Critics Consensus

Critical Consensus: Champ Is No Chump; Nanny Is Dire, Bean is No Holiday, Dawn Needs Rescue

And War goes unscreened. Guess that Tomatometer!

by | August 23, 2007 | Comments

This week at the multiplex, you’ll have your
choice between babysitters (The
Nanny Diaries
, starring
Laura Linney)
manchilds (Mr.
Bean’s Holiday
, starring
Rowan Atkinson),
boxers (Resurrecting
the Champ
, starring
Josh Hartnett
and Samuel
L. Jackson
),  Mormons (September
, starring
Jon Voight),
and rogues (War,
starring Jet Li
and Jason
). What are the critics saying?

The Nanny Diaries
features a stellar cast that includes Scarlett
Johansson, Laura Linney, and
Paul Giamatti, and it’s directed by
Robert Pulcini
and Shari Springer Berman, the team behind the wonderfully unconventional
. So why, critics ask, is Diaries so mediocre? Perhaps it’s
because the tone shifts between dark satire and lighter comedy. Johansson stars
as a woman who takes a job tending to the child of an affluent-but-cold New York
City couple. Pundits say the biggest problem with the film is not the
performers, who do what they can with the material. It’s that their characters
are one-dimensional, and the satire lacks the edge to really make it work. At 24
percent on the Tomatometer, this Diary isn’t held dear.

“What’d I tell you about doing Jell-O shots before noon?"

Mr. Bean is something of an acquired taste, and critics say
Mr. Bean’s Holiday
may not be the place to acquire it. But they also note the
irrepressible Rowan Atkinson works really hard to sell the gags, and families
could do much worse than this good-natured comedy. With a nod to
Jacques Tati‘s
legendary Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday, the film finds Bean leaving the
dreary confines of London for Cannes, where he’s alternately mistaken for a
master filmmaker and a kidnapper. The critics say Bean is mostly harmless
fun, but if you aren’t already a fan (or a little kid) you may find this stuff
pretty tough going. At 43 percent on the Tomatometer, this one might not amount
to a hill of beans, but at least it’s a cut above the original

“I see London, I see France…”

Sort of a rough cross between
Cinderella Man
Shattered Glass

Resurrecting the Champ
gives you two tropes for the price of one: the
washed-up coulda-been-a-contendah and the newspaper man whose hot story may all
be a hoax. Still, critics say Champ works surprisingly well, thanks to
committed performances from Samuel L. Jackson and Josh Hartnett. Based on a true
story, the film tells the tale of a sportswriter (Hartnett) who finds what could
be the biggest story of his career in a homeless man (Jackson) who calls himself
Champ and claims to be a former ring king. Critics say that although the film
gets a little melodramatic at times, it’s wise in the ways of the newspaper
life, and it’s got plenty of heart. At 75 percent on the Tomatometer, Champ
puts up a good fight.

“I’ll fight you for the merry-go-round.”

September Dawn was denounced by the Mormon Church before its release; the
LDS claimed it was a distortion of the faith’s history. Now it’s movie critics’
turn, albeit for different reasons. Dawn tells the story of the Mountain
Meadows Massacre, a still-controversial 1857 attack in which a group of Mormons
attacked a wagon train (the church hotly disputes the film’s assertion that LDS
president Brigham Young approved of the killings). Despite the presence of such
acclaimed thespians as
Terence Stamp and Jon Voight, critics say the film works
neither as history nor drama, thanks to mediocre filmmaking throughout; they also
note Dawn‘s attempts to draw parallels to contemporary conflicts are
muddled at best. Dawn currently stands at 10 percent on the Tomatometer.

“Tonight we dine in Utah!”

It appears the folks behind
have feared an attack from critics. That
seems to be the reason they’re using the cinematic equivalent of camouflage: not
screening the film before its release. Jet Li and Jason Statham star in this
tale of betrayal and revenge, in which the CIA, Yakuza, and Triads figure
prominently. Guess that Tomatometer.

“I’ll trade you all this for a Wii.”

Also opening this week in limited release:
Deep Water
, a doc about a
fateful solo, around-the-world boat race, is at 100 percent;
Right At Your
, a drama about a terrorist attack in L.A., is at 68 percent;
Takes the Stairs
, about a young woman’s romantic angst, is at 61 percent
(check out our interview with
director Joe Swanberg here); No. 2, a Fijian
family dramedy starring Ruby Dee, is at 56 percent;
The Bothersome Man
, a
Norwegian drama about a man who forgets his past and finds himself in a strange
town, is at 56 percent;
, an unconventional romance about a
troubled children’s book author starring
Mandy Moore and
Billy Crudup, is at 42
percent; The Hottest State, the
Ethan Hawke-helmed tale of a singer
trying to make it in New York, is at 42 percent; and
Illegal Tender
, a
drama about a woman’s longstanding blood feud with her husband’s killer, is at
33 percent.

Slinky: the new cup and string.

Finally, props to
AudioNinja, who decided to eschew stealth and subsequently
came the closest to guessing
The Last Legion
‘s 18 percent Tomatometer.

Recent Scarlett Johansson Movies:
37% — Scoop (2006)
75% — The Prestige (2006)
35% — The Black Dahlia (2006)
79% — Match Point (2005)
39% — A Good Woman (2005)

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