opening this week
Clerks II (R) When the Quick Stop abruptly folds, old pals Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson) and Dante Hicks (Brian O'Halloran) are forced to join the crew at Mooby's, a fast food joint where dreams go to die.
Keeping Up With the Steins (PG-13) A 13-year-old boy uses his upcoming bar mitzvah to reconcile the strained relationship between his father and grandfather, featuring Jeremy Piven, Jami Gertz, and Daryl Hannah.
Lady in the Water (PG-13) Reviewed at left.
Monster House (PG) Reviewed on page 37.
My Super Ex-Girlfriend (PG-13) Matt (Luke Wilson) dumps his girlfriend Jenny (Uma Thurman) for being too needy, and eventually hooks up with his co-worker (Anna Faris). Little does he know, Jenny's also a superhero, the now-scorned G-Girl, who will use all of her abilities to bust up Matt's new union.
An Inconvenient Truth (PG) For a film consisting mostly of a middle-aged guy pointing to charts and lecturing about complex, controversial, and world-challenging ideas, An Inconvenient Truth makes for a more entertaining thriller than The Da Vinci Code. It also has the advantage of arguing a case that is authentic and terribly urgent. First-time director Davis Guggenheim combines Gore's anti-warming campaign with his own personal drama, making him a protagonist bouncing back from the 2000 Presidential election to go door-to-door to preach his environmental message and save the world. Some, especially those already sympathetic to the subject, will find his story inspiring. Others will snipe at it snidely, unfairly, and with ugly humor. It's no surprise that few or none of the film's debunkers have questioned its rigorously documented facts. Harder for naysayers to dismiss is the substance of the slide show itself. — Peter Keough
Cars (G) Though the big-eyed, childish looking characters of Cars might lead you to think otherwise, what the film really is, is a love letter to the heyday of the American road and the faded mystique of Route 66. What could have been Pixar's most simplistic, pre-teen limited film turns out to be one of their biggest and most mature, as it tackles larger themes that'll probably fly right over the heads of kids. It's the characters that really sell Cars, but even so, there are moments in this film where you'll forget you're looking at a cartoon. It's a stunning piece of work, a visual masterpiece, the kind of movie that would be a must-see even if the story weren't any good. —Joshua Tyler
Click (PG-13) The latest Adam Sandler assault on the art of film is one those films where multimillionaire producers explain to audiences that money can't buy happiness and that the best things in life are free. Why, we haven't had a movie like this since R.V. came out weeks ago. Click is an even more odious variation on this bewhiskered bromide, managing to mix this message with typically juvenile, mean-spirited, sexist Sandlerian "comedy." The premise of a universal remote control that controls your universe isn't terribly original, but it could have worked — except that it's not used here in any vaguely rational manner. Sandler's fans will undoubtedly eat up the flatulence, oversexed dog, homophobia, and random violence gags, but may be perplexed by the film's attempts at being serious. —KH
The Devil Wears Prada (PG-13) The deliciously mean yet not totally heartless Prada makes an excellent show of demonstrating how even a cute preppie like Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) might get seduced into the shallow, selfish world of the stuck-up, anorexic fashionistas who work at a New York glamour magazine. And the predictable spiral Andy descends over the course of the film, selling herself out and alienating her charming boyfriend is, for all its inevitability, beautifully played and more than a tad touching. But the most wickedly entertaining thing about this flick is Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly, the legendary queen bitch editor in chief of Runway and obvious stand-in for legendary queen bitch Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue magazine: pure seduction and pure evil all wrapped up in a fabulous wardrobe. —MJ
Kinky Boots (PG-13) A pile of hooey served up with a side of bogus The Full Monty working-class pep, Kinky Boots also asks: How many clichés can a filmmaker pile into one character before audiences cry, "Enough"? The answer appears to be, the more the merrier. After Charlie (Joel Edgerton) suffers the death of his dad, he must decide whether to somehow save the family business of making wingtips or move to London. A chance meeting with a drag queen named Lola (Chiwetel Ejiofor) convinces him to forego wingtips for thigh-high slut boots. The result seems to have been designed by a cabal of market-savvy Cylons after taking in a Robert McKee screenwriting course, and directed in similarly mechanical manner by Julian Jarrold. —Ian Grey
The Lake House (PG) A good film that is nearly a very good film. The thing that ultimately keeps it from being more than good is simply that director Alejandro Agresti and screenwriter David Auburn (Proof) never quite get the film past a combination of effective melodrama and fantasy (or sci-fi) and into the realm of the gloriously romantic. Put simply, any romance that doesn't make at least one successful major assault on your tear ducts is one handkerchief shy of great romance. Engaging performances from Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock as the duo with the bad luck to fall in love despite living in different time frames help, but the movie's too cerebral for its own good. —Ken Hanke
Little Man (PG-13) Little Man isn't the worst movie of the summer. That's too generous. It may in fact be the worst movie ever made, though I'm hesitant to afford it that title because it's the kind of accolade that glorifies this crap-filled atrocity. A rip-off of a seven-minute Bugs Bunny cartoon, the Wayans' version casts Marlon Wayans as a midget gangster who passes himself off as a baby in order retrieve a stolen jewel he hid in a suburban woman's (Kerry Washington) handbag. I suppose the reason no one thought of this genius-level concept before was that special effects had not yet attained the requisite level to pull it off. Even so, the effects are painfully bad. If moviemaking were a limbo contest, the Wayans brothers would be the hands-down winners. No one has ever gone lower. —KH
Nacho Libre (PG) I don't know that it's fair to say that Jared Hess' new film, Nacho Libre, proves that his Napoleon Dynamite was a fluke. In the end, Nacho Libre is pretty much the same film all over again. Oh, the plot — Mexican monk (Jack Black) sets out to become a wrestler — is different, but it's the same sort of deadpan, meandering narrative with the same lack of discernible structure. But Napoleon Dynamite offered the illusion of freshness wrapped up in a fairly mediocre movie. Here, Hess proves that even with a decent budget and a star, he can still scale the heights of mediocrity. Strictly for the "Vote for Pedro" T-shirt brigade and people with a burning desire to spend 100 minutes looking at Jack Black in spandex. —Ken Hanke
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (PG-13) Pirates of the Caribbean returns to theaters for more summer swashbuckling, only they may have forgotten to buckle their swash. The sequel — the first of two — pits Johnny Depp's incomparable Captain Jack Sparrow against the owner of that chest, Davy Jones (Bill Nighy). The film feels forced, as director Gore Verbinski struggles mightily to up the ante for his sequel, only to miss out on a lot of what made the original so fun in the first place. Where the last movie had piracy, fencing, gun battles, and drunken singing, Dead Man's Chest has CGI beasties and lots of screaming. Though the movie falls a little too in love with its big effects budget, at least the effects are rather good. Despite its flaws, a lot of people are probably going to quite enjoy Dead Man's Chest, and for those who don't, the good news is that Disney still has one more movie to get it right. —Joshua Tyler
Superman Returns (IMAX 3D) (PG-13) In director Bryan Singer's remake, the Man of Steel does indeed return, and he's flying in with a tidal wave of promotional tie-ins. Singer directs a cast full of boring heroes — Kate Bosworth does a dismal impression of a journalist as Lois Lane, and Brandon Routh, the relative unknown squeezed into Superman's tights, has all the expressiveness of a mannequin — and winning villains. Kevin Spacey crafts a far more malevolent Lex Luthor than Gene Hackman's goofy genius, and Parker Posey vamps deliciously as his idiotic sidekick Kitty Kowalski. The CGI is well-done and highly believable, and the 3D parts of the IMAX version, including a segment about Superman's adolescent discovery of his powers of flight, are stunning. It's a fun bit of mindless entertainment, but it doesn't hold a speeding bullet to either of Singer's X-Men efforts. —Sara Miller
Wordplay (PG) Director Patrick Creadon's film is a documentary about crossword puzzles and their ardent fans, with specific focus on the daily puzzles in The New York Times; their editor, Will Shortz; and the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, where hundreds of contestants annually compete for the title of champion. Daily Show host Jon Stewart, President Bill Clinton, Yankee pitcher Mike Mussina, filmmaker Ken Burns, the Indigo Girls music duo — all are among the puzzle's famous devotees who talk about their daily fix on camera. Yet the most fascinating segment of Wordplay simply watches as puzzle-creator Merl Reagle constructs one. —MB
You, Me and Dupree (PG-13) Owen Wilson's Randy Dupree has a talent for turning loafing and mooching into something Zen. But only in the movies is that kind of thing adorable and charming. In reality, you'd kick him out of your life if you didn't actually kill him first, especially if he pulled any of the truly thoughtless and inconsiderate crap Dupree dumps on Carl (Matt Dillon) and his new wife, Molly (Kate Hudson), when he crashes at their lovely new home. What first-time screenwriter Mike LeSieur and directors Anthony and Joe Russo have made is Click for grownups: no fart jokes, no potty-mouthed kids wiseassing their elders, no fat suits, no pratfalls, just great humor in a story that's warm and natural and organic.