This week at the movies, we’ve got a leapin’ lizard (Rango, with voice work from Johnny Depp and Abigail Breslin); a fateful romance (The Adjustment Bureau, starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt); a night to remember (Take Me Home Tonight, starring Topher Grace and Anna Faris); and some ugly love (Beastly, starring Alex Pettyfer and Vanessa Hudgens). What do the critics have to say?
In an animation landscape dominated creatively and commercially by Pixar, it’s rare that a CGI feature brings much originality to the table. However, critics say that’s the case with Rango, which they say is a manic, wildly inventive, very funny homage/parody of spaghetti Westerns. Rango (voiced by Johnny Depp) is a pet chameleon who finds himself in a town without pity, populated by various desert animals who act like supporting players in an old oater. With delusions of grandeur, Rango installs himself as the town’s sheriff, and hilarity ensues. The pundits say Rango is probably a little to earthy for little kids, but older children and adults will delight in the movie’s irrepressible energy and irreverent pop-cultural references.
The works of Philip K. Dick have been adapted to the screen many times (Blade Runner and Total Recall are probably the best-known examples), and it seems that Dick’s paranoid, thought-provoking worldview never goes out of style. The latest Dick adaptation is The Adjustment Bureau, which critics say is a sleek, romantic romance that benefits greatly from the chemistry between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. Damon plays a politician who encounters Blunt, the woman of his dreams. However, a shadowy organization is conspiring to keep them apart – but why? The pundits say The Adjustment Bureau doesn’t always make sense, and the ending is a letdown, but Damon and Blunt sizzle, and the film moves along at a brisk, confident pace.
The 1980s are all the rage these days, what with the recent revival of several action classics from the decade, so it isn’t surprising to see the John Hughes-esque young adult comedy Take Me Home Tonight hitting theaters. Unfortunately, critics say that despite sporting a certain sweetness, the film fails either to be original or sufficiently funny. Topher Grace stars as a recent MIT grad who, much to the chagrin of his family, takes up employment at a local video store. When his high school crush strolls in and invites him to the summer party to end all parties, he embarks on the wildest night of his life. Critics say Take Me Home Tonight is too derivative of the movies it presumes to emulate, and though its affection for nostalgia is charming, it teeters too perilously between homage and parody with unimpressive comic results. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down the biggest box office hits of 1988, as well as Grace’s Five Favorite Films.)
Hollywood is in the habit of updating fairy tales to modern times, so it was probably only a matter of time until we got an emo-era Beauty and the Beast. However, critics find that the Twilight-aping Beastly misses the depth of the original tale by a wide margin; this update is a little too sappy — and poorly scripted — to get much freshness out of its beauty’s-only-skin-deep moral. Alex Pettyfer stars as a vain, cruel bully who gets his comeuppance after a girl he’s tormented casts a spell on him and turns his face to a mess of scars. Will this self-centered jerk learn to treat others better? The pundits say Beastly features groan-worthy dialogue and soapy melodramatics, and the result is a dumbed-down, middling adaptation.
Apichatpong Weerasethakul‘s Palme d’Or-winning Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, the supernatural tale of a dying man’s last days, is at 86 percent.
The South Korean import I Saw the Devil, about a man who hunts down his daughter’s murderer, is at 71 percent.
Bereavement, starring Michael Biehn in the tale of a small town haunted by a perverse killer, is at 50 percent.
HappyThankYouMorePlease, starring Malin Akerman and Kate Mara in a dramedy about four young New Yorkers negotiating life and love, is at 44 percent.