This week at the movies, we’ve got Bieber fever (the concert documentary Justin Bieber: Never Say Never); romantic deception (Just Go With It, starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston); Shakespearean lawn ornaments (Gnomeo and Juliet, with voice work by James McAvoy and Emily Blunt); and an epic journey (The Eagle, starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell). What do the critics have to say?
If you’re a 12-year-old girl with a severe case of Bieber fever, you’ll probably love Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. If you’re a parent, or if you’re merely curious about the Bieber phenomenon, critics say you’ll probably have a better-than-average time with this concert/behind-the-scenes doc, which makes a solid case for Bieber’s talent and likeability without going too far beneath the surface. Never Say Never chronicles Bieber’s rise to stardom, culminating in a blowout show in Madison Square Garden with such pop luminaries as Usher, Miley Cyrus, and Ludacris; along the way, we learn about the star’s prodigious talent and hard work. The pundits say the film sometimes has the feel of an infomercial, and is a little overlong, but it’s also an occasionally fascinating peek into the star-making process, and Bieber comes off as a likeable, remarkably polished performer throughout.
One often needs to suspend disbelief with the unlikely plot mechanics of romantic comedies. However, critics say that’s a tall order with Just Go With It, which requires its talented cast to act foolishly at nearly every turn. Adam Sandler stars as a plastic surgeon who lures women by pretending he’s married; when he meets the girl of his dreams, he asks his long-suffering assistant (Jennifer Aniston) to pretend to be his ex in order to keep up the façade. The pundits say Just Go with It is an implausible, largely laugh-free affair that lacks the energy and comic rhythm required to pull off this kind of farce.
Shakespeare’s works are so universal that they’ve survived innumerable offbeat adaptations. Still, the idea of Gnomeo and Juliet — the Bard’s greatest romantic tragedy set in a world of anthropomorphic garden gnomes – is more idiosyncratic than most, and critics say this animated musical comedy has moments of inspiration but is a little thin over the long haul. Gnomeo (James McAvoy) and Juliet (Emily Blunt) are gnomes that find love despite being from opposite sides of a fence. Can these crazy kids make it work — and keep their fellow lawn ornaments from all-out war? Some pundits are charmed by Gnomeo‘s wit and imagination, but others find it a little too self-referential for its own good (Check out Five Favorite Films with executive producer/composer Sir Elton John.)
An old-school sword-and-sandal epic that gets by without overdosing on CGI is a tasty proposition. Unfortunately, critics say The Eagle doesn’t quite soar — it looks terrific, but its sluggish pacing and so-so central performance from Channing Tatum keep it from standing alongside antiquity flicks of yore. Tatum stars as a Roman centurion on a quest to restore his family’s honor; along with a slave (Jamie Bell), his dangerous journey takes him beyond the borders of the Roman Empire. The pundits say The Eagle has a nice eye for period detail and scenic vistas, but Tatum lacks the authority to pull off the central role, and the battle sequences are hard to follow.(Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we present a list of memorable Romans in the movies.)
Poetry, about a sixtysomething woman who enrolls in a poetry class to stave off personal demons, is at 100 percent.
The Sky Turns, a documentary chronicling a young woman’s return to her isolated, sparsely populated village, is at 100 percent.
Orgasm, Inc., a doc about the development of pharmaceuticals to treat female sexual dysfunction, is at 88 percent.
Cedar Rapids, starring Ed Helms and John C. Reilly in a comedy about a naive guy representing his company at an insurance convention, is at 85 percent.
Carancho, a noir-ish romance set amidst an Argentine underworld that profits from traffic fatalities, is at 73 percent.
Carbon Nation, a doc about individuals addressing the climate change crisis, is at 57 percent.
Certifiably Jonathan, a mock/doc hybrid featuring legendary comic Jonathan Winters, is at 20 percent.