Critics Consensus

Critics Consensus: Conan the Barbarian is a Bloody Mess

Plus, Fright Night scares up some laughs and chills, but Spy Kids and One Day strike out.

by | August 19, 2011 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got a heroic strongman (Conan the Barbarian, starring Jason Momoa and Rachel Nichols), pint-sized agents (Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D, starring Jessica Alba and Joel McHale), scary neighbors (Fright Night, starring Anton Yelchin and Colin Farrell), and part-time lovers (One Day, starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess). What do the critics have to say?

Conan the Barbarian


The 1982 Conan the Barbarian became a seminal entry in the sword-and-sorcery subgenre, maiking Arnold Schwarzenegger a star in the process. And although critics say Jason Momoa does his best with the title role, this new Conan the Barbarian eschews pulpy swashbuckling for non-stop action, and the result is a numbing barrage of blood, guts, and noise. The titular warrior is out for vengeance against the warlord who killed his family. On the trail of his foe, he encounters the beautiful Tamara (Rachel Nichols), and together, they leave a mountain of dead bodies strewn about the countryside. The pundits say Conan the Barbarian has a decent look and some thrills, but it’s mostly just a brutal, hyperactively-edited gore-fest that barely pauses to develop the characters or the plot. (Check out co-star Rose McGowan’s Five Favorite Films here.)

Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D


Throughout his career, director Robert Rodriguez has led a seemingly incongruous double life: when he’s not making stylistically bold neo-grindhouse films, he’s helming impish adventure tales for the kiddies. Unfortunately, critics say the fourth installment of his venerable Spy Kids franchise, All the Time in the World in 4D, is tired, juvenile stuff that isn’t improved by gimmicky 3D and scratch ‘n’ sniff cards. Jessica Alba stars as retired spy who’s lured back into action when a maniacal super villain threatens the free world. She’s joined in her mission by some newly recruited spy kids. The pundits say Spy Kids 4 is almost entirely bereft of the charm and excitement of the series’ first two entries, with mediocre special effects and an overabundance of sophomoric humor. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Rodriguez’s best-reviewed movies.)

Fright Night


On paper, a remake of Fright Night sounds like an opportunistic attempt to cash in on the current vampire craze — especially since the original, a minor genre classic that deftly (and self-referentially) mixed laughs and scares, still holds up pretty well. However, critics say this new Fright Night is surprisingly effective, thanks to some terrific performances and a solid script that captures — and occasionally expands upon — what worked the first time around. Anton Yelchin stars as Charley, a too-cool-for-school teen who notices that something’s not quite right about Jerry (Colin Farrell), the guy who moved in next door. As it turns out, Jerry’s a vampire who’s preying on the neighborhood, and it’s up to Charley to stop him. The pundits say that while Fright Night doesn’t always match the mischievous appeal of its source material, the script is sharp and clever, and the cast — particularly Farrell, who oozes sly menace — is uniformly excellent.

One Day


The premise of One Day is undeniably intriguing: it’s a romantic dramedy featuring two mismatched would-be lovers whose tentative relationship stretches for decades. Unfortunately, critics say the execution is a bit off; we’re never quite convinced our heroes are meant to be together, and the annual check-in conceit alluded to in the title seems contrived after a while. Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess are the couple, who meet at the end of college and are attracted to one another despite class and personality differences. Every subsequent June 15, we get glimpses of their lives, loves, and careers, as the pair maintains a friendship that might someday become something more. The pundits say One Day deserves credit for attempting to upend the traditional structure of the movie romance, and the stars’ repartee is fitfully amusing, but the characters are too ill-defined to make much of an impression.

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • Summer Pasture, a documentary about the harsh lives of Tibetan nomads, is at 100 percent.
  • The Last Circus, a dramedy about a clown whose life is upended by the rise of Fascism in Spain, is at 92 percent.
  • The Hedgehog, a drama about a morose 12-year-old who befriends the grumpy concierge in her apartment building, is at 83 percent.
  • Mozart’s Sister, a historical drama about the great composer’s talented older sibling, is at 80 percent.
  • Griff the Invisible, a comedy/romance about a shy working stiff who moonlights as a superhero, is at 78 percent.
  • Atrocious, a lo-fi horror film about a family that films its investigation into a terrifying urban legend, is at 67 percent.
  • The Journals Of Musan, a drama about a North Korean defector awkwardly adjusting to his new life in South Korea, is at 60 percent.
  • John Sayles‘s Amigo, a drama about a village torn apart by the Philippine-American War, is at 59 percent.
  • 5 Days Of War, starring Rupert Friend and Emmanuelle Chriqui in a drama about an American reporter caught in the crossfire of the 2008 Georgian conflict with Russia, is at 55 percent.
  • A Horrible Way to Die, an indie thriller about an escaped serial killer who’s looking for his ex-girlfriend, is at 40 percent.
  • Flypaper, starring Patrick Dempsey and Ashley Judd in a crime comedy about a would-be bank robber who develops a bond with a teller, is at 22 percent.
  • Programming The Nation?, a documentary about subliminal messages in politics and advertising, is at 14 percent.

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