Originally created 07/31/05

At the Movies: capsule reviews of new films



"The Aristocrats" - Comics Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette assemble a wonderfully raunchy, often hilarious documentary about an abominably foul-mouthed joke comedians have been sharing for decades. Featuring about 100 comics telling and discussing the joke, the film is as entertaining as any late-night, no-holds-barred standup act. It's also an insightful, incisive treatise on why we laugh and why tales of the most heinous acts imaginable can tickle us to contortions of hilarity when shared in the nudge-nudge, wink-wink confines of our safe circle of friends. The joke itself is a backward construction, with a standard setup and an ironic groaner as the punch line. What matters is the middle portion, during which the tellers improvise epics of bestiality, degradation, incest and other vile deeds, all in the name of gross-out guffaws. Unrated. 89 min. Three and a half stars out of four.

- David Germain, AP Movie Writer

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"Must Love Dogs" - The first thing you have to do before walking in to see this movie is suspend all disbelief and assume that Diane Lane is incapable of finding a date on her own. What's harder is ignoring the fact that beneath the pedigree of its director (sitcom veteran Gary David Goldberg) and the weight of its cast (John Cusack, Christopher Plummer, Stockard Channing) beats the heart of an unabashedly hackneyed chick flick. All the conventions of the genre are there- the meddling but well-intentioned friends and relatives, the guy who seems like Mr. Right (Dermot Mulroney), the real Mr. Right (Cusack), and the many obstacles that keep our reluctant heroine from him. You know it's bad when half the cast spontaneously bursts into song - a cringe-inducing rendition of "The Partridge Family" theme - in a trailer, no less. PG-13 for sexual content. 92 min. One and a half stars out of four.

- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"Sky High" - No one makes movies about teen angst the way John Hughes used to make them. Hughes doesn't even make movies about teen angst the way he used to make them. But "Sky High" captures all the humor and heartache lurking in the high school halls with a style that should spark memories in children of the '80s while appealing to kids who weren't even born by the time the decade was done. (The soundtrack - from 'Til Tuesday's "Voices Carry" to Spandau Ballet's "True" - adds to the vibe. Too bad they're all covers.) Not exactly original, and neither is the fact that the students at Sky High are there to hone their superpowers, as if "Sixteen Candles" were populated by the X-Men. But director Mike Mitchell keeps things lively with the help of an eclectic, likable cast that includes Kurt Russell, Lynda Carter, Cloris Leachman and Dave Foley. PG for action violence and some mild language. 99 min. Two and a half stars out of four.

- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"Stealth" - There's nothing remotely stealthy about the latest sensory assault from director Rob Cohen ("The Fast and the Furious," "XXX"), who spins the tale of a rogue drone plane run amok. It's end-to-end explosions and weapons fire woven into a flimsy plot with stick-figure heroes and heavies who spout such techno-warrior babble as, "It's got a brain like a quantum sponge." As the main good guy, Josh Lucas has the same handsomely vacant presence Paul Walker projected in "The Fast and the Furious," while Jessica Biel and Jamie Foxx co-star in roles so bland, they barely register. The three play elite pilots hunting an artificially intelligent unmanned craft that's sent haywire by a lightning strike, turning it into a warmongering maniac. PG-13 for intense action, some violence, brief strong language and innuendo. 120 min. One and a half stars out of four.

- David Germain, AP Movie Writer