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Movie Reviews

Lady in the Water
PG-13, 110 minutes
Now playing at Regal Seminole Square Cinema 4

It’s always fun to watch an A-list Hollywood director slip off the rails, but M. Night Shyamalan may get his conductor’s license revoked after Lady in the Water, his for-adults-only children’s story about our need to—yep, you guessed it—regain our lost innocence. By “adults-only,” I don’t mean to suggest that Lady in the Water is pornographic (although said Lady does spend the entire movie with next to no clothes on). I mean that it would take an adult, preferably one with a Ph.D. in aquatic mythology, to figure out what the hell is going on. The premise is simple enough: A “narf” (Bryce Dallas Howard) from The Blue World has arrived in our midst via the swimming-pool drain of a Philadelphia apartment complex, and she needs to impart her wisdom before returning from whence she came, hopefully without being eaten by a “scrunt,” which looks like a wolf in porcupine’s clothing. Oh, and she needs to locate The Guardian, The Healer, The Interpreter, The Guild and…
    O.K., maybe it’s not so simple after all. And that makes sense, given that the movie began its life as a bedtime story, used by Shyamalan to lure his two daughters to dreamland. The fact that it had the same effect on yours truly shouldn’t be construed as an endorsement of the film’s otherworldly charms. In fact, the movie has almost no otherworldly charms, despite its debt to such early Steven Spielberg classics as Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T.: The Extra-terrestrial. Paul Giamatti is basically the Richard Dreyfuss character from Close Encounters—an ordinary guy who becomes the point man for a cross-cultural exchange. But he’s also the Henry Thomas character from E.T.—a kid with his very own space critter. Except that his critter isn’t from outer space, she’s from the depths of the ocean. And she isn’t a critter, she’s a pre-Raphaelite vision, all long, flowing red hair, cut-glass eyes and skin so milky and smooth that you’re almost prepared to spend the whole movie just drinking it in.
    Almost. Then she opens her mouth again. Apparently, they haven’t heard of contractions in The Blue World, because Story (that’s her name, don’t wear it out) speaks only in stiff, wisdom-imparting clichés. “Your words are very beautiful,” she tells Giamatti’s Cleveland Heep. “Your heart is very big.” And with a name like Cleveland Heep, this is a guy who can’t afford to pass up any compliments. But Shyamalan hasn’t found a way to square the movie’s highfalutin spiritual pretensions with more basic concerns—like the need to actually entertain. In The Sixth Sense and Signs, his best movies so far, he grounded the New Age sentimentality in a recognizable reality. But in The Village, which felt like a “Twilight Zone” episode directed at Quakers and Shakers, he let his ideas run the show, with predictably incoherent results. The same thing happens with Lady in the Water—Shyamalan gets all bogged down in the rules and regulations governing interactions between “us” and “them,” causing way too much of the movie to take place on the metaphysical plane.
    Meanwhile, down here on earth, Shyamalan has assembled an International Food Court of only-in-a-movie eccentrics: a Korean-American college student (Cindy Cheung) who breaks new ground in the use of pidgin English, a Latino body-builder (Freddy Rodríguez) who’s only pumped up one side of his body, and Shyamalan himself as a writer whose uncompleted book, according to Story (and she would know), will change the world. Shyamalan may have had something similar in mind for his movie, but it’s hard to imagine Lady in the Water having much of an effect, either on the world or the box office. It’s too boringly self-important, grasping at a Big Statement when it should be paying attention to all those little moments that go into the making of a successful movie. I knew we were in trouble when the scrunt first showed up and was about as scary as, well, a porcupine. Then it had to be explained to us exactly what the scrunt was capable of, and under exactly what conditions.
    “Oh, just eat somebody,” I thought.

Film Reviews
The Ant Bully (PG, 88 minutes) The summer of CGI toons continues. In this family fantasy, a young boy is magically reduced to micro-size after flooding an ant colony with his squirt gun. Our wee protagonist is then dragged into the ant colony and sentenced to hard labor for his trangressions. Eventually, of course, he learns a valuable lesson. Nicolas Cage, Paul Giamatti, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin and Bruce Campbell are among the impressive voice cast. Based on the kids book by John Nickle. (Devin O’Leary) Playing at Regal Seminole Square Cinema 4

Barnyard (PG) The summer of CGI toons continues. Here, writer/director Steve Oedekerk (Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Kung Pow: Enter the Fist) spins a tale of what happens in the barnyard when the farmer’s away. At first it’s all fun and games, but eventually a carefree cow named Otis (Kevin James) has to accept some responsibility and start running the farm. Voice cast includes Courteney Cox, Sam Elliot, Danny Glover, Andie MacDowell and the suddenly ubiquitous Wanda Sykes (who kicked of the summer with the CGI toon Over the Hedge). The film is harmless enough, but a lot of people are kinda freaked out by the fact that Otis has udders. (D.O.) Coming Friday; check local listings

Cars (G, 116 minutes) Pixar blows us away yet again with an animated story of a NASCAR hotrod (voiced by Owen Wilson) who needs to take the “I” out of “TEAM.” Only by the amazingly high standards set by Toy Story, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles does the movie come up a little short. (Kent Williams) Playing at Regal Seminole Square Cinema 4

Clerks II (R, 97 minutes) After a brief, fruitless foray into mainstream romantic comedy (Jersey Girl), Kevin Smith returns to his roots: shooting a foul-mouthed low-budget comedy with a few of his friends. It’s been a few years since we last saw Dante and Randall. Their older now, but not necessarily wiser, having landed jobs at the local fast-food establishment. Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Jason Mewes, Ethan Suplee, Jason Lee and other longtime Smith compatriots return for more ensemble fun. There’s actually a bit of story this time around, but the emphasis is on blistering pop culture humor. (It’s Lord of the Rings versus Star Wars now.) (D.O.) Playing at Regal Downtown Mall 6

Click (PG-13, 86 minutes) Adam Sandler is a harried family man (welcome to the realm of Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin, Mr. Sandler) who finds a magical remote control. Get this: With it, he can pause stuff and fast forward it and mute it. Why he could fast-forward a fight with his wife or slo-mo that jogging girl with the big boobies. My god, that plot is clever enough to be a light beer commercial! (D.O.) Playing at Carmike Cinema 6
 
The Da Vinci Code (PG-13, 149 minutes) Ron Howard’s movie version of Dan Brown’s religious-mystery novel, in which a Harvard professor (Tom Hanks) and a Parisian cryptographer (Audrey Tautou) try to track down the Holy Grail while being pursued by a crazed albino monk (Paul Bettany), fails to get a decent spook going, à la The Exorcist or The Omen. Howard has illustrated the book beautifully, but he hasn’t wrestled with it, made it his own. (K.W.) Playing at Regal Seminole Square Cinema 4

The Descent (R, 99 minutes) A caving expedition goes horribly wrong when a group of women become trapped underground. Things get a tad worse, however, when they discover they are being pursued by a strange breed of sub-human predators. Brit writer/director Neil Marshall (who gave us the classy Dog Soldiers) keeps the scares flying fast and furious, proving that a tight budget and a lack of stars is no impediment to creating a memorable horror flick. (D.O.) Coming Friday; check local listings

The Devil Wears Prada (PG-13, 106 minutes) This fashion-industry comedy stars Anne Hathaway as an aspiring journalist who winds up as a gopher for Meryl Streep’s boss-from-hell, but the two of them aren’t allowed to get much going, Streep’s ice-cold performance getting stranded on the runway. The movie could have been an enjoyable romp; instead, it’s as earnest as Wall Street, only with frocks instead of stocks. (K.W.) Playing at Regal Seminole Square Cinema 4

An Inconvenient Truth (PG) Al Gore, now exuding a self-deprecating folksiness, makes the case for global warming in a documentary that may be the most alarming dog-and-pony show of all time. Using charts and graphs and even the occasional “Simpsons”-like cartoon, Gore lays out his argument, and the result is a sneak preview of “a nature hike through the Book of Revelations.” (K.W.) Playing at Vinegar Hill Theatre

John Tucker Must Die (PG-13, 87 minutes) Three vindictive ex-girlfriends of a serial cheater (Jesse Metcalf from “Desperate Housewives”) come up with a plan for revenge. They’ll set him up to fall in love with the new girl in town, just so they can watch his heart get broken. Your basic teen-aimed romantic comedy filled with as much PG-13 sexual innuendo as director Betty Thomas (Private Parts, Doctor Dolittle, I Spy) could cram between the credits. (D.O.) Playing at Carmike Cinema 6

Little Man (PG-13, 90 minutes) God help us, the Wayanses are back in town! Keenan Ivory Wayans directs brother Shawn Wayans as a wannabe dad who mistakes a vertically challenged, cigar-chomping criminal (Marlon Wayans) as his newly adopted son. While the sight of a digitally reduced Marlon Wayans is arguably scarier than the sight of Marlon Wayans dressed as a white chick, what’s most disturbing about this film is how it so blatantly rips off the old Warner Brothers cartoon “Baby Buggy Bunny” starring midget criminal Baby Face Finster. (D.O.) Playing at Regal Downtown Mall 6

Miami Vice (R, 146 minutes) Writer/director Michael Mann turns his mega-popular ‘80s TV series into a two-hour-plus movie. Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx take over as Crockett and Tubbs, the two most conspicuous detectives in the history of undercover police work. It doesn’t look or feel much like the original series (no ice cream suits or visits from Phil Collins, sadly), but what’s on screen comes close to the best of Mann’s crime film output (Heat, Collateral). A preponderance of guns, sex and seedy atmosphere (not to mention a tough-to-follow storyline) make this a decidedly “adult” popcorn film. (D.O.) Playing at Carmike Cinema 6

Monster House (PG, 91 minutes) This film uses motion-capture software to turn live-action performances into children’s-storybook animation, and the result is charming, albeit scary. Armed with Super Soakers, a trio of suburban kids launches an assault on a house that gobbles up anybody who crosses over the property line. (K.W.) Playing at Carmike Cinema 6

My Super Ex-Girlfriend (PG-13, 95 minutes) Luke Wilson stars as an ordinary dude who breaks up with his plain-Jane girlfriend (Uma Thurman) because of her neediness. Big mistake. Turns out that she’s actually the alter-ego of G-Girl, the city’s most powerful superheroine, and she proceeds to make his life a living hell. From director Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters). (D.O.) Playing at Regal Downtown Mall 6

The Night Listener (R, 91 minutes) Robin Williams and Toni Collette star in this adaptation of the Armistead Maupin novel about a radio show host (Williams) who starts getting phone calls from his biggest fan, a young boy who is dying from a terminal illness. In time, however, questions of the young boy’s identity begin to plague the mistrustful talk show host. The story tries to be mysterious, but throws a few too many red herrings into the mix, making this feel like a stretched-out short story. (D.O.) Coming Friday; check local listings

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (PG-13, 150 minutes) Call it a nasty case of sequelitis, but this second installment in the Disney theme-park franchise is bigger, louder and absolutely determined to entertain. The action sequences more or less work, but the smaller, goofier moments come up short, and that includes Johnny Depp’s surprisingly unsurprising performance as Captain Jack Sparrow. (K.W.) Playing at Carmike Cinema 6

Scoop (PG-13, 96 minutes) The newly revitalized Woody Allen continues to pump out the films. His new muse, Scarlett Johannson, stars as an American journalism student who falls in love with a handsome aristocrat (Hugh Jackman), who just happens to be the prime suspect in a string of serial killings. It’s a little scary to see Allen stepping back in front of the camera (he plays a bumbling magician helping our gal reporter in her investigation), but at least he hasn’t cast himself as the romantic lead. Considerably funnier than Match Point, but not quite as brilliant. (D.O.) Playing at Regal Downtown Mall 6

Superman Returns (PG-13, 157 minutes) America’s favorite Boy Scout is back, and the most enjoyable moments in this $363-million behemoth are when Brandon Routh’s Superman flies through the air with the greatest of ease. Despite Routh’s lackluster performance and Kevin Spacey’s refusal to ham up Lex Luthor, the movie often soars, but it never comes up with a sufficient reason why the Man of Steel is still relevant in post-industrial America. (K.W.) Playing at Regal Seminole Square Cinema 4

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (PG-13, 110 minutes) Will Ferrell drags a bunch of pals  (John C. Reilly, Michael Clarke Duncan, Gary Cole, Sacha Baron Cohen) along for this goofball riff on NASCAR culture. Ferrell stars as a rebel NASCAR driver who suddenly faces stiff competition from a flamboyant French Formula-1 driver (Cohen from “Da Ali G Show”). There’s a continuing feeling that Farrell and friends are just making this thing up as they go along, but that doesn’t stop it form beeing quite funny on occasion. If you liked Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, you’ll be in good hands here, becasue it’s largely the same movie. (D.O.) Coming Friday; check local listings

You, Me and Dupree (PG-13, 108 minutes) Owen Wilson (still hot off Wedding Crashers) stars as a down-and-out best man who moves in on two newlyweds (Matt Dillon and Kate Hudson). Since he got fired from his job for attending their wedding, they feel guilty and are happy to have him stay over for a day…or two …or three …or… Eventually, of course, Dupree’s seemingly endless couch-surfing ways cause friction with the new couple. A fine cast jokes it up in the same vein as Wedding Crashers. (D.O.) Playing at Regal Downtown Mall 6

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Monster House
PG, 91 minutes
Now playing at Carmike Cinema 6

For some reason, live-action films now aspire to be cartoons, and cartoons aspire to be live-action films. And then there are those weird hybrids. Monster House, like last year’s The Polar Express, started with live actors, who were required to wear special suits embedded with thousands of tiny reflectors. The performances were digitally recorded, then animators used the reflectors as reference points, constructing animated characters that would have the fluidity of motion that human characters have. Or so the theory goes. Myself, I found these characters to be a little marionette-like—but then there would come this moment where, like Pinocchio, they suddenly seemed realer than real. It’s creepy.
    And so is Monster House. Ostensibly for kids, it’s a haunted-house movie in which the house itself is the monster, gobbling up anyone who happens to step past the property line, especially on Halloween. But the kid who lives across the street, a Harry Potterish youngster named DJ (Mitchell Musso), can’t stay away. Along with his Ron-like sidekick, Chowder (Sam Lerner), and their new Hermione-esque friend, Jenny (Spencer Locke), he launches an assault on the old place armed only with Super-Soakers. But first they have to get past the decrepit man who lives there, an Oscar the Grouch with bloodshot eyes and cadaverous skin played by—who else?—Steve Buscemi.
    “Motion capture” more than proved its usefulness in Lord of the Rings and King Kong, where Andy Serkis gave a captivating performances as both a 90-pound weakling and an 8,000-pound gorilla. Here it’s used to create characters who look like they’ve just stepped out of a children’s storybook. The movie gains momentum, but loses focus, when the kids enter the morphing house. But before that it has a nice early Spielberg flavor, thanks in part to a very kid-savvy script by Dan Harmon, Ron Schrab and Pamela Pettler. There’s also some lovely artwork, as in the film’s opening, where a leaf drifts to the sidewalk, only to be run over by a tyke on a trike on her way to wherever. But here’s the real question: Why isn’t this scary little movie coming out in late October?

Strangers with Candy
R, 97 minutes
Now playing at Regal Downtown Mall 6

I suppose I should tell you to beware of Strangers with Candy. It’s nowhere near as good as the Comedy Central show it’s derived from. But those of us who used to set our clocks by the demented misadventures of Jerri Blank—“a boozer, a user and a loser” who, after a lengthy stay in prison, takes another swing at high school, having struck out the first time—will accept whatever comes our way. And that’s what sent me running out to see this strangely disappointing movie, a lost episode that remains to be found. The good news is that Amy Sedaris, the woman who yanked Jerri from the far reaches of her fetid imagination, is in top form, scoring laughs off her face alone: that vicious overbite, the nervous eye tic, the ski-jump hairdo. Unless you’ve caught one of her hilarious “Letterman” appearances, where she shares her own demented misadventures, you’d never know that Sedaris is actually quite attractive. But what makes her such a great comedian is her willingness to let things get ugly.
    That was the TV show’s strength as well. Taking off from those ‘70s after-school specials where, when life dealt you lemons, you made Lemon Pledge, it showed us just how bad high school can be—wave upon wave of intense boredom, punctuated by random acts of senseless cruelty. And the movie version doesn’t let up a bit, sending Jerri back into the educational sausage factory, where she spends half her time sucking up to the cool kids, the other half warding off blows. And rest assured, she remains a rather dim bulb. When Principal Blackman (Grey Hollimon, as amusingly deranged as ever) asks her what her I.Q. is, she doesn’t miss a beat. “Pisces,” she replies. And yet she winds up competing in the annual science fair, an intramural wrestling match that brings out the worst in everybody—and I mean that in a good way. Still, you have to wonder: Is this the best the filmmakers could come up with? A science fair? Do schools even have science fairs anymore?
    Paul Dinello (who also directed) and Stephen Colbert (who co-wrote the script with Dinello and Sedaris) are back as Mr. Jellineck and Mr. Noblet—a priggish pair whose office romance is a secret to nobody but themselves. And a number of big-name actors—Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica Parker, and even Philip Seymour Hoffman, who acts like he just stopped by to have his parking ticket validated—put in appearances. But nobody can seem to lift this thing out of what appears to be a bad case of the doldrums. Dinello gives many of the scenes a shadowy noir look, which makes no sense at all. And the comic bits, though often amusing, don’t build. Except for the script, which contains some wonderfully wicked lines—“I need more out of this relationship than I’m willing to put in,” Noblet tells Jellinek—the movie seems to have been flung together on a couple of spare weekends. And that’s too bad, because Jerri Blank, the buck-toothed poster girl for No Child Left Behind, deserves much, much more.

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Pirates of the Caribbean:
Dead Man’s Chest
PG-13, 150 minutes
Now playing at Carmike Cinema 6

When Pirates of the Caribbean : The Curse of the Black Pearl sailed into the harbor during the summer of 2003, it was as if none of us had ever seen a pirate movie before. We were delighted, dazzled.  Surprisingly buoyant, thanks in part to Johnny Depp’s light-in-his-loafers turn as Captain Jack Sparrow, the movie didn’t begin to take itself seriously, treating the old familiar tropes—parrots, buried treasure, walking the plank—like old familiar friends, ripe for teasing and good for a laugh, no matter how many times we’d heard the joke before. Director Gore Verbinski managed to keep the movie on course, and Depp gave it an anything-goes edge, sashaying from one side of the screen to the other, delivering his lines sotto voce, as if he didn’t expect anybody else to understand them. Making off with $650 million in gold bullion, The Curse of the Black Pearl dispelled The Curse of the Modern Pirate Movie, perhaps forever.

What, you’re not familiar with The Curse of the Modern Pirate Movie?  Well, maybe you didn’t see Cutthroat Island , then. Or Roman Polanski’s Pirates. (Worse, maybe you did.) The former lost more money than any movie ever had, and eventually sunk the company that produced it. Crushed under the dead weight of these two stinkers, it seemed as if swashbucklers might never find their sea legs again. But here’s Pirates of the Caribbean : Dead Man’s Chest, following in The Curse of the Black Pearl’s wake (what’s more, another installment, the third in a projected trilogy, is already filming).  And, like most sequels, this one’s bigger, louder and fiercely determined to entertain us, whether we like it or not. Yes, there are some decent bits amid all the hullabaloo—like when Jack shoots his way out of a water-borne coffin, then uses the occupant’s skeletal remains to row ashore. But what passed for inspiration the last time is largely missing this time, leaving only a sheen of perspiration.

Well, O.K.—perspiration and digitalization. To replace the ghost pirates that brought a kooky-spooky element to Black Pearl, scriptwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio have conjured up a crew of Red-Lobster rejects under the command of the legendary Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), who has an octopus where his head should be and a crustacean’s claw for a hand. The effect is certainly special, which is why we call them special effects. And Nighy somehow manages to give an actual performance under all of those writhing tentacles. But Verbinski overplays the  aquaman card, bringing forth his critters early and often (even in broad daylight—a notorious CGI danger zone —where their skin turns all rubbery). Then there’s the Kraken—a gigantic CGI-to-the-max cephalopod capable of wrapping its arms around an entire ship, squeezing the life out of it. The third time it does so, you may find yourself absent-mindedly dreaming of calamari.

Or not. For, if nothing else, these sequences basically deliver the goods, supplying heft to what is in fact nothing more than a few gigabytes of computer memory. Where the movie comes up short is in the smaller, quieter moments, in which the cast is asked to rely on things like dialogue and, you know, acting. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley return as one of the more boring couples in the long history of high-seas romance. The script certainly puts them through their paces, sending them all over the Caribbeanin search of a compass, a key, a chest and—because they’re often separated—each other. But Bloom, with that pencil-thin mustache, still looks like an emaciated Errol Flynn (only without the devilish gleam in his eye).  And Knightley, though as beautiful as they come, still has to disguise her feminine charms to get by. Not unlike a pirate ship, the movie seems to have no place for a woman, no matter how skilled with a sword she may be.

Speaking of which, the all-important sword fights—which are supposed to put the swash in this swashbuckler—are perfunctory at best (even the one set on a water wheel that’s rolling down a hill toward the ocean). On Pirates maiden voyage, Jack Sparrow’s swordsmanship was a clue to his character: inept, but deadly. This time, he lets his mouth do the talking—and that’s too bad, because Elliott and Rossio haven’t given him very much to say. Depp’s performance came out of left field in The Curse of the Black Pearl; nobody had ever thought of channeling both Keith Richards and Pepé Le Pew before. And with his brilliant, Buster Keaton entrance (disembarking from a sinking dinghy onto a pier without missing a step) Jack Sparrow basically had us at “‘ello.” But this performance seems pitched from center field, lobbed over the fat center of the plate. It’s surprisingly unsurprising. And the character isn’t any richer or deeper, either—just less funny, less weird. Obviously, Depp’s oddball charm worked better as comic relief than as a romantic lead.

Yes, you heard right: Jack has a little moment with Knightley’s Elizabeth, who may have more pirate blood in her than we thought. But the movie’s way too busy imitating the theme-park ride it’s based on to pursue such heretical notions. Barroom brawls, escapes from cannibals, a sea monster that might as well have “Vagina Dentata” scribbled on its forehead (if it had a forehead, that is)—the movie throws so much at us that it’s difficult to imagine what the next installment could possibly do to top it. Like any self-respecting pirate movie, Dead Man’s Chest keeps stealing from other pirate movies: revered classics like Captain Blood, The Crimson Pirate and The Curse of the Black Pearl. But with one more round of plundering to go, you wonder whether the filmmakers haven’t already run out of buried treasure.

Curse of the Modern Pirate Movie? No, just a nasty case of sequelitis.

An Inconvenient Truth
PG, 95 minutes
Now playing at Vinegar Hill Theatre

Rachel Carson on pesticides, Jonathan Schell on nuclear weapons, Chicken Little on atmospheric disturbances of indeterminate origin— with Davis Guggenheim’s gently hair-raising documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore joins the long line of Cassandras who have reminded us over the years that it’s not nice to fool with
Mother Nature. Only this time, instead of falling down, the sky is filling up with greenhouse gases—which trap the sun’s rays, which raises the temperature, which melts the polar icecaps, which floods the… Well, you know the scenario. Or do you? Because one of the reasons Gore, who (in his own words) “used to be the next president of the ,” decided to make this movie was his admitted failure, in all his years of public service, to get the word out on global warming. No matter how many times he told us the sky was filling, we kept blowing him off.

And we may keep blowing him off, because, although we love disaster movies, we’re a little slow on the uptake when it comes to preventing actual disasters—especially those that involve turning off the air-conditioner. Gore knows this, and has nevertheless mounted a valiant campaign to knock some sense into us. An Inconvenient Truth, which takes off from the multimedia presentation that Gore estimates he’s given over a thousand times in the last 17 years, is perhaps the most alarming dog-and-pony show of all time.  Using charts and graphs (and even the occasional “Futurama” cartoon) Gore lays out his argument—one that (as he points out) is accepted by virtually every leading scientist in the world. And he does it with a self-deprecating folksiness that was largely absent during his campaigns for national office. Not really losing to George Bush may be the best thing that ever happened him—and the environment.

That’s if enough people heed Gore’s call. But there’s a quixotic air about him now—the knight errant tilting at wind-powered mills.  Some have argued that he’s not just trying to save the world, he’s running for president. And parts of the movie—his recollections of his son being hit by a car, his sister succumbing to lung cancer—do have a campaign-bio feeling about them. But if he is running for president, this sure is a weird way to go about it. No—Gore seems quite comfortable in his new role as the Carl Sagan of climate change, laser-pointing to the billions and billions of carbon-dioxide molecules girdling the globe. He can still be a little stiff, as if he learned everything he knows about public speaking from Toastmasters. But a little stiffness, and even a little humility, may not be such a bad thing when prophesying the end of the world. Or as Gore calls it, in a wickedly evocative phrase, “a nature hike through the Book of Revelations.”

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