This week at the movies, we’ve got a postmodern fairy tale ("Happily N’Ever After," with voicework from Sigourney Weaver and Sarah Michelle Gellar), a wacky conspiracy caper ("Code Name: The Cleaner," starring Cedric the Entertainer and Lucy Liu), a committed teacher ("Freedom Writers," starring Hilary Swank), and a chilling dystopia ("Children of Men," starring Clive Owen and Michael Caine). What do the critics have to say?
Once upon a time, in the land of make-believe (better known as Hollywood), there was a brand new formula for making dazzling kiddie movies. It was called CG, and children all over the world rejoiced when such fare as "Toy Story" and "Shrek" hit the theaters. But then an evil curse plagued the land, as a string of mediocre stories threatened to make CG stale. The latest: "Happily N’Ever After," a postmodern "Cinderella" spoof. Critics say this is a pretty charm-free affair, with less-than-dazzling images and a bland storyline. At six percent on the Tomatometer, this is a pretty grim fairy tale. And among CG features, only "Doogal," at five percent, is lower-rated.
"Sure, magic will do the dishes, but can it make my movie funny?"
Cedric the Entertainer is a funny guy, and as a supporting player he’s stolen scenes in everything from "Lemony Snicket" to "Be Cool." Sadly, he’s yet to have a starring vehicle that has utilized his comedic talents to the fullest, and it appears "Code Name: The Cleaner" is no exception. In this action/comedy, Cedric plays a janitor who stumbles into the middle of a government conspiracy, from which he tries to extricate himself with the help of Lucy Liu. The critics say the weak script does none of the actors any favors, playing up absurd thriller elements to leaden effect. At a big fat zero percent on the Tomatometer, this one’s in dire need of a "Clean-" up.
"Yes, I’ve always enjoyed the sophisticated yet robust taste of Xtreme Fruit Skittles."
Liberal and conservative education experts both have it wrong. What our inner city schools need is neither greater funding nor vouchers. In order to save the impoverished students of America, we need an unconventional, no-nonsense teacher to instruct students in ballroom dance, football, or poetry, preferably in the guise of Antonio Banderas, The Rock, or Michelle Pfeiffer. In "Freedom Writers," Hilary Swank plays a fresh-faced teacher who gets her students in touch with their creative writing side, and — wonder of wonders — it’s getting reasonably good reviews. The critics say the film may be clichéd, but it’s earnest and features strong performances. At 64 percent on the Tomatometer, this may be one to "Write" home about.
"Remember, Bagels for Complacency Day is next week."
Director Alfonso Cuaron may have made his best movie yet with "Children of Men," continuing a hot streak that began with "Y Tu Mama Tambien" and "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban." This time, Cuaron has envisioned a world where women have become infertile and every country has become a dystopia or slipped into a fascist state. At 92 percent on the Tomatometer, critics are praising not only the film’s technical aspects (including seamless CG work, fluid camerawork, and complex battle scenes), but also the emotional story and performances.
"Any fool knows a dog needs a home and shelter from pigs on the wing."
Also opening this week in limited release is "Thr3e," a psychological serial killer flick with a spiritual twist, which is currently at 17 percent.
Alex Vo contributed to this article.