead of their own interests. They fall in love, and it decides everything.

But the men of The Hangover series do not merely fall in love with their respective wives. No, although the films portray the marrying off of these characters as the capstone of their growth, there is a deeper love present in these movies, and one that (from the looks of the onscreen antics) means something more to these four men — their love for each other. The love that Phil, Alan, Stu, and Doug share as the Wolfpack shines through these movies as an underlying thread, more visibly in part III than ever before. To each of them, the others truly are the three best friends that anyone could have, and they prove time and time again that they would do anything for each other. In that selflessness, that willingness to do whatever it takes to make sure that the people they love are safe and healthy, the Wolfpack demonstrates what love is really about.