Critics Consensus

Critics Consensus: Positive Role Models, So-So Soul Men

Plus, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa tops the original.

by | November 6, 2008 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got Big Brothers (Role Models, starring Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott), wild animals (Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, with voice work by Ben Stiller and Chris Rock), and R&B vets (Soul Men, starring Bernie Mac and Samuel L. Jackson). What do the critics have to say?

Films that are at once raucously stupid and genuinely funny are a rarity. However, critics say Role Models fits the bill with aplomb. The film stars Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott as a pair of energy drink pitchmen with a proclivity for bad behavior and law-breaking; assigned to community service, they act as Big Brothers to a pair of troublemakers — and learn something in the process. It may sound like pure formula, but the pundits say this is a worthy entry in the Judd Apatow-inspired subgenre of gross-out comedy with heart, featuring well-paced, spectacularly dumb (in a good way) gags and engaging performances. At 75 percent on the Tomatometer, Role Models may be worth following.

“I’d like to dedicate this next number to McLovin.”

Speaking of rarities, how many sequels top the original? Madagascar
made a ton of money but disappointed critics unimpressed with its string of pop culture references and flatulence jokes. The scribes say Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is better in almost every regard, with sharper animation, funnier jokes, and a better story. Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller), Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith), Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock) and Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer) are relocated from captivity in New York to a savannah in Africa. Once there, they rediscover their roots, but pine for the friendly confines of the zoo. It may not be the edgiest animation out there, but pundits say Madagascar is bright and cheerful, with a good deal of energy and some smart laughs. At 68 percent on the Tomatometer, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa may be worth a trip.

“They call me the Hiphopapotamus, my lyrics are bottomless…..”

The script of Soul Men may be coarse and shopworn, but critics say it’s an ok sendoff for the great comic Bernie Mac, who passed away earlier this year. The film stars Mac and Samuel L. Jackson as a pair of R&B backup singers who reluctantly agree to perform at a tribute concert for a soul legend despite mutual acrimony; their cross-country journey to the show is filled with wacky hostility. The critics say Soul Men isn’t particularly original, borrowing from a number of road-buddy flicks, and the jokes are pretty blue. Still, they also note it’s a worthy final performance for Bernie Mac, an actor who stole many scenes in supporting roles and is in fine form as a lead here (and the late soul great Isaac Hayes also turns in a sharp supporting performance). At 54 percent on the Tomatometer, Soul Men hits some decent notes.

One of these men is in no hurry to take it to the bridge, to the consternation of the other.

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • Captain Abu Raed, a tale of a janitor in Jordan who inspires a goup of children who believe he’s a pilot, is at 100 percent.

  • A revival of Francois Truffaut‘s classic The Wild Child, based on the true story of a boy who survived alone in the wild, is at 100 percent.

  • Pray the Devil Back to Hell, a documentary about a group of Liberian women’s political activism in the midst of civil war, is at 100 percent.

  • JCVD, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme as a version of himself fighting to escape a hostage situation in a bank, is at 85 percent (check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down the Muscles from Brussels’ best-reviewed films).

  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, a Holocaust drama about the son of a Nazi officer who forms a friendship with a boy in a concentration camp, is at 71 percent.

  • The World Unseen, a drama about two South African women who form a tight bond during the Apartheid era, is at 29 percent.

  • Repo! The Genetic Opera, a futuristic musical about a biotech company that harvests human organs, is at 25 percent.

Finally, props to indiefilmfan2, Mary R., and rockclimbr6 for coming the closest to guessing The Haunting Of Molly Hartley‘s three percent Tomatometer.

Best-Reviewed Bernie Mac Movies:

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