Critics Consensus

Critics Consensus: Pelham 1 2 3 Doesn't Quite Take

Plus, Imagine That could use a little more imagination.

by | June 11, 2009 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got a railway heist (The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, starring Denzel Washington and John Travolta) and some magical financial advice (Imagine That, starring Eddie Murphy and Yara Shahidi). What do the critics have to say?


The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, from 1974, was a stylish mix of comedy and thrills that, despite its reputation, is just dated enough to warrant a remake. However, critics say that Tony Scott‘s take, while slick and hyperkinetic, lacks the grit and cool of the original. John Travolta stars as Ryder, who takes control of a New York City subway car and its passengers, demanding a hefty ransom. Meanwhile, subway dispatcher Garber (Denzel Washington) tries to thwart Ryder’s plot. The pundits say the film is well-acted but has little sense of economy or patience; it’s a well-made but empty exercise. (See our feature “A Hundred Years of Heist Films,” in which we break down the caper genre by decade.)


Imagine That

Imagine That has an intriguing premise, especially in these economically tumultuous times: what if a child’s fantasy world could predict the ebb and flow of the stock market? Unfortunately, critics say Imagine That does little with its setup, despite solid work from Eddie Murphy and newcomer Yara Shahidi. Murphy stars as Evan Danielson, a financial advisor who spends little time with his daughter. That changes when he discovers that her drawings and imaginary friends appear to have a preternatural understanding of the investment world. But will Evan learn to become a better dad? The pundits say Murphy is admirably restrained, and Shahidi is a natural, but the film around them is only sporadically amusing; it’s also overly gimmicky and predictable. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Murphy’s best-reviewed films.)

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • Youssou N’Dour: I Bring What I Love, a documentary about the great Senegalese singer and his attempt to bridge the musical divide between the sacred and the secular, is at 100 percent.
  • Food Inc., a doc about corporate control (and the lack of governmental oversight) over the food industry, is at 95 percent.
  • Moon, starring Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey in a dark thriller about corporate skullduggery on the lunar surface, is at 90 percent.
  • Sex Positive, a doc about the complex life and times of gay health activist Richard Berkowitz, is at 67 percent.
  • Blast!, a doc about a team of tenacious scientists and their search for the origins of life on Earth, is at 60 percent.
  • Francis Ford Coppola‘s latest, Tetro, starring Vincent Gallo as a man living in Buenos Aires and haunted by his past, is at 50 percent.