This week at the movies, we’ve got a legendary detective (Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law); matriculating rodents (Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, starring David Cross and Jason Lee); a middle aged love triangle (It’s Complicated, starring Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin); turbulent business travel (Up in the Air, starring George Clooney and Vera Farmiga); and a directionless director (Nine, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Penelope Cruz). What do the critics have to say?
Known for his hyperkinetic lad pictures, Guy Ritchie may not seem like an obvious choice to direct a Sherlock Holmes adaptation, given that 221B Baker St.’s most famous resident is a paragon of sophistication and stateliness. But a little Robert Downey Jr. goes a long way, critics say, and the star’s elementary appeal helps to draw us into this 21st century, action-packed update of the legendary detective. As Holmes, Downey is abetted by Jude Law, who plays his right hand man Watson; together, they must foil a plot to destroy Britain, while Holmes must deal with his favorite nemesis, the brilliant Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams). The pundits say Sherlock Holmes maintains both the pulpy spirit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original short stories and the wittiness of its lead characters, and if the movie’s sometimes too high-octane for its own good, it still provides a cracking good time. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Law’s best-reviewed films.)
Alright everyone, sing along with me: “Christmas, Christmas time is near /Time for toys and time for cheer…” “The Chipmunk Song” is a holiday staple, but critics say the pint-sized trio’s latest seasonal offering — Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel — is far less likely to bring yuletide merriment. This time around, Alvin, Simon, and Theodore are headed to high school, where they meet riot grrrls the Chipettes — now employed by the ‘Munks old enemy, Ian Hawke (David Cross). Can these two rodent bands find common ground — and save their school’s music program? The pundits say this Squeakquel is sure to please little kids, but adults may be less amused by the film’s lowbrow hi-jinks and general inanity.
With names like Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin on the marquee, you’d expect a film with a title like It’s Complicated to provide some smarter-than-average laughs. And critics say that while the cast does its best to elevate this movie, the results are more farcical — and predictable — than one would hope. Streep stars as Jane, whose ex-husband Jake (Baldwin) has remarried; at their son’s graduation, the two resume their love affair – which complicates things for Jane’s children and her new suitor Adam (Martin). The pundits say everything here is handled with plenty of professionalism, but It’s Complicated ultimately succumbs to sitcom conventions when it could have been something more.
Jason Reitman‘s Certified Fresh Up in the Air has already thrilled critics and snared a number of award nominations, and this week it expands into wide release. George Clooney stars as Ryan Bingham, who has accumulated big frequent flyer mileage from his company, which tasks him with firing people in person. But when the corporation cuts back on travel, will Bingham still cross paths with a fellow traveler (Vera Farmiga)? The pundits say Up in the Air is styling, timely, and features magnificent performances.
It’s based on a hit Broadway musical (which is itself adapted from the Fellini classic 8 1/2). It’s loaded with Oscar winners. So what’s the matter with Nine? Well, critics say it lacks showstopping numbers, a strong narrative, and a sense of restraint. Daniel Day-Lewis stars as a film director who is in an artistic rut, so he turns to the women in his life, a group that includes Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, and Marion Cotillard, among others. The pundits say the cast acquits itself well enough on the vocal front, and the film has a couple dazzling moments, but ultimately, Nine is superficially flashy, hyperactively edited, and musically undistinguished.
Also opening this week in limited release: