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.
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