Critics Consensus

Critics Consensus: Babylon Condemned, Traitor Fails

Plus, Hamlet 2 is a palpable hit, and guess the Tomatometers for Disaster Movie and College!

by | August 28, 2008 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got post-apocalyptic transport (Babylon
, starring
Vin Diesel and
Michelle Yeoh), international intrigue (Traitor,
starring Don Cheadle and
Guy Pearce), a high school musical (Hamlet 2,
starring Steve Coogan and
Catherine Keener), a disaster spoof (Disaster
, starring
Kim Kardasian and
Carmen Electra), and fraternity hi-jinks
(College, starring
Drake Bell). What do the critics have to say?

You can guess that a movie may not be worth your money when its director is
trashing it, and that’s the case with the post-apocalyptic thriller
Helmer Mathieu Kassovitz has gone on record as saying this Vin Diesel-starrer
isn’t very good, and the critics are inclined to agree with him. Diesel plays a
mercenary who’s tasked with transporting a valuable package from Eastern Europe
to New York and immediately gets more than he bargained for. The pundits say Babylon
has moments of visual invention that are resoundingly negated by an
indecipherable storyline, so-so action scenes, and shopworn tropes from other
dystopian sci-fi flicks. At five percent on the Tomatometer, Babylon A.D.
is shaping up to be one of the year’s worst-reviewed films.

“Put this up your nose and get your heiny to Mars.”

Don Cheadle is one of contemporary cinema’s most dynamic performers, and he’s
been able to inject a healthy dose of thoughtful politics into his roles without
compromising any dramatic thrust. However, critics say
is caught
between those two impulses, and as a result, doesn’t fully cohere. Cheadle stars
as a former Special Ops officer who’s suspected by an FBI agent (Guy Pearce) of
being involved with terrorist groups; a high-stakes game of international
cat-and-mouse-ensues. The scribes say Traitor is smarter than your
average spy thriller/action flick, with an intriguing take on the post-9/11
political landscape. But many also feel the film doesn’t explore its themes
deeply enough, and it features a plot that’s more twisty than suspenseful. At 54
percent on the Tomatometer, this Traitor tries to play both sides, but
comes up short.

“I’ll tell you one more time: Umbrellas are your friends.”

Steve Coogan is a sly devil; alternately calculating and ingratiating, he’s a
comic actor of rare craftiness. And critics say he’s the best thing about
Hamlet 2
, an uneven but often hilarious musical comedy. Coogan stars as a failed
thespian turned high school drama teacher whose personal and professional life
is in disarray — until he decides to mount a controversial musical sequel to Hamlet
that includes both time travel and Jesus. The pundits say Hamlet 2
doesn’t often make the most of its admittedly great premise, and its satirical
aspirations often miss the mark, but Coogan’s fearless, guileless performance
helps sell it — he’s unafraid to make a fool of himself, and his energy is
infectious. At 61 percent on the Tomatometer, Hamlet 2 is more to be than
not to be. (Check out our countdown of the best Shakespeare adaptations, as well
as “The Play’s the Thing,” a list of great movies about theater life.)

“Sexy Jesus needs a pull-my-finger gag.”

It’s the dog days of summer, and we’ve got not one but two unscreened/embargoed
movies this week: Disaster
. Written and directed
by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, Disaster Movie movie spoofs (or,
perhaps more accurately, references) such disaster-themed thrillers as Juno,
, and Sex and the City. College (which shares only a
title with the Buster Keaton classic) stars Drake Bell as a guy who attends a
wild frat party during his freshman orientation; wacky misadventures with booze
and babes ensue. Hey kids, it’s time to guess those Tomatometers! (And be sure
check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we run through the history of
the spoof movie.)

“They tried to make us shoot a funny movie, but we said no, no, no.”

Also opening this week in limited release:

Day of Wrath, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1943 masterwork about witch trials in
16th century Denmark, is at 100 percent.

Takashi Miike’s
Sukiyaki Western Django
, a visceral, bizarro mash-up of
Spaghetti Western and samurai movie tropes, is at 68 percent (check out RT’s
exclusive clip

Year of the Fish, a rotoscopped Asian-American Cinderella story set in
contemporary New York, is at 53 percent.

Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild!, about the wacky misadventures of
four friends at spring break, is at 21 percent.

“Tarantino’s in this movie with a crappy accent? La la la…”

Recent Don Cheadle Movies:
69% — Darfur Now (2007)
70% — Oceans Thirteen (2007)
64% — Reign Over Me (2007)
81% — Talk to Me (2007)
57% — The Dog Problem (2006)