Critics Consensus

Critical Consensus: Sweeney Todd, Walk Hard, and Charlie Wilson All Certified Fresh!

Also: National Treasure doesn't break the bank, P.S. is P.U.

by | December 20, 2007 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got unruly history buffs (National Treasure:
Book of Secrets
, starring
Nicolas Cage), fake rockers (Walk Hard: The
Dewey Cox Story
, starring
John C. Reilly), rogue senators (Charlie
Wilson’s War
, starring
Tom Hanks,
Julia Roberts, and
Philip Seymour
), bon mots from beyond the grave (P.S. I Love You,
starring Hilary Swank and
Gerard Butler), and demon barbers (Tim
, starring
Johnny Depp). What do the critics have to say?

posited that there was a secret code hidden within the design of
U.S. legal tender. And the movie garnered enough legal tender so that a
Book of Secrets
could be made. For the second installment,
adventurer Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) is again on the trail of secrets from the
past, as new evidence has implicated his great grandfather in the
assassination of Abraham Lincoln; thus begins a globetrotting trek loaded with
mystery and intrigue. Ridiculous? You’d better believe it, pundits say,
although they also note that Secrets occasionally has enough giddy momentum to make
viewers overlook its absurdities. At 53 percent on the Tomatometer, this Book
might be worth cracking open for series fans. It’s certainly a cut above its
predecessor’s 41 percent.

“So Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton AND Lincoln?”

Wilson’s War
delves into one of the stranger stories of the Cold War era.
Based on a true story, War shows how a free-wheeling congressman (Tom Hanks), a wealthy socialite (Julia Roberts), and Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour
), a CIA agent who didn’t play by the rules, joined forces in
an attempt to liberate Afghanistan after it was invaded by the Soviets (and,
in doing so, laid the groundwork for the Taliban to take over the country
later). Critics say director
Mike Nichols has made War both a smart
look at realpolitik and a screwball comedy, with plenty of help from Hanks and
Hoffman. At 79 percent on the Tomatometer, this War is good for quite a

“I have a vision: The Afghan people enjoying freedom,
choice, and Lipps Inc."

has been a golden year for
Judd Apatow:
Knocked Up
(90 percent), which
he directed and wrote, and
(87 percent), which he produced,
are two of the best-reviewed and most commercially successful comedies of 2007. With
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, pundits say he’s scored a
hat trick. A satire on musical biopics, Walk Hard tells the inspiring
story of a Southern boy (John C. Reilly) and his up-and-down career in the
music biz — which includes lots of groupies, rehab, and meetings with such
luminaries as Elvis, the Beatles, and the Ghostface Killah. Critics say Walk
works because Apatow and director
Jake Kasdan maintain a nimble
balance between homage and parody, celebrating the rock film’s conventions
while deftly (and smuttily) satirizing them. And they say the film is loaded
with good performances, most notably from Reilly, who may graduate from
character roles with his work here. At 78 percent on the Tomatometer, Cox
rocks. (Check out
week’s Total Recall
, in which RT explores other music-related comedies.)

Happy holidays from Dewey Cox and RT!

In the
case of romantic movies, one is generally not compelled to head to the theater
in search of realism but escapism. Still, internal logic is usually required,
something critics say
P.S. I Love You
Hilary Swank
stars as a woman whose husband (Gerard Butler) succumbs to a brain tumor.
Before his death, however, he wrote her a series of letters that will act as
her guide to a better life — and possibly, a brand new love. Critics say P.S.
contains more sap than a Canadian forest, and the lack of chemistry between Swank
and Butler undermines the film’s notions of a sweeping, timeless romance. At
14 percent on the Tomatometer, critics are saying P.S. I Love You
should be returned to sender.

“Where do you want to dine tonight? That new Indian
place…or IN HELL!?"

what you’re looking for this holiday season is a heavy dose of the macabre,
you’re in luck. Critics say
Sweeney Todd:
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Tim Burton‘s adaptation of
Stephen Sondheim’s musical of the same name, is tasty as one of Mrs. Lovett’s
meat pies. Sweeny tells the gruesome tale of Mr. Todd (Johnny Depp),
who vows revenge on the world after being unjustly sent to prison; with the
help of his landlady (played by
Helena Bonham Carter), he uses his barber shop
as a place for murder, and she uses the bodies he accumulates to make her
pies. The pundits say Sweeny Todd is a demented wonder, full of
stunning visuals, a mordant sense of humor, well-staged musical numbers, and
dedicated performances. At 85 percent on the Tomatometer, Sweeny Todd
cuts deep. And it’s the best-reviewed Tim burton film since
Ed Wood

“This’ll cost you an arm and a leg, but at least you get a
complimentary pie."

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • The District!, an
    animated Hungarian import about gang conflicts, is at 86 percent on the

  • Steep, a doc about the perils of big mountain skiing, is
    at 56 percent.

  • Flakes, a comedy about an all-cereal café starring
    the always lovely
    Zooey Deschanel, is at 11 percent.

    Christopher Lloyd after eating some "vintage" Nintendo

Julia Roberts Movies:
78% — Charlotte’s Web (2006)
63% — The Ant Bully (2006)
68% — Closer (2004)
55% — Ocean’s Twelve (2004)
34% — Mona Lisa Smile (2003)

Johnny Depp Movies:
45% — Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)
91% — Deep Sea (IMAX) (2006)
54% —
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
32% — The Libertine (2005)
83% — Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride (2005)