Originally created 05/03/04

At the Movies: capsule reviews of new films

Capsule reviews of films opening this week:

"Envy" - Watching this movie is like sitting down for a meal made of gourmet ingredients that was cooked into flavorless mush. It has a strong cast - starring Ben Stiller and Jack Black - a fine director, "Rain Man" Oscar-winner Barry Levinson, and a producing credit from "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David, who reportedly worked on the script but had his name removed. Somewhere along the way, these talented individuals failed to connect. "Envy" crawls to its finish through a minefield of poor taste and comedic misfires. Black plays an inventor who creates an aerosol spray called "Va-POO-rize" that makes dog feces disappear. He becomes a multijillionaire and Stiller, as his longtime best friend, is angry and vengeful over his buddy's success. PG-13 for language and crude humor. 99 min. One and a half stars out of four.

- Anthony Breznican, Associated Press

"Godsend" - A creepy, scary, moody movie that collapses in a series of laughable cliches in the final reel. Greg Kinnear and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos play a couple who replace their dead son with a clone. Robert De Niro is the avuncular fertility scientist who wants to monitor the success of his experiment. In the middle is Adam (steely-eyed 11-year-old Cameron Bright) who doesn't know that a previous version of him existed and died in an accident years ago. When he ages past the day when his previous self died, Adam begins to have hallucinations and frightening dreams. Director Nick Hamm is at his best here, constructing vertigo-inducing set pieces in which spooky reflections of Adam scream at him from windows and bizarre children surrounded by flames jump out at him from doorways. The gothic visuals and startling sound effects keeps the nerves tingling - for a strong ending that never arrives. PG-13 for violence, frightening images and a scene of husband and wife sexuality. 100 min. Two and a half stars out of four.

- Anthony Breznican, Associated Press

"Laws of Attraction" - This is everything "Intolerable Cruelty" tried to be, and then some. Unlike last year's Coen brothers romantic comedy - in which the witty banter and the repeated marrying and divorcing wore thin about two-thirds of the way in, despite the glorious George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones - this new movie stays light, crisp and snappy until the end. Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore play dueling New York divorce lawyers who clash in and out of court, and the casting is part of the movie's charm: Neither actor is exactly well-known for romantic comedy work. Director Peter Howitt's pacing drags a bit, though, when the characters go to Ireland to help their wealthy clients fight over a castle. PG-13 for sexual content and language. 87 min. Three stars out of four.

- Christy Lemire, Associated Press

"Mean Girls" - It means to be an updated version of the best teen comedies of the 1980s, like "Heathers" and "Sixteen Candles." While it definitely captures elements of those movies, and features a sparkling performance from rising star Lindsay Lohan, it never quite reaches the same level of instant cult classic. When you look closely, there's another pop culture phenomenon that "Mean Girls" resembles even more: "Saturday Night Live," which makes sense, since it springs from the mind of "SNL" head writer Tina Fey. The same things that are right and wrong with most of the late-night comedy show's skits are right and wrong here. The film comes on strong with sharp, biting wit and great energy, then runs out of steam and doesn't know when to call it quits. Rachel McAdams plays the high school queen bee; Fey co-stars as a math teacher who serves as the voice of reason. PG-13 for sexual content, language and some teen partying. 97 min. Two stars out of four.

- Christy Lemire, Associated Press


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