This week at the movies, we’ve got blackjack brainiacs (21, starringJim Sturgess andKate Bosworth), strained soldiers (Stop-Loss, starring Ryan Phillippe and Abbie Cornish), rotund runners (Run, Fat Boy, Run, starringSimon Pegg and Thandie Newton), and masked marvels (Superhero Movie, starring Drake Bell and Leslie Nielsen). What to the critics have to say?
Though it’s the story of some high–IQ high-rollers, critics say 21 deals a so-so hand. 21 is loosely based on Bringing Down the House, the true story of some MIT wiz-kids who formed an all-star team of card counters — and took Las Vegas blackjack tables for a ride. The movie stars Kevin Spacey as an unconventional professor who schools his brainy students in the ways of beating the casinos; it works for a while, until Ben (Jim Sturgess) starts getting caught up in the high-rolling Vegas lifestyle. The pundits say the movie has flashes of energy and smarts, but, for being based on a true story, it’s too formulaic, and features plot developments that strain plausibility. At 41 percent on the Tomatometer, 21 may not be the safest bet. (Check out this week’s Total Recall for a roundup of some memorable gambling movies.)
Kimberly Peirce‘s debut, Boys Don’t Cry, was heartbreaking and impassioned, and critics say the same can be said of her follow-up, Stop-Loss. Unfortunately, they also note that said passion has been channeled into a much more uneven film. The title refers to a policy of soldiers’ tours of duty being involuntarily extended;Ryan Phillippe stars as one such serviceman, who, after returning home from Iraq to his family, is called back into service, upsetting his and his family’s lives. The pundits say Stop-Loss is sincere and complex, and features strong performances, but it also veers into overwrought dramatic territory and tries to cover too much ground. It currently stands at 53percent on the Tomatometer.
Simon Pegg is one of the funniest men in the movies, but we all have our off days. Case in point: Run, Fat Boy, Run, a romantic comedy that never reaches the riotous heights of previous Pegg projects.. Pegg stars as an affable guy who did a horrible thing: five years ago, he left his pregnant fiancée (Thandie Newton) standing at the altar. Now, older and wiser, he decides to reclaim her love — by ditching his bad habits and running a marathon. The pundits say the cast is strong enough to generate some chuckles, but Run, Fat Boy, Run is too mired in predictable rom-com plot points to truly soar. At 47 percent on the Tomatometer, Run, Fat Boy, Run is a bit too flabby.
It looks like the folks behind Superhero Movie are convinced the pundits won’t find it too super, since reviews have been embargoed until the day of its release. The generally-awesomeLeslie Neilsen and Tracy Morganstar in this Zucker Brothers satire of costumed crimefighter tropes. Kids, take a break from your discussion of the coolness of Doctor Doom and guess that Tomatometer!
Also opening this week in limited release: