Critics Consensus

Critical Consensus: Beowulf is Certified Fresh; Magorium Short on Magic; Cholera is Under the Weather

Plus, Southland Tales Heads South; De Palma's Latest Gets Mixed Reviews

by | November 15, 2007 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got epic poems come to life (Beowulf,
starring Ray Winstone and
Angelina Jolie), a magical toy shop (Mr. Magorium’s Wonder
, starring
Dustin Hoffman and
Natalie Portman), and romance in the
midst of infectious disease (Love in the Time of Cholera, starring
Javier Bardem). What do the critics have to say?

First, the bad news: critics say
will inspire English teachers
and literary scholars to tear out their hair. The good news? The scribes also
say it’s a flick that fans of bombastic action and phantasmagoria will want give
their right arms for. If you didn’t read the epic poem in school, get thee to a
library; suffice to say the story involves a dude named Beowulf (Ray Winstone)
tangling with mead hall-crashing beast Grendel (Crispin Glover) and
his vengeful, seductive mom (Angelina Jolie, much more attractive than her fictional
progeny would indicate). The pundits say Beowulf‘s amazing visuals are
the biggest draw here, as director
Robert Zemeckis uses dazzling CGI to bring
the classic tale to vivid life. (They also note it’s not for the kiddies,
despite its PG-13 rating.) At 79 percent, Beowulf is Certified Fresh, and
it’s well above Zemeckis’ previous animation/live-action hybrid,
The Polar
(57 percent). (And
check out
our Total Recall feature on Beowulf and animation.)

Grendel waiting until somebody invents Jergens.

Everyone can use a dose of magic and whimsy from time to time, right? But
frippery requires a light touch, something critics say
Mr. Magorium’s Wonder
lacks. Emporium stars
Dustin Hoffman in the title role as
the proprietor of a magic toy store, a place where baubles can come to life,
fueled by imagination;
Natalie Portman plays his protégé. The pundits say the
big problem with Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is that it ODs on
zaniness in an effort to make up for a bland storyline. At 24 percent on the
Tomatometer, business isn’t all that brisk at this Emporium.

“Does Mr. Magorium sell cornballers?”

Nobel Prize-winner
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
is widely acknowledged to be one of the world’s great men of letters.
Javier Bardem, hot from his performance in
Country for Old Men
, stars in the adaptation of one of Marquez’ most
celebrated works,
Love in the Time of Cholera
. Unfortunately, critics say
it’s more like Love in the Time of Narcolepsy. Bardem stars as a man who
is so enraptured by a woman he waits 50 years for her, despite her shifting
affections. The pundits say Love misses the spirit and passion of
Marquez’ magical realist tale by miles, with fine actors in miscast roles and a
too-literal approach, bogging down material that has a sense of sweep and
romanticism on the page. At 17 percent on the Tomatometer, Cholera is
under critical quarantine.

Chaplin, post-‘stache.

Also opening this week in limited release: the documentary
I for India
the story of an expat corresponding to his family, is at 100 percent;
Would Jesus Buy?
, a doc that explores the commercialization of Christmas, is
at 94 percent; Gregg Araki‘s
Smiley Face, a stoner comedy starring
, is at 67 percent;
Brian De Palma‘s mixed-media look at the horrors of the Iraq war, is at 52 percent (read
our interview with De Palma
here); the Icelandic import
Eleven Men Out
about a soccer star who comes out of the closet, is at 50 percent;
Noah Baumbach‘s
Margot at the Wedding, starring Nicole Kidman in a tale of
familial strife, is at 47 percent (check out our take from Toronto
here); and
, a wildly ambitious sci-fi/political satire starring
Dwayne "The
Rock" Johnson
William Scott
, is at 42 percent (see our interview
with director Richard Kelly

"Boy, these Dean Martin celebrity roasts are hilarious!"

Recent Angelina Jolie Movies:
77% — A Mighty Heart (2007)
55% — The Good Shepard (2006)
59% — Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005)
16% — Alexander (2004)
34% — Shark Tale (2004)

Recent Natalie Portman Movies:
84% — Paris, Je T’Aime (2007)
29% — Goya’s Ghosts (2007)
24% — Free Zone (2006)
72% — V for Vendetta (2006)
80% — Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)

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