Trying to guess whether "The Hangover: Part III" would beat "Fast & Furious 6" at the box office, I realized Hollywood has an alternative to the Indianapolis 500 to mark Memorial Day weekend.
Instead of racing cars with numbers on its sides, there are movies with numbers in its titles. Instead of 500 laps, it's measured in millions of dollars.
I picked "The Hangover." I picked wrong. Considering the disgusting sensation of an actual hangover, it's mind-boggling to contemplate reaching Part III. True, there was ingenuity in the first one, starting with the breakout performances from Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and especially Zack Galifianakis. Director/co-writer Todd Phillips connected the dots with manic energy, creating the bachelor party from hell by pushing outrageousness to places it had never been before on a movie screen.
Unfortunately, the script for this third reunion of the Wolfpack wimps feels like it was written on the dollar-sign key. Once again, efforts at male bonding quickly degenerate into dangerous dealings with organized crime, embodied in John Goodman as a creepy media sleazeball, but even more in the coked-up, oversexed, loose-cannon antics of Asian gangster Mr. Chow (scene-stealing Ken Jeong).
Promising to be the last in the series (we can only hope), the action winds up back at Caesar's Palace, despite the misgivings of Helms and the audience alike. The circuitous getting there has involved all sorts of cruel and unusual gags, beginning with decapitating a giraffe. (That's not a spoiler; it was in the trailer.)
What's surprising, apart from how funny the movie isn't, is how its stars - each of them so likable in other roles -are so annoying here. Galifianikis is the most obnoxious in the bunch, but he's got an excuse: there are clinical terms, like Asberger's or narcissism, to explain his behavior. But the self-absorption is contagious, along with pervasive cruelty, mean-spiritedness and, worst of all, boredom, that make this "Hangover" feel so much like a uh hangover.
Both the new "Hangover" and the reckless driving of "Fast & Furious 6" take their places in a lineup of summer films based on the concept that dumb is fun. Explosions and testosterone are the "tentpoles" Hollywood hangs its summer season on, apparently thinking our brains need a vacation over the hot months.
Luckily, Maui Film Festival, which returns June 12 to 16, doesn't see movies and minds as being mutually exclusive. Its lineup of luminaries to be honored in awards tributes - Kirsten Dunst, Brie Larson and Jessica Chastain - haven't let their movie-star looks interfere with making interesting, wonderful films, and the Celestial Cinema provides a sublime setting to let their star power on the big outdoor screen join the twinkling lights in the night sky above. (More information about this year's Maui Film Festival at Wailea Resort and the Maui Arts & Cultural Center is available at www.mauifilmfestival.com.)
Actually, you don't have to wait until June to see film get smart. "Photography Passion & Risk," an intriguing new exhibit featuring the work of Ed Goldstein, Miki Nitadori and Bruna Stude, opened last weekend and continues through July 21 in the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Schaefer International Gallery.
Goldstein is showing images of well-worn hand tools and children's toys, so striking in their shades of gray that they seem precious artifacts. Nitadori superimposes fabric patterns onto formal black and white portraits of Japanese faces, revealing vibrant inner landscapes behind the carefully posed formality. And Stude pushes film into an abstract realm, wielding her camera like a brush. (Gallery hours and details are available at www.mauiarts.org.)
In an age when digital technology reveals visual detail as never before, the photography in this show goes in the other direction, making the imagination visible and endlessly interesting.
In contrast to all that frenzy emanating from film screens, this week's most moving pictures don't move at all.
* Contact Rick Chatenever at firstname.lastname@example.org