This week at the movies, we’ve got four underdog stories. An average Joe tries to play pro football ("Invincible," starring Mark Wahlberg), the new kid in school tries to ward off bullies by consuming soft-bodied invertebrates ("How to Eat Fried Worms"), a ragtag bunch tries to win an international keg-tapping contest ("Beerfest," starring Broken Lizard), and two struggling 1930s musicians try for a big break ("Idlewild," starring Outkast). What do the critics have to say?
Pity the poor Philly football fan. Despite some recent success, the Eagles haven’t had a championship season since 1960. I’ll bet a lot of residents of the City of Brotherly Love think they could do better themselves. Well, "Invincible" tells the true story of a guy who felt that way… and was right. Mark Wahlberg stars as an over-the-hill substitute teacher and bartender who shows up at an open tryout and wows coach Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear) with his speed and skills despite never playing ball in college. The critics say what could have been another clichéd sports drama is elevated by strong performances by Wahlberg and Kinnear, as well as a palpable sense of time and place. "Invincible" is at 74 percent on the Tomatometer.
Despite a title that conjures images of a pre-teen "Fear Factor," the critics say "How to Eat Fried Worms" is actually quite tame — or quaint — compared with much of contemporary family fare. Although its youthful cast contribute solid performances, the critics say "Worms" doesn’t quite live up to the standard set by the classic children’s book of the same name. Still, they also say the film is good-natured fun for the kids. At 61 percent on the Tomatometer, "Worms" is a reasonably appetizing item on the cinematic menu.
Those Broken Lizard folks are at it again, with another gleefully juvenile movie that should appeal to their cult audience while confounding the critics. Sort of like "Dodgeball" for the pub set, "Beerfest" tells the tale of a group of misfits who take on the world in an international beer drinking contest. While critics concede that there are more than a few moments of boozy, tasteless fun, they also say the film, at 111 minutes, is a little too hit and miss to justify its running time. At 51 percent on the Tomatometer, "Beerfest" is a little too sudsy. Still, it’s the best reviewed Broken Lizard film, beating "Super Troopers," which scored 36 percent.
"Beerfest": More subtle, sophisticated humor from Broken Lizard
Ain’t nobody dope as Outkast — in the studio. The silver screen may be a different matter. Big Boi and Andre 3000 bring their Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik to a story set in the Depression era south in "Idlewild." Critics say that with the musical scenes, the cast are the type of people make the club get crunk. But, ah ha, what’s that fuss, then? Well, the scribes say there’s too little of Outkast’s power music electric revival, and the plot gets bogged down in clichés. At 52 percent on the Tomatometer, critics don’t love the way "Idlewild" moves — but don’t hate it either.
Also in theaters this week in limited release: "Old Joy," an exploration of friendship starring indie darling Will Oldham, is at 100 percent; "LOL," a no-budget tale of hipsters and technology, is at 100 percent; "Princesas," a story of friendship between prostitutes in Madrid, is at 70 percent; "Rolling Family," sort of like an Argentine "Little Miss Sunshine," is at 63 percent; the Spanish sex comedy "Queens" is at 57 percent; and the Elisha Cuthbert/ Camilla Belle psychological thriller "The Quiet" is at 27 percent.