Friday, June 06, 2008

Movies opening this week

Kung Fu Panda (Voices of Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Ian McShane, Angelina Jolie, dir. Mark Osborne and John Stevenson)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
Being almost entirely indifferent to this movie, I am surprised at the outpouring of positive and even glowing reviews for what to me seems like a mediocre, pleasant kids' movie that I will forget about until the sequel comes out three years from now. It does have that cool opening sequence, though, which only serves to highlight the way that CGI has made nearly all animated movies look the same. With tools at their disposal that can theoretically do anything, why aren't the makers of animated films more visually inventive? The computers keep getting us closer and closer to reality with greater and greater detail, but I'd love to see visuals that are more about artistry and less about realism (even in depicting anthropomorphic animals). Wide release

Son of Rambow (Bill Milner, Will Poulter, Jules Sitruk, dir. Garth Jennings)
Although the premise of this movie is winning (cute British kids in the 1980s make their own sequel to First Blood), the execution is inconsistent. When the movie focuses on the moviemaking process, and the sense of wonder and excitement the children bring to it, it's funny and entertaining and touching in the same way as Be Kind Rewind (perhaps even more so, because the characters' emotional investment in their movie seems more real). But the other aspects - the serious explorations of of religion and bullying and broken families, the annoying French kid who comes in and takes over the movie - never jell either with the central thread or with each other. The slapstick moments and the serious, even dark moments clash in a frustrating way, and the movie has less to say about the joys of creating art than I had hoped it would. The kids were charming enough, though, to make it something of a minor success. Opened limited May 2; in Las Vegas this week

You Don't Mess With the Zohan (Adam Sandler, Emmanuelle Chriqui, John Turturro, Rob Schneider, dir. Dennis Dugan)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I'm not sure why I end up seeing and reviewing so many Sandler movies; things just turn out that way when handing out assignments. But I've never liked Sandler, either in comedic roles or dramatic ones, and I realize I have a sort of bias against him. That said, I found this movie more entertaining than probably any other Sandler movie I have ever seen, which means that I chuckled at a few of the jokes and didn't cringe at the message. Yes, it has Rob Schneider in brownface, and it pretty much makes no sense, and the jokes are often idiotic, and Sandler's character is not particularly well-thought-out. But simply by not being the worst thing I've seen this year, it scores decent points with me. Wide release

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