Weekend Box Office

Critics Consensus: No Go for Speed Racer, Vegas Cashes Out

Also, Redbelt mostly hits its mark.

by | May 8, 2008 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got fast cars
(Speed Racer,

starring Emile
and Christina Ricci),
marital mishaps (What Happens in Vegas,
Ashton Kutcher and
Cameron Diaz),
and battle royals (David Mamet‘s
Chiwetel Ejiofor).
What do the critics have to say?

Sing along with me: “Here it comes, here comes
Speed Racer
/ It’s getting
bad reviews….” The critics say the Wachowski brothers’ big-screen adaptation of
the old-school toon is loaded with flashy visuals, but is too bombastic and
thinly plotted to resonate. Emile Hirsch stars as the titular hero, who, with
the support of main squeeze Trixie (Christina Ricci), battles it out it out with
Racer X (Matthew Fox) in a cross-county road race that Speed learns is being
unfairly influenced by corporate interests. The pundits say Speed Racer is
too loaded with eye-popping (some say headache-inducing) visuals and too short
on character development and coherent plotting. At 32 percent on the
Tomatometer, you may not want to go (Speed Racer) go to this one. (Check
this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down the greatest movie cars of
all time.)


How much mileage can a movie get out of the appeal of its stars? With regard to
What Happens in Vegas, the critics say quite a bit — though perhaps not
enough to deal this formulaic romantic comedy a winning hand.
Ashton Kutcher and
Cameron Diaz star as a pair of strangers who stumble into matrimony after
hitting the jackpot; what follows is a battle of the sexes and a tug-of-war over
the money. The pundits say Diaz and Kutcher display solid comedic chops, but are
let down by a predictable plot and a sour undercurrent. At 50 percent on the
Tomatometer, you have even odds of enjoying this one.

“I doubt that’s going to fit in the ATM slot.”

With a gift for cryptic language and complex characterization,
David Mamet is
one of America’s most celebrated playwrights. It turns out he’s also a big
martial arts fan. In
, Mamet’s passions collide, and critics say
it’s a solid, if not spectacular, combination.
Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as a
Jiu-Jitsu teacher who preaches self-defense; however, after an accident new his
school triggers a series of ominous events, he’s forced to step into the ring.
The pundits say Redbelt features many of the strengths of Mamet’s work:
strong acting (from a cast that includes Joe Mantegna,
Emily Mortimer, and
), intriguing moral dilemmas, and rich dialogue. But some say it’s a little
too tightly scripted to be fully believable. Still, at 64 percent, the scribes
say Redbelt hits pretty hard.

“For next year’s fundraiser, we should just have a cops vs. firemen
basketball game!”

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • Refusnik, a documentary about longstanding activist efforts to help Jews
    in the Soviet Union, is at 100 percent.

  • Turn the River, starring
    Famke Janssen as a pool hustler working to get
    back the son she gave up at birth, is at 88 percent.

  • The Memory
    , starring Mark Webber and Rachel Miner in the tale of a man who
    becomes obsessed with the Holocaust, is at 86 percent.

  • Monster Camp,
    a doc about live action role playing, is at 83 percent.

  • OSS
    117: Cairo, Nest of Spies
    , a parody of espionage thrillers, is at 75

  • The Merchant-Ivory period drama,
    Before the
    , about a cross-cultural love affair in 1930s India, is at 50

  • Battle for
    , Nick Broomfield s chronicle of a dark campaign in the Iraq war,
    is at 44 percent.

  • Noise, starring Tim Robbins in a comedy about a man who loses it after
    being inundated with street sounds, is at 44 percent.

  • The French slasher import,
    , about
    a group of criminals who stumble into a house full of flesh-eaters, is at 43

  • The Tracey
    , starring
    Ellen Page in
    a dark comedy about a teenager searching for her brother, is at 40 percent.

  • The Fall, a fantasy film about strange goings-on in a Los Angeles
    hospital, is at 42 percent.

  • The Babysitters, starring
    John Leguizamo and Cynthia Nixon in comedy
    about a girl who stars a sitting/callgirl business, is at 34 percent.

“Patti Smith or Sonic Youth?”

Wachowski Brothers Movies:
37% — The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
73% — The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
86% — The Matrix (1999)
88% — Bound (1996)

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