Critics Consensus

Critics Consensus: Rocker Doesn't Roll; Death Race Sputters

Plus, The House Bunny doesn't hop, and The Longshots fails to convert.

by | August 21, 2008 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got rock ‘n’ roll dreams (The Rocker, starring Rainn Wilson and Christina Applegate), a Playboy Mansion exile (The House Bunny, starring Anna Faris), deadly motorsports (Death Race, starring Jason Statham and Tyrese Gibson), and a female Pop Warner star (The Longshots, starring Ice Cube and Keke Palmer). What do the critics have to say?

The middle-aged outcast with a burning desire to rock has practically become a genre onto itself, but critics say The Rocker plays more like a B-side than a stadium anthem. Rainn Wilson stars as Robert “Fish” Fishman, a drummer who was booted from a hair metal band just before the group’s big break. Twenty years later, his nephew needs a drummer for his garage band, and Fish eagerly joins — much to the consternation of his teenage band mates. Now, Wilson is a very funny actor, but the scribes say that despite his best efforts, The Rocker feels secondhand — it’s predictable and slight, and doesn’t sing like School of Rock, the film to which it’s been inevitably compared. At 37 percent on the Tomatometer, this Rocker doesn’t go to 11. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, a compendium of cinema’s finest fake bands.)

“This bores me. Is anyone up for a game of… basketball?”

Anna Faris may be one of the freshest comic actors in Hollywood, but critics say her natural charisma isn’t enough to salvage The House Bunny. Faris stars as a Bunny who gets evicted from the Playboy Mansion and takes refuge in a sorority house, where she teaches the sisters lessons imparted to her from Hef. The pundits say The House Bunny is way too formulaic to hold together — and some have objected to the film’s celebration of bimbos — but Faris does her best, injecting a winning personality into a picture that could use some more laughs. At 41 percent on the Tomatometer, this House isn’t all that sturdy. However, it’s the best-reviewed of director Fred Wolf‘s films, which include this year’s zero-Tomatometer Strange Wilderness.

“Big money! Big money! No whammies…”

If you like your movies big and noisy, with a minimum of character development, Paul W.S. Anderson is your man. Critics say his latest, Death Race, doesn’t deviate from Anderson’s established themes, nor does it provide enough of the cheap B-movie thrills it promises. Set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, Death Race stars Jason Statham as a convict, who, along with a group of inmates, is enlisted to participate in a brutal auto race that’s being staged by the prison’s brass. According to critics, the film — a remake of the 1975 Roger Corman B-classic Death Race 2000 — is loaded with histrionic action scenes, so-so performances, and unintentional laughs, and lacks the white-knuckle thrills that a genre piece like this requires to be more than just a guilty pleasure. At 28 percent on the Tomatometer, Death Race could use a tune-up.

The car wash of the future.

You’re never gonna believe this: Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst has directed a family film about a girl trying to join a boys’ football team! The sheer incongruity of that fact may be the most distinguishing thing about The Longshots, which critics say is a sweet but mostly forgettable inspirational sports flick. Durst’s fellow “Family Values” tour mate Ice Cube stars as a former football star who teaches his niece (Keke Palmer) how to play quarterback; she becomes the first girl in Pop Warner history, and leads her squad to victory. The scribes say The Longshots means well, and Palmer gives a standout performance, but the film sticks way too close to the sports movie playbook, robbing it of tension and spark. At 32 percent on the Tomatometer, The Longshots is something of a busted play.

“This halftime show is strangely riveting.”

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • Dare Not Walk Alone, a documentary about the Civil Rights movement in St. Augustine, FL, is at 100 percent.
  • The Czech import I Served the King of England, a darkly comic tale about the ups and downs in the life a likeably naive man, is at 94 percent.
  • Trouble the Water, a doc about the resilient survivors of Hurricane Katrina, is at 93 percent.
  • Momma’s Man, a dramedy about a middle aged man taking a trip down memory lane in his parents’ apartment, is at 88 percent.
  • I.O.U.S.A., a doc about the U.S. government’s fiscal irresponsibility, is at 82 percent.
  • Hamlet 2, starring Steve Coogan as a high school drama teacher who mounts an ambitious musical sequel to the Bard’s classic, is at 67 percent (check out The Play’s the Thing, our countdown of great movies about life in the theater).

    It’s good to see that Billy Sheehan is getting work these days.

    Finally, crazy props to Superzone and Rachelle13 for coming the closest to guessing Mirrors‘ 17 percent Tomatometer.

    Recent Ice Cube Movies:

  • 14% — First Sunday (2008)
  • 8% — Are We Done Yet? (2007)
  • 16% — XXX: State of the Union (2005)
  • 12% — Are We There Yet? (2005)
  • 69% — Barbershop 2: Back in Business (2004)