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July 2001

Laughing Stock

Three comedies and a joke

(rated R, 125 mins.)
What a way to head south of the border! Box office heavy weights Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt team up in this screwball adventure featuring protagonist Jerry Welbach (Pitt), a reluctant mob lackey who has been given an ultimatum by his boss: He must travel to Mexico and retrieve a priceless antique pistol known as “The Mexican” or suffer the consequences. His hot tamale wife, Samantha (Roberts), has had enough of his criminal ways and lets him head solo to Mexico. When Jerry’s pistol-packing plan goes awry, an angry Samantha heads to Vegas to begin a new life. Unfortunately, that fresh start includes a relationship with Leroy (James Gandolfini), a hired watchdog who holds her as ransom (or, as he puts it, “I’m just here to regulate funkiness”). Pitt accurately comes off as an underdog, low-key kid caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Comedy suits him, though he’s better at dramatic roles. Roberts establishes more chemistry with Gandolfini than Pitt, but not for the reasons you might expect. The Mexican is quite a pistol of a story but the movie doesn’t bang up the way one would hope. It’s not bad. It’s not good. But with Pitt and Roberts on the screen, just how bad can it be?

(rated PG, 87 mins.)
If you were raised on knights on white horses, damsels in distress and someday my prince will come, forget about all that! Shrek gives new meaning to twisted fairy tales. Once upon a time, in a far away swamp, lived an ornery ogre named Shrek (Mike Myers), whose precious solitude is suddenly shattered by an invasion of annoying fairy-tale characters, all banished from their kingdom by the evil Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow). As a result, Shrek cuts a deal with Farquaad and sets out to rescue the beautiful Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz), who has been hiding out, where? Why, in the tower of course! Accompanying him on his mission and stealing the show is wisecracking Donkey (Eddie Murphy). While Shrek has certain elements of Beauty and the Beast, this screen gem is more Charlie’s Angels meets Crouching Tiger. The fantasy masterpiece includes the gingerbread man, the three pigs and every character you can think of from Snow White, whose protagonist “may live with seven men, but isn’t easy.” The computer animation employed here is pure wizardry and no sooner do you catch your breath, than it’s time to laugh again.

(rated R, 104 mins.)
Along Came a Spider’s gripping opening finds Detective Alex Cross (Morgan Freeman) recovering from the loss of his partner and being sucked into the case of a kidnapped girl, Megan Rose (Mika Boorem), daughter of Senator Dunne. Coupled with Special Agent Jezzie Flannigan (Monica Potter), Cross tries to unravel Gary Soneji’s (Michael Wincott) motives in abducting the child from her private school classroom. Many aspects of the abduction appear to mirror the Charles Lindbergh kidnapping. While the opening sting operation sparks interest, the story slowly becomes ever more tedious. Not even a twisted ending, a desperate attempt to salvage the movie’s muddled middle, can save the flick. While Freeman holds his own in the role adapted from James Patterson’s highly acclaimed novel in the Alex Cross series, other characters come off like cardboard on valium. Detective Cross says it all when he comments, “I think we’re missing something here.” A plot, perhaps?

(rated R, 105 mins.)
About Adam could have been called “All about Eve.” It’s too bad the name is taken. The film is mainly about a woman, and a lot of temptation. Adam (Stuart Townsend, a Jude Law look-alike) is handsome, witty, sexy, sensitive, owns a gallery and even bought a Jaguar in memory of the car in which his parents were killed. He’s almost perfect for his charming, energetic girlfriend, Lucy Owens (Almost Famous star Kate Hudson), a singer in a hip Dublin café. It seems like paradise when the two agree to wed and the orphaned Adam is brought home to meet the family. Becoming part of the Owens clan is an understatement as he quickly wins over Lucy’s two sisters, bookworm Laura (Frances O’Connor) and Alice (Charlotte Bradley), a bored-with-her-husband sophisticate. As Adam mischievously winds his way into his future in-laws’ hearts, minds and lives, he gives new meaning to the biblical passage “And Adam said: ‘The woman you put beside me, gave me fruit, and I ate.” Not since Shakespeare in Love has there been a Miramax movie that so well combines confusion, passion and betrayal to create a comedy of rare distinction. <<<

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