TAGGED AS: Certified Fresh
This week at the movies, we’ve got an uncouth stuffed toy (Ted, starring Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis); striptease artists (Magic Mike, starring Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey); a family secret (People Like Us, starring Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks); and a defensive granny (Madea’s Witness Protection, starring Tyler Perry and Eugene Levy). What do the critics have to say?
Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane makes his big screen directorial debut with Ted, and critics say this vulgar, sometimes touching comedy retains the irreverent spirit of his TV work, only occasionally lapsing into arbitrary lewdness. John (Mark Wahlberg) made a childhood wish for his teddy bear to come to life; now in his 30s, John finds that the crude stuffed bruin is getting in the way of adult responsibilities. The pundits say Ted has a lot of cheap gags, but it’s often funny and surprisingly mature. (Check out 24 Frames for a pictorial rundown of Wahlberg’s career.)
Magic Mike might look like just another pretty face, but don’t be fooled — critics say this hunky drama/comedy has a heart and a brain too, thanks to a solid cast and Steven Soderbergh‘s expert direction. Channing Tatum stars as the title character, a male stripper with entrepreneurial dreams who shows a troubled young dancer (Alex Pettyfer) the tricks of the trade. Though Mike wants to move on, he’s strung along by the easy money offered by the club’s seedy MC (Matthew McConaughey). The pundits say the Certified Fresh Magic Mike mines laughs and pathos from clichéd situations, and the results are moving and true. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Tatum’s best-reviewed movies.)
Sometimes, even the most melodramatic premise can wring tears. Critics say People Like Us may be contrived, but its cast imbues the material with intelligence and poignancy. Chris Pine stars as Sam, a hotshot businessman who’s short of cash; when his father dies, he learns the will stipulates that he split the inheritance with a sister (Elizabeth Banks) he never knew existed. Will Sam become a better person in the process? The pundits say People Like Us occasionally strays into manipulative territory, but Pine and Banks are so strong that they keep the film grounded in warm, genuine emotion.
The folks behind Madea’s Witness Protection are apparently hoping to shield their film from critical harm, since it wasn’t screened prior to release. George (Eugene Levy), a meek Wall Street investment banker, discovers his firm is running a Ponzi scheme with the mob, so the Feds relocate him and his family to the care of the irrepressible Madea (Tyler Perry). It’s time to guess the Tomatometer!
Neil Young Journeys, a documentary in which the Godfather of Grunge takes a road trip through Canada and shares memories of his formative years, is at 100 percent.
The Matchmaker, a coming-of-age drama about a teenager who learns about love while working for a Holocaust survivor, is at 100 percent.
Gypsy, a loose retelling of Hamlet set amidst a Roma community in Slovakia, is at 89 percent.
The Sundance hit Beasts of the Southern Wild, a drama about an isolated Louisiana community dealing with the fallout from a catastrophic flood, is at 88 percent.
Take This Waltz, starring Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen in a dramedy about a married woman who engages in a risky flirtation with her neighbor, is at 79 percent.
Unforgivable, a thriller about a crime writer who investigates his new wife’s romantic liaisons, is at 70 percent.
The French import A Burning Hot Summer, starring Monica Bellucci in a drama about a high profile couple in the midst of relationship turmoil, is at 60 percent.