This week at the movies, we’ve got a dinner party disaster (Dinner for Schmucks, starring Steve Carell and Paul Rudd), some after-death bonding (Charlie St. Cloud, starring Zac Efron and Kim Basinger), and a joint canine-feline mission (Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, starring Chris O’Donnell and Jack McBrayer). What do the critics have to say?
It’s not unusual for a remake to lose something in transition, and that’s the case with Dinner for Schmucks, an American take on the acid French farce The Dinner Game. Still, critics say even if this isn’t the most biting comedy, the inventiveness of Steve Carell and Paul Rudd make it consistently watchable and occasionally hilarious. Rudd stars as a guy struggling to get ahead at his company, until his boss invites him to a dinner party. One problem: the dinner is a competition, and he has to bring the biggest idiot he can find. So he brings Barry (Carell), a world class fool who also has a core of decency and some interesting talents. The pundits say Schmucks lacks the bite of the original, and often devolves into empte slapstick. However, it’s also got goofiness and absurdity to spare, and its performers are on top of their games. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we run down Rudd’s best-reviewed movies.)
Slowly but surely, Zac Efron is moving away from the teenybop material that made him a star. However, if his turn in last year’s Me and Orson Welles signaled a new maturity, the critics say the generic weepy Charlie St. Cloud is a big step backward. Efron stars as a young man overcome with grief at the death of his younger brother; soon however, he’s communicating with his sibling from the beyond. Will he stay true to the little guy even after meeting the girl of his dreams? The pundits say Charlie St. Cloud is a melodramatic mess, uneasily mixing romantic and supernatural elements with a bit too much schmaltz to resonate.
Nine years ago, Cats and Dogs was a surprise box office hit that generated some tepid but decent reviews. Not this time: critics say the sequel, subtitled The Revenge of Kitty Galore, is a dull satire of James Bond movies that’s unlikely to generate much enthusiasm among the kiddies in the audience. This time out, the cats and dogs join forces to defeat an evil plan by Kitty Galore, a rogue housecat bent on world domination. The pundits say this one’s a dog, with mediocre CGI effects, little storytelling to speak of, and an utter lack of originality.
Also opening this week in limited release: