August 28, 2006
NEW THIS WEEK:
When high school senior Bartleby (Justin Long) can’t get into a single university, he and his friends create a fake college (South Harmon Institute of Technology – careful with that acronym) to fool their parents. But before they know it, the ruse involves leasing a building, hosting a student body, and even creating a curriculum – albeit one heavy on courses like “Walking Around and Thinking About Things.” A charming and breezy throwback to such ’80s collegiate slobs-versus-snobs comedies as “Revenge of the Nerds” and “Up the Creek,” “Accepted” gets by on goodwill, goofy energy, and sparkling performances, particularly from Long and Jonah Hill as Bartleby’s chubby sidekick. “Accepted” is no classic, but it takes smarts to make a movie this dumb be this entertaining.
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Long played Jennifer Aniston’s gay gallery assistant in “The Break-Up” and co-starred in lesbian director Angela Robinson’s “Herbie: Fully Loaded.” Maria Thayer – who plays a type-A personality named Rory who doesn’t get into Yale, a shout-out to “Gilmore Girls” – is also the object of Amy Sedaris’ affection in the movie “Strangers with Candy.”)
In 1900 Vienna, the magician Eisenheim (Edward Norton) captures the attention of audiences and the authorities with tricks that seem to defy physics. But his presence in the city turns dangerous for his childhood sweetheart, Princess Sophie (Jessica Biel), when their reunion spurs a dangerous rage in Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell), her fiance. This romantic thriller boasts a handsome cast, luminous cinematography, a delicate Philip Glass score, and the beauty of Prague aptly subbing for turn-of-the-century Vienna. Unfortunately, writer-director Neil Burger fails to deliver any real drama thanks to his own flaccid direction and a derivative story that never quite adds up. Performances are excellent, but it is depressing to see an actor as talented as Sewell reduced to such a cartoon villain.
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Biel was part of “The Rules of Attraction”‘s sexually adventurous ensemble. Sewell was Albert Finney’s secret crush in “A Man of No Importance,” and he co-starred in “Carrington.”)
ALSO IN THEATERS:
This would-be comedy clocks in at just under 90 minutes, but it feels endless, probably because there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before far too many times. Anthropomorphic animals? Check. Pop-culture references? Check. Soon-to-be-dated slang? Check. Celebrity voices (including Wanda Sykes, Danny Glover, and Andie MacDowell)? Check. Worth checking out? Nope.
Kinsey Scale: 1
Little Miss Sunshine
The dysfunctional Hoovers are nearly as broken down as their faltering van, but part of this fractured family’s charm is the way it comes together in a pinch. The outrageous humor is often pitch black, crowned by a show-stopping beauty-pageant climax, yet the comedy is also sweet and affectionate toward its wounded characters. And the ensemble cast is terrific.
Kinsey Scale: 2
The Night Listener
Based on Armistead Maupin’s fact-based novel, what begins as a character-driven drama limning Gabriel’s emotional devastation evolves into a suspenseful thriller as he turns detective to root out the truth. An uncommonly sober Robin Williams delivers his best performance in years. Only Bobby Cannavale, as Gabriel’s ex-lover, injects a false note. He and Williams share so little chemistry that their relationship is simply unbelievable.
Kinsey Scale: 6
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
This sequel to the popular “Curse of the Black Pearl” is almost too much of a good thing – it is a “long” two-and-a-half hours – but the infectious enthusiasm of a cast that appears to be having a wonderful time proves irresistible.
Kinsey Scale: 1.5
The bad writing and wooden performances — Channing Tatum is even less charismatic than Josh Hartnett – could be forgiven if the dance sequences were transcendent. But aside from one choreographed nightclub scene, the footwork is as shoddy as the production values. Dancing shouldn’t be this dull.
Kinsey Scale: 1
World Trade Center
What is remarkable is that while the early scenes – particularly those that use documentary footage – are disturbing, what emerges is something far more optimistic. Instead of dwelling on terror and tragedy, the movie celebrates the triumph of the human spirit.
Kinsey Scale: 1.5
While the set-up for this comedy might sound promising, joke after joke falls flat with a deadly thud. (The defining character trait of Courtney Cox’s nerdy scientist, for instance, is that she’s really, really clumsy. Hilarious!) Add phony emotional backstories and lame slapstick, and this superhero comedy is lifeless enough to make “My Super Ex-Girlfriend” look like “The Incredibles.”
Kinsey Scale: 1