The tension between art and commerce in Hollywood is never more apparent than in the industry's reliance on remakes, sequels or, worse yet, remakes masquerading as sequels. Sequels that are generally regarded as surpassing their predecessors are like the proverbial hen's teeth.
Which brings us to the film in question — the third, and presumably final, entry in Todd Phillips' "Hangover" series. Sigh. It's another case of going to the well once too often — or even twice too often, since "Hangover Part II" was no great shakes either. The setup is not identical to the earlier chapters: This time around the Wolfpack — Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha) are on a road trip to take their fellow Wolfpacker, Alan (Zach Galifianakis) — to a nice padded mental facility.
Their quest sadly coincides with the return of Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong), who has busted out of a Thai prison. A crime boss named Marshall (John Goodman) is trying to recover $20-some million Chow owes him. He kidnaps Doug and threatens to kill him if the others don't find Chow and recapture the gold.
Doug is on ice for most of the film's duration and Phil and Stu are practically crowded off the screen by Alan and Chow. "The Hangover Part III" might as well be the Galifianakis and Jeong Show — or maybe the finals in some "Who's Crazier and Stupider" competition. And that distorts the ratio of lunacy to more-or-less sanity. If you find Galifianakis' standard onscreen persona — in these three films, as well as Phillips' unwatchable "Due Date" — lovable, maybe the Alan-centric focus will make you love him even more. If, on the other hand, you find the character irritating — count me in — you'll find him 10 times as irritating, if that's humanly possible.
Other well-known performers show up in small roles: Goodman and Mike Epps have four or five scenes; Melissa McCarthy (wonderful as always) has two or three; Heather Graham and Jeffrey Tambor each have one. If they're what draws you to the theater, you might as well give it a pass.
Whatever quality made "The Hangover" a hit has dribbled away. The very first big sight gag — involving the particularly grotesque killing of a sweet-looking camel — is a tipoff. The flashback structure has been reduced to a few scenes — not a bad thing, since its use in "Part II" already seemed like too much. Raunch has escalated (or declined) to ugliness. What once seemed risky now seems rote.
It's all very ho-hum. The "Hangover" in the title is misleading: They would have done better to call it "The Leftovers."
ANDY KLEIN is the film critic for Marquee. He can also be heard on "FilmWeek" on KPCC-FM (89.3).
--ANDY KLEIN is the film critic for Marquee. He can also be heard on "FilmWeek" on KPCC-FM (89.3).