Opening This Week
The Love Guru (PG-13) Mike Myers is an American-born, Indian-raised self-help expert who meets his match when he tries to patch a hockey player’s broken marriage.
Get Smart (PG-13) Steve Carrell is Maxwell Smart, a professional nerd who someday wants to be a real spy. Also stars Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, and Terence Stamp.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (PG) Director Andrew Adamson soldiers on for his second stint in the Narnia director’s chair and manages to add some juicy subtext to Lewis’ simple, plot-driven adventure. The children are whisked back to Narnia, and the return can’t come soon enough for Peter, who has become a sullen brawler back in our world, a teenager who still thinks of himself as a king and bristles at any perceived insult. As Peter competes with Caspian for leadership of the magical Narnians, Adamson wrestles compelling drama out of Peter’s puffed-up sense that asserting his authority means going to war, even if it’s not a particularly well-planned one. In these scenes, Prince Caspian achieves an unlikely power that immerses the film in a sense of consequence. At other times, it starts to feel uncomfortably like an attempt to recapture not just the success of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but the success of The Lord of the Rings. —Scott Renshaw
The Happening (R) The trailer was awful. The rumors concerning the storyline were worse. The attempt to tantalize the viewer with the fact that this was Shyamalan’s “first R-rated movie” smacked of desperation. The movie itself lives up to the pre-release indications and then some. The best thing I can say about M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening is that it’s not The Village. This is Shyamalan’s attempt at ecological horror, and you’ll quickly realize why secrecy surrounded the plot — not because there’s a clever twist, but because this is a dumb movie with dumb dialogue, dumb ideas, and dumber characters. Don’t blame the actors. No one could go best two falls out of three with Shyamalan’s dialogue and win. It combines elements of The Day After Tomorrow (including an idiotic variant on outrunning the cold in that movie) and Shyamalan’s own Signs to bad effect. Ultimately, it’s simply preposterous and not very scary. —Ken Hanke
The Incredible Hulk (PG-13) The biggest gripe with Ang Lee’s Hulk was that it was too artsy and not action-y enough, so director Louis Leterrier (The Transporter), screenwriter Zak Penn (X-Men: The Last Stand), and star/uncredited screenwriter Edward Norton provide a real hard-core antagonist in soldier Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), who transforms into the Abomination. And the climactic showdown between the Abomination and the Hulk in the streets of Harlem is a truly punishing, visceral battle, full of thunderous punches and pavement-crunching falls. Leterrier does know how to choreograph an action sequence, so if you’re coming to The Incredible Hulk primarily to see the jade giant make with the mayhem, you may very well walk away happy. While plenty of recent superhero movies, including Iron Man, have provided compelling storytelling between the showpiece battles, The Incredible Hulk just kind of sits there for long stretches until the editors check their watches and realize it’s time for a transformation. —Scott Renshaw
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (PG-13) There’s little point speculating what kind of response Kingdom of the Crystal Skull might have inspired were it not carrying the expectations of a beloved franchise. It’s a contraption built almost entirely out of its own legacy, even more pointedly self-referential than Last Crusade. Action sequences clip along at a familiar pace — their preposterousness pushed to the edge of a cliff both figuratively and literally — and we get the requisite sequence involving massive quantities of some kind of creepy-crawly critter. But while the fight choreography occasionally rises to the occasion, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull too rarely pops with genuine energy. —Scott Renshaw
Iron Man (PG-13) Let’s face facts, comic books aren’t Faulkner in four-color-process. Here we’re talking about a guy who dresses up in a flying metal suit to blast, bomb, and bludgeon his way through a variety of terrorists and a traditional super bad guy in an even bigger flying metal suit. There’s precious little wiggle-room for subtlety in a framework like that. But the beauty of Iron Man lies in the fact that the film realizes this and behaves accordingly. The secret weapon is Robert Downey, Jr. in the title role as a wisecracking, womanizing hedonist who’s made a fortune as an arms manufacturer. He sees the error of his ways, yes, but he never gets morbid about it: He continues to make smart remarks, and he actually enjoys his superhero status. Good chemistry between Downey and leading lady Gwyneth Paltrow helps to make the film a refreshing change. —Ken Hanke
Kung Fu Panda (PG) It’s the story of Po (Jack Black), a portly panda who works in his dad’s (James Hong) noodle shop in China. Po dreams (literally, and hilariously) about being a great martial arts hero like his idols the Furious Five, but doesn’t think there’s any way his lumbering body can become a feared weapon of awesomeness. That’s before he stumbles into a tournament at the legendary Jade Palace to determine the great Dragon Warrior and finds the old master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim) giving Po that high honor. The predictable complications ensue, as the Furious Five’s skeptical master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) tries to push Po to give up his training and surrender the honor to one of the more experienced students. A vicious villain looms on the horizon, and there’s no way this fuzzy, cuddly lump of a would-be Dragon Warrior could ever rise to the challenge. Right? Wrong. It’s the journey toward that perhaps-inevitable resolution that provides so much simple satisfaction. —Scott Renshaw
Priceless (R) Pierre Salvadori’s Priceless starring the luminous Audrey Tautou and the likable Gad Elmaleh (if you crossed Buster Keaton with Robert Powell, you’d get something like Elmaleh) is an old-school romantic comedy that makes such new-school romantic comedies as Made of Honor and Sex and the City look even more tawdry and threadbare than they already are. On its own merits, Priceless is a breath of champagne on a summer night — and it’s a little bit daring (our leads are a woman who trades her body for money and a man who learns how to do the same), while ultimately endorsing more traditional notions of romance. It’s a film of the “pretty people in luxurious settings doing romantic things and engaging in witty banter” school, and on those terms it’s one of the most agreeable movies around. —Ken Hanke
Sex and the City (R) Sex and the City: The Movie is all about Carrie, and whether she will marry Big (Chris Noth), and all the wedding porn that surrounds that. Not marriage porn: it’s not about fantasizing about being married to some particular man that you’re crazy about. It’s about the wedding, the fairy-tale event that every woman is supposed to want, never mind whom a gal is marrying. And, to be fair, Sex and the City: The Movie doesn’t ignore that irony, either. In getting there, it seems to miss the point that a women who is 40 years old might have realized this at some point sooner. Maybe it’s a blow for gender equality that women are now allowed to extend adolescence into the years once considered “middle-aged.” Carrie’s cell phone is covered in pink glitter, after all. —MaryAnn Johanson
Son of Rambow (PG-13) Son of Rambow is about the wacky, comical spectacle of two movie-mad kids acting out their obsession. But it’s also a buddy film, a half-pint Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid about how adrift these kids are. Will’s father is dead, and Lee’s sorry substitute for a parent is an aloof older brother. It is no coincidence that the boys bond over an exemplar of über-machismo, Rambo, the kind of man of action and purpose missing in their own lives. Son of Rambow suggests the stylized, retro sensibility of Wes Anderson married to the kiddie adventurism of Steven Spielberg, but director Garth Jennings’ often clunky and obvious hand with comedy too often veers into facile teen comedy and John Hughes-style visual jokes about the various freaks and geeks populating this small British burg. —Scott Renshaw
Speed Racer (PG) The Wachowskis stage wild pursuits on Moebius strip courses full of vertiginous turns, jumps, and loops. Neon colors streak the track and fill the grandstands. Whenever Speed is trying to win a race — employing an array of gadgetry including jacks that catapult his car, the Mach 5, into the air like a high-performance kangaroo — it’s dizzying fun. But periodically the checkered flag needs to wave, and it’s during this down time that the Wachowskis don’t seem to know what to do with themselves. —Scott Renshawe
What Happens in Vegas… (PG-13) The story of a pair of strangers — Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher — drunkenly marry in Vegas, but — before they can get an annulment — win a $3 million slot machine jackpot and are forced to remain married for six months before the money is split up between them. What Happens in Vegas is exactly what you expect: a 100 percent by-the-book romantic comedy short on laughs and originality. The movie is a laundry list of romantic comedy conventions, with the couple gradually falling for one another only to be foiled by superficial complications that are then romantically resolved. —Justin Souther
You Don’t Mess with the Zohan (PG-13) Personally, I wouldn’t care to touch the Zohan with a stick, but fans of Adam Sandler will likely feel differently. In other words, it’s your standard issue Adam Sandler picture, complete with flaccid direction, lazy jokes, no pacing and supporting roles for Sandler’s buddies. Very little that happens in this story of a super Mossad agent (he catches bullets in his nose and fish in his buttocks) who wants to be a hairdresser is all that funny, though a lot of it is peculiar. There must be 20 or so gags involving hummus, and these must have had Sandler and the boys in stitches, but the audience I saw it with laughed once. There are several interesting aspects to the movie in terms of its theme and Sandler foisting uncomfortable ideas (pro-gay attitudes and scenes involving sex with elderly women) on his fanbase, but they’re all housed in a pretty crummy movie. —Ken Hanke