• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as current film releases with spiritual significance, and a few bits and pieces on the Bible.

    Saturday, December 22, 2018

    The Last Hangover (2018)


    When moving pictures began to emerge as a popular medium in the late 1890s, it wasn't long before early filmmakers turned to the Bible for their material. Likewise, when television began to spread in the 1940s religious programming was quick to follow. So it's perhaps something of a surprise that it has taken this long before a major video-on-demand service has produced a biblical adaptation.

    Even so The Last Hangover (2018), which debuted yesterday on Netflix, has been produced in conjunction with the company's Brazilian operation, rather than their US team and it's a comedy rather than a drama. The programme is actually a spin-off of the annual Christmas parody from Porta dos Fundos - a Brazilian YouTube channel, with over 15 million subscribers and reworks the events of the Last Supper into a spoof of The Hangover (2009).

    Having seen neither The Hangover or watched much of Porta dos Fundos' work puts me at something of a disadvantage in terms of some of the references, but the concept is not difficult to get your head around. Jesus (Fábio Porchat) and the disciples get together for their last supper together ("Who does suppers anymore?") and when the disciples wake up the next morning with hangovers and hazy memories, Jesus is gone. The rest of the film flicks between the disciples trying to piece things together and flashbacks from the previous night. It's possible, I suppose, to see this as a nod to the way Christians have sought to piece together the life of Jesus from the four gospel accounts, each of which is different from the others and tells only part of the story. Heck, I suppose that you could even see it as a critique of the way many Christians think of the gospels as first-hand eye-witness accounts, even though there are various reasons for questioning such a position.

    That, however would seem to be a bit of a stretch. This is essentially a YouTube skit spun out to about 40 minutes and looking to appeal more to fans of the 2009 film than the devout. For one thing, it's not hard to think many of the latter would be offended by this. Whilst Jesus is portrayed as the son of God, the film goes far beyond that "glutton and a winebibber" tag from Luke 7:34. This Jesus swears, does drugs, shouts homophobic slurs and even kills a magician who is temporarily stealing his limelight. Meanwhile Mary Magdalene has continued her work as a prostitute - a fact that goes over Jesus' head much to the disciples amusement. But then it's 2018 and material like this is all over the internet. Tell Netflix you don't like this kind of stuff being made if you like, but ultimately this is "on demand". It's hard to imagine anyone genuinely being offended by this after accidentally stumbling upon it unknowingly.

    The idea of the disciples being in a state on the morning of Good Friday is potentially quite interesting. After all, they had just taken part in a big celebration, after which they struggled to stay awake, ran off into the night naked and were generally lying low the following day. It's not a historically likely scenario, but it's one that, done right, could have some merit and might even produce the odd insight. That doesn't really happen though. The Last Hangover is passably entertaining and there's the occasional good lines, but oddly, the thing I was most impressed by was the long opening tracking shot, which began outside the tavern in which the group was meeting and weaved it way up to the middle of the group as they raised their glasses for a toast.

    So disappointingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, The Last Hangover isn't particularly funny. My fellow Bible Film geek Peter Chattaway guessed that it would be closer to Wholly Moses (1980) and Year One (2009) than Life of Brian (1979) and that's a pretty fair summary. It feels like a skit spread too thinly; indeed 2016's Porta dos Fundos sketch, where Jesus uses the occasion of his birthday party to praise Judas for being such a great friend, is far more on the money. Ideas like this can work over a longer running time - for example in the excellent The Real Old Testament (2003) which is a similar mashup of Genesis and the 1990s series The Real World (1992 onward) - but there the narrative relied on the biblical text, adopting only the form of the modern day production, rather than just pushing both the form and narrative of the modern work into the nearest available episode from thr gospels.

    Perhaps such analysis is taking things too seriously and I should take on the advice of one of the disciples who advises Jesus to relax because after all, "by tomorrow no-one will remember a thing". That seems like an appropriate summary of this little film. It has no great aspirations, just an interesting-ish scenario and a few good lines. It's entertaining enough, but it's hard to imagine many people will give it that much extra thought once they've moved onto MacCauley Culkin's Google Assistant advert or a rerun of the 1999 Friends Christmas special.

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