February 6, 2009, - 12:05 am

Weekend Box Office: Animated Movie Bests Actors

By Debbie Schlussel
Four new movies out this weekend, and I did not screen one of them, “The Pink Panther 2.” Among the other three, the best–by far–is the super animated 3-D “Coraline.” And don’t forget last week’s two great offerings, Taken” (which I originally gave Three Reagans, but thought I underrated it and upgraded it to Four Reagans) and “The Uninvited” (Two-and-a-half Reagans).
* “Coraline“: Don’t let the fact that this is animated fool you. It’s lifelike and extremely entertaining from start to end. Although this movie is extremely creepy for a movie aimed at tween kids, it was fantastic. The 3-D graphics are among the best I’ve seen in an animated movie. As an adult, I loved it. It’s non-stop eye candy, almost to the point of overload, but not stepping over the bounds of well done.

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Coraline (voiced by Dakota Fanning) is a tween daughter of a couple who move to a new city to an old pink mansion that’s been divided into apartments. Coraline’s parents (mother is voiced by Teri Hatcher) are online writers for a website about plants, who don’t actually plant or grow anything. They’re no fun and pay very little attention to their daughter (no surprise, since Coraline’s dad is a Michigan State grad–just kidding, but he wears the MSU shirt non-stop). Alone and looking for excitement and stimulation, she wishes for something better than her current parental situation and soon finds it. A neighborhood boy gives her a doll that looks just like her, with buttons for eyes.
Soon, Coraline’s doll displays magical powers, and a secret portal in the apartment takes her to an alternate universe where her parents have buttons for eyes, but they look exactly like her real parents. Except that they pay attention to her. Her alternate universe mother is fun and cooks delicious dinners of her favorite foods, and her father plays magnificent music on the piano. They even have a beautiful magical garden. But everything is not what it seems. The message: Be careful what you wish for. What seems much better than the family you have, may really be much worse.
But before we get to that message, we and Coraline meet the other, extremely eccentric neighbors who live in the apartments of the subdivided house, “The Pink Palace.” There is the greasy Eastern European neighbor who has a circus act performed by rats. And then there are the two old, big-busted spinster sisters who have hardened saltwater taffy collections dating back to the early 1900s. I did find one scene–in which one of the corpulent sisters is in an onstage cabaret act wearing what amounts to a bikini and semi-pasty bra to be extremely odd, much less in a movie for kids.
But then, the whole movie is odd and creepy. This is not for young kids, who will be extremely frightened. There are discussions of replacing people’s eyes with buttons in the alternate world. And there is an evil witch-like character.
But don’t let my description scare you away. A ten-year-old or older could watch this movie and be fascinated. It’s wonderful and weird at the same time. Great for adults to take their children, too. But again, be forewarned about the creep factor.
FOUR REAGANS
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* “He’s Just Not That Into You“: The first half of this movie is mostly hilarious, though not believable. It’s hard to believe that there’s a woman on this earth as desperate, clueless, and aggressive for men as Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin, whose parents had to be different and display their special spelling skills). Watching her turn off guys with such extremely obtuse behavior was at once funny, but extremely annoying and painful. And that turned me off.
Then, there was Jennifer Aniston, living for 7 years with Ben Affleck, who is against marriage. She’s not happy either and wonders if he really loves her, since he won’t seal the deal with a wedding. There was no chemistry there and the whole thing wasn’t believable onscreen. (Ben Affleck has so jumped the shark, and Aniston is still playing Rachel from “Friends,” which gets old.) Then, there is the mopey, bitter-looking Jennifer Connolly who is completely overbearing on her husband on all things, especially smoking. She is more bothered by the possibility that he’s smoking behind her back than if he’s cheating on her. Which . . .
Well, then there’s Scarlett Johansson, who meets Connolly’s studly husband (Brad Cooper) at the supermarket, and they have an instant attraction and non-stop flirtation. He feels tied down because he married before he was ready to someone he doesn’t think he really loves.
Then, there are Drew Barrymore and Kevin Connolly. Connolly is attracted to Johansson, who’s “just not that into him.” And Barrymore–more annoying and baby-talkish than ever–is desperately trying to find a guy, most of whom are “just not that into her.”
With so many characters and intertwined story lines, are you keeping track?
Finally, there is Justin Long (Barrymore’s real-life ex), who though no stud, begins giving Gigi advice on guys’ secrets and how to handle them. (He’s the real star of this movie and the only one who shined in it.)
The bottom line is obvious: If a guy doesn’t call, he’s just not that into you. Get lost.
While the message of this movie, as summarized above and in the title is hardly news, the other messages in the movie were kind of sad: That all guys are cads, or at least most of them; That a long-term live-in relationship is more stable than marriage, since your husband is trapped and wants to cheat.
But other than that it was entertaining and funny, until the last third when it turned cheesy, sappy, and predictable, since ultimately it became the chick flick it pretended it wasn’t, but really was. And at that point I was . . .
Just not that into it.
ONE-AND-A-HALF REAGANS
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* “Push“: This movie was a mess. There was so much action it made my head spin. But it was supposed to be a thriller, and it just wasn’t thrilling. I didn’t care what happened next, even if it was about people with special powers who could tell the future. I liked the high-styled Hong Kong sets. But usually high-style in movie makes up for low substance. This is no exception. It was mindless.
Three Americans (Chris Evans, Dakota Fanning, and Camilla Belle) have special powers. Evans can move things with his mind, Fanning can see into the future in pictures she draws, and Belle can get into people’s minds and make them think memories that never existed and take actions against their own wills. They’re trying to find a suitcase that may save their lives and reverse visions of their impending deaths. Sadly, neither Fanning nor Belle can act worth a lick, so that made the movie completely dull.
The Americans are in Hong Kong trying to escape an evil U.S. government division called Obama. No, actually, they’re not that creative. It’s just called, “Division,” headed by Djimon Hounsou. They run around Hong Kong trying not just to escape Division, but also a family of Chinese with similar powers who want to kill them.
Not only was this movie a complete mess, it was kind of boring. Lots of action, but the same stuff, the same types of scenes basically repeating themselves, with droll, overblown sassiness by Fanning that sounded like she was reading lines rote.
Extremely violent and bloody. Not fun. Great visuals, but little else. Tried way too hard to be cool, and wasn’t.
HALF MARX
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One Response

Probably not enough time to go see any this weekend, but if I did it would be Taken. You’re right, I think you underrated it a bit.
Maybe Push one day, but definitely not the chick flick. I DO NOT DO CHICK FLICKS!!!!!!!

Jeff_W on February 6, 2009 at 11:44 am

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