This week at the movies we have hungry, hungry rats ("Ratatouille," starring Patton Oswalt and Brad Garrett), a world-weary hero (Bruce Willis in "Live Free or Die Hard"), a provocateur extraordinaire ("Sicko," the new doc from Michael Moore), and a rare midsummer tearjerker ("Evening," starring Meryl Streep and Claire Danes). What do the critics have to say?
After a slight stumble with "Cars," "Ratatouille" marks a semi-return to form for Pixar. This animated flick stars Remy (voiced by Patton Oswalt), a rat whose aspirations to become a chef land him in a struggling restaurant’s kitchen, where he befriends a hapless garbage boy (Lou Romano). While critics are floored by the stunning leap in animation quality that Pixar seems to make with each movie, they’re equally impressed by "Ratatouille"’s fast pacing, memorable characters, and overall good humor. And like director Brad Bird‘s previous film, "The Incredibles," "Ratatouille" juggles themes of identity and individualism without being heavy-handed. "At 90 percent Tomatometer, the Certified Fresh "Ratatouille" is a movie to savor. (Check out RT’s interview with Patton Oswalt.)
Despite the title, the setting for the latest "Die Hard" isn’t New Hampshire; it’s Washington, D.C., where a group of super-hackers (led by Timothy Olyphant) are plotting to attack America’s computer infrastructure and bring the nation to its knees. McClane teams with a cyber geek to stop them; rousing pyrotechnics ensue. Critics say that while the plot is beyond preposterous, it’s of little matter with stunts and action this exhilarating and intense. And they also note that Bruno settles nicely into his iconic role. At 77 percent on the Tomatometer, "Live Free" is not only Certified Fresh, it’s the second-best-reviewed "Die Hard" after the original. (Check out RT’s interview with Bruce Willis here.)
Wherever Michael Moore goes, cameras, and controversy, follow. That’s certainly the case for "Sicko"; Moore’s latest doc, which compares and contrasts our privatized health care with other health care systems abroad, has gotten him in hot water with the Bush administration over a potentially embargo-violating Cuban medical trip. But Moore is finding much love among critics, who call it a mature, humanistic film. They praise Moore’s decision to spend much of the time off-screen, allowing the events to convince and anger on their own merits. At 89 percent Tomatometer, "Sicko" is Certified Fresh and just what the doctor ordered. (Check out RT’s interview with Michael Moore.)
Like so many other ambitious, richly layered novels adapted into films, "Evening" is what some critics call impossible to translate faithfully to the big screen. Assembling a dazzling cast, "Evening" stars Vanessa Redgrave as terminally ill mother who recounts to her children an affair she had as a young woman (played by Claire Danes). Critics call it a melodramatic artsy film, one that tries to go for emotional uplift, but with plot devices and character arcs that are too obvious to be genuinely affecting. At 32 percent Tomatometer, "Evening" falls and tumbles.
Also opening this week in limited release: "Ghosts of Cité Soleil," a harrowing portrait of the titular Haitian slum, is at 81 percent; "Over the GW," an autobiographical look into rehab, is at 80 percent; "In Between Days," a coming of age story with a Korean twist, is at 77 percent; and "Vitus," a drama about a young musical prodigy, is at 69 percent.