This week at the movies, we’ve got Steve Carell and Morgan Freeman in the big-budget Bible comedy "Evan Almighty"; John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson in the haunted house thriller "1408"; and Angelina Jolie in "A Mighty Heart," based on the memoir by reporter Daniel Pearl’s widow. What do the critics have to say?
At a budget in the ballpark of $175 million, "Evan Almighty" is said to be the most expensive comedy ever made. But judging from the critical reaction thus far, the filmmakers would have been wise to check out the Book of Proverbs: "Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint." A spinoff from the 2003 Jim Carrey vehicle "Bruce Almighty," Steve Carell stars as Evan, a TV anchor-turned-congressman who is told by the Lord (an aptly cast Morgan Freeman) to build an ark, much to the befuddlement of his family and constituents. Carell is one of the funniest men on the planet, but critics say that in "Evan" he’s mostly reduced to mugging, overwhelmed by costly but mediocre special effects. Pundits also note the scatological humor is a little extensive for a family film, and the usually dependable Freeman and Wanda Sykes are underutilized. At 22 percent on the Tomatometer, "Evan" is out to sea; it’s not even up to "Bruce Almighty"’s 49 percent standard.
For those of you out there who dig horror movies but prefer spooky atmosphere and suspense to buckets of blood, you’re in luck. In "1408," John Cusack plays a troubled writer who’s made a career of debunking the supernatural; for his latest, he sets out to spend one night each in 10 "haunted" hotel rooms. Bad idea, says Samuel L. Jackson, who plays the manager of the notorious Dolphin Hotel, since no one has survived the curse of room 1408. Pundits say the film, based upon a story by Stephen King, is an old-school chiller in the best possible way, featuring effective scares and outstanding performances from Cusack and Jackson. At 88 percent on the Tomatometer, "1408" is one hot little number.
Lost in the tabloid hubbub surrounding Angelina Jolie is the fact that she’s never less than an interesting actress. Playing Mariane Pearl, wife of the slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, critics say she’s at the top of her game. Based upon Mariane Pearl’s book of the same name, "A Mighty Heart" recounts the frantic search for her husband following his capture at the hands of militants in Pakistan. Pundits say director Michael Winterbottom has crafted a sharp, worthy film about a difficult subject, and Jolie conveys the full emotional range of a woman in a desperate situation. At 78 percent on the Tomatometer, "Heart" is mighty, indeed. (Check out RT’s interview with Winterbottom here.)
Also opening this week in limited release: "White Palms," a heartfelt drama about the conflict between a star gymnast and his coach, is at 100 percent; "Sicko," Micahel Moore’s polemic on the American health care system, is at 88 percent on the Tomatometer (check out RT’s review from Cannes); "Colma: The Musical," a low-budget, well-sung tribute to the San Francisco suburb, is at 88 percent; "Black Sheep," a grisly horror/comedy about a bunch of rabid rams and ewes, is at 83 percent; the German import "Longing," a delicate chamber drama, is at 78 percent; "Lady Chatterley," a lyrical take on D.H. Lawrence’s erotic classic, is at 77 percent; "You Kill Me," a comedy about contract killers starring Ben Kingsley and Tea Leoni, is at 76 percent; and "Broken English," a drama about a young woman looking for love starring Parker Posey, is at 56 percent (check out RT’s review from Sundance).
Recent Angelina Jolie Movies:
56% — The Good Shepherd (2006)
59% — Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005)
16% — Alexander (2004)
34% — Shark Tale (2004)
74% — Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)