This week at the movies, we’ve got a Twilight spoof (Vampires Suck, starring Jenn Proske and Matt Lanter); a magical childminder (Nanny McPhee Returns, starring Emma Thompson and Maggie Gyllenhaal); bloodthirsty fish (Piranha 3D, starring Elisabeth Shue and Jerry O’Connell); a baby mixup (The Switch, starring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman); and powerball pratfalls (Lottery Ticket, starring Bow Wow and Ice Cube). What do the critics have to say?
The critically-reviled spoof-meisters Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer make Uwe Boll look like Akira Kurosawa; for those keeping score at home, their best-reviewed directorial effort thus far is Date Movie, which garnered a robust six percent on the Tomatometer. And critics say their latest, the witless Twilight parody, Vampires Suck, lives down to its title. Jenn Proske stars as Becca Crane (geddit? It’s just like Bella Swan!), who falls for a vampire named Edward Sullen (sounds like Edward Cullen! And he’s mopey!) and an oft-shirtless werewolf; hilarity, in the form of pratfalls and Jersey Shore impersonators, ensues. The pundits say Vampires Suck represents something of an advance for Friedberg and Seltzer — a couple gags are mildly amusing — but otherwise, it’s more of the same, with lame, lazy pop-culture references substituting for actual laughs.
Nanny McPhee is back, and better than ever! At least, so say the critics, who are once again charmed by the snaggletoothed, magic-dispensing domestic savior in Nanny McPhee Returns. Emma Thompson reprises the title role, this time bringing her services to the put-upon Isabel Green (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who is trying to keep her family intact while her husband serves in a far-away war. Naturally, Ms. McPhee restores order to the household, but outside forces still threaten the Greens. The pundits say the Certified Fresh Nanny McPhee Returns is better than its predecessor, thanks to its fine cast and a willfully eccentric, whimsical, intelligent script.
Back in the day, 3D wasn’t employed in the service of big-budget prestige pictures but delightfully disreputable B-movies. And for those of you who’ve been pining for a 3D flick in the tradition of William Castle, wait no more: critics say the giddy, gory Piranha 3-D is a whale of fish tale. This third installment of Roger Corman’s Jaws ripoff stars Elisabeth Shue as a sheriff who must protect her community after a school of prehistoric fish lay waste to spring break revelers partying at the local lake. The pundits say Piranha 3-D is a lot of fun: it’s tongue-in-cheek without succumbing to self parody, and its kills are energetic and inventive.
Apparently, artificial insemination and comedy go together like babies and pacifiers — in recent months, we’ve been treated to the Certified Fresh The Kids Are All Right and the less warmly-received The Back-Up Plan. Now comes The Switch, and critics say this mix of raunch and sentiment leaves, ahem, womb for improvement. Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman star as a pair of close friends; seven years ago, after an accident, he replaced the sperm sample she planned to use to get pregnant with his own seed. How will they face the revelation that her kid is really his, too? The pundits say The Switch‘s premise is questionable to begin with, and although the performers do their best, they’re saddled with a surprise-free script that adheres too closely to the romantic comedy playbook.
We’ve all fantasized about winning the lottery, but we tend to avoid thinking about the downside — false friends and tenuous connections looking for a piece of the pie. Unfortunately, critics say Lottery Ticket takes that delicious premise and doesn’t do much with it — despite good intentions and occasional charm, it’s an uneven piece of work. Bow Wow stars as Kevin, an affable Foot Locker employee who buys a lottery ticket that turns out to be worth $370 million. Pretty soon the word gets out, and Kevin must avoid greedy neighbors and local tough guys in order to collect the prize. The pundits say Lottery Ticket has moments of warmth and humor, but it’s ultimately haphazard and devoid of tension. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we run down Ice Cube’s best-reviewed movies.)
Also opening this week in limited release:
Army of Crime, a thriller about the early days of the French Resistance in World War II, is at 90 percent.
A Film Unfinished, which resurrects (and provides insight into) a long-lost Nazi propaganda film, is at 89 percent.
The Tillman Story, a documentary about the inspiring life and untimely death of the footballer-turned-Army Ranger, is at 89 percent.
Soul Kitchen, a comedy about a idiosyncratic restaurateur and the eccentrics drawn into his orbit, is at 80 percent.
Mao’s Last Dancer, based on the true rags-to-riches tale of a dancer who rose from humble origins, is at 59 percent.
Calvin Marshall, a drama about a junior college ballplayer determined to make the majors despite a lack of talent, is at 50 percent.
Making Plans for Lena, a drama about a gathering of dysfunctional family members, is at 43 percent.