Critics Consensus

Critics Consensus: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance Hits the Skids

Plus, This Means War fights a losing battle, and The Secret World of Arrietty is Certified Fresh.

by | February 17, 2012 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got a combustible biker (Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, starring Nicolas Cage and Idris Elba), lovestruck spies (This Means War, starring Reese Witherspoon and Chris Pine), and a very little girl (The Secret World of Arrietty, with voice work from Bridgit Mendler and Amy Poehler). What do the critics have to say?

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance


It appears the Ghost Rider franchise may be in desperate need of a tune up: Spirit of Vengeance wasn’t screened for American critics prior to its release, and the UK scribes who’ve seen it say it lacks the gonzo panache of its predecessor, 2007’s Ghost Rider. Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) returns as a stuntman-cum-satanic bounty hunter who teams up with a group of rebel monks in an attempt to end his tenure in the employ of the Prince of Darkness. The pundits say Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is chaotic, disjointed, and desperately short on trashy thrills.

This Means War


What if the characters in Mad Magazine’s Spy vs. Spy duked it out over a woman? That’s the basic premise of This Means War, but unfortunately, critics say its blend of screwball comedy and action is surprisingly flat. Chris Pine and Tom Hardy star as a pair of CIA operatives who discover that they’re both dating the same woman (Reese Witherspoon). Soon, they’re each using their espionage skills to learn as much as they can about her in order to win her heart. The pundits say This Means War strands its talented stars in unlikeable roles, and its script lacks both coherence and mirth.

The Secret World of Arrietty


For the last quarter century, Studio Ghibli’s animated features have bewitched and inspired kids and grownups alike, and the critics say they’ve got another winner with The Secret World of Arrietty, an exquisitely beautiful, whimsically charming fairy tale. Arrietty is the story of a family of tiny people who live quietly under the floorboards of a country home, occasionally borrowing various household items from the normal-sized humans without attracting notice. One day, however, teenaged Arrietty is discovered by a 12-year-old boy staying at the house, and their ensuing friendship threatens to undermine her family’s way of life. The pundits say the Certified Fresh Secret World of Arrietty is more modest in scope than such Ghibli classics as Spirited Away or Kiki’s Delivery Service, but its boundless imagination and careful attention to detail make for a sweet, inspiring film for all ages. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down the best of Studio Ghibli.)

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • The Oscar-nominated documentary Undefeated, about a perennially mediocre high school football team’s push for its first ever playoff spot, is at 91 percent.
  • Best Foreign Language Film nominee Bullhead, a drama about a cattle farmer who runs afoul of the mafia, is at 85 percent.
  • Thin Ice, starring Greg Kinnear and Alan Arkin in a black comedy about an insurance salesman who tries to con an old farmer out of a potentially valuable violin, is at 83 percent.
  • The Forgotten Space, a doc about the downside of global trade, is at 80 percent.
  • Michael, a drama about an outwardly mild-mannered man who’s secretly keeping a 10-year-old boy captive in his basement, is at 69 percent.
  • On the Ice, a thriller about a pair of Alaskan teenagers who share a dark secret, is at 57 percent.
  • Putin’s Kiss, a doc about a member of a Kremlin-approved youth organization who begins to question her allegiances, is at 50 percent.

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