Well, it’s not a total loss; there are still a couple of terrific Christmas releases yet to open. But this week’s debuts are a fairly sallow bunch across the board.
Sorry for the late post, by the way; I kept holding off in the expectation that the Metro site would have today’s reviews the next time I checked. It looks like they’re not being quite as up-to-the-minute as one might expect of a daily publication … they’ll probably go up late Sunday afternoon.
Anyway, here are the skinnies:
“Charlotte’s Web”: The first ten minutes are perfect in every way, and then the cows start farting. If you have children, it’s your duty to protect them from this adaptation. Yes, Julia Roberts is the perfect voice for Charlotte — as far as she’s concerned, she’s starring in an arachnid remake of “Steel Magnolias” — but the movie doesn’t appreciate her. Or anything else, really.
“Cheech”: Quebec actors run around talking tough and waving guns to no particular effect. Saddest bit: In a movie with several failed attempts at humor, the script’s one great opportunity for pitch-black comedy — a suicidally depressed escort who shows up for work anyway, because what the hell — is played straight. It must have been pretty slim pickings at Canada’s Top Ten if they found room for this one.
“Eragon”: “Star Wars” with dragons. Makes Lucas look like Akira Kurosawa. But then, the movie lost me from the first line of spoken dialogue, when John Malkovich groans to Robert Carlyle that — really, he says this out loud — “I’m sad without my stone.” And it’s not even a stone. Dork.
“The Good German”: I often find Steven Soderbergh’s experiments more entertaining than his mainstream work, but this one — which affects the style and production strategies of a 1940s studio B-picture — seemed to slide sideways. Not that George Clooney and Cate Blanchett weren’t born to be photographed in high-contrast black-and-white, or that Soderbergh doesn’t know what he’s doing … but why riff on “Casablanca” and “The Third Man” when you’re only going to come up short?
“Monkey Warfare”: Meh. I know everyone else is high on this, but it did absolutely nothing for me — and I like everyone involved. But Reg Harkema needs to put the Godardian stuff away, or at least incorporate it into his overall aesthetic instead of yanking it out and waving it around every 20 minutes, just to remind us that he’s seen “La Chinoise”.
“The Pursuit of Happyness”: A self-help book becomes a self-help movie, with valuable life lessons galore: Respect Yourself. Homeless Doesn’t Mean Hopeless. Love Your Kid. Will Smith Deserves An Oscar. And maybe he’ll get it on sheer physical exertion alone: The guy runs back and forth across the same three San Francisco streets so often you’ll think you’re watching the long-awaited Frogger movie.
“Snow Cake”: There’s a terrific character study in here, about a quietly broken Englishman who reawakens to life when he’s trapped in northern Ontario for a weekend (and really, who wouldn’t?) … but the inclusion of Sigourney Weaver as the autistic woman to whom Rickman finds himself beholden keeps pulling that film off the rails. Weaver’s not bad, but her character is entirely unnecessary to the story.
Ah, well. Seen “Stranger Than Fiction” yet? That’s still around.