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CURRENT RELEASES

ABOUT A BOY John Wayne often played cowboys, while Clint Eastwood frequently portrays detectives. So when Hugh Grant once again turns on his ample "aw, shucks" neon charms to play a suave, occasionally self-effacing bachelor whose rakish demeanor and liquid mercury eyes (they practically blink, "Please rest this adorable head in your lap") are instant turn-ons to the women surrounding him, there's no reason to jeer. When given the (rare) chance, the man has shown he can do other things, but who can blame him for returning to the field that suits him best? Especially when he's able to offer slight variations on a theme, thereby keeping his characterizations fresh and funny? That's certainly the case with this thoroughly entertaining comedy that uses Grant's own twist of acidity to prevent itself from succumbing to its own bathos. Grant's character, Will Freeman, is the ultimate in Slacker Chic: a hip, 38-year-old Londoner whose inheritance insures he'll never have to hold a job a day in his life. In other words, Will is no work and all play -- this includes spending lots of time wooing and then dumping women. But his ill-advised plan of targeting single mothers because they're more vulnerable takes an unexpected twist when it leads to his acquaintance of Marcus (Nicholas Hoult), a 12-year-old boy with no friends, a lousy wardrobe and a suicidal hippie mom (Toni Collette). Will and Marcus predictably teach each other some valuable life lessons, but what isn't so predictable is the unassuming manner in which the movie goes about its business, with plenty of charm and sincerity.

BAD COMPANY Taking an explosive comic actor like Chris Rock and corralling his talents by sticking him in a dull action film would be like buying a ridiculously expensive sports car and solely using it to drive to the grocery store down the block. Yet that's the story that unfolds with this blob of studio-generated claptrap that's so generic, nobody could even bother to come up with a more original title (there have been approximately a dozen movies over the years with this same moniker). Anthony Hopkins, whose appearances in subpar films are so frequent that one suspects he's planning to purchase a small nation with his blood money, plays veteran CIA agent Gaylord Oakes, whose partner (Chris Rock) gets killed while they're both on a mission involving the appropriation of (what else?) a nuclear weapon. Needing a stand-in or the whole caper goes bust, Oakes recruits his late partner's twin brother, a street-smart small-timer (also Rock), to pose as his slain sibling. What could have been a savvy mix of laughs and thrills (think Beverly Hills Cop) is instead transformed by director Joel Schumacher and a quartet of writers into a strained comedy that quickly jettisons all opportunities for Rock to make his mark by serving up the usual chaotic nonsense. Needlessly overlong at 112 minutes (there are at least two points where you think the movie's wrapping up, but nooo), this is also the sort of sloppy cinema in which a character gets shot point-blank in the back yet reappears a few scenes later with only his arm in a sling. 1/2

ENIGMA Although equally responsible for the repellent Enough, director Michael Apted puts his considerable talents to better use with Enigma, a wartime thriller centered around the complex code the Germans used during World War II and the British masterminds who tried cracking it. Dougray Scott stars as Tom Jericho, a codebreaker who, after suffering a mental breakdown (coincidentally, he looks like Russell Crowe playing a similarly disturbed genius in A Beautiful Mind), returns to help decipher the latest garbled transmissions while simultaneously searching for the woman (Saffron Burrows) who broke his heart and, not incidentally, also might have been a traitor working for the Nazis. Jericho is aided in his investigation by the woman's roommate (Kate Winslet), but his every move is tracked by a government agent (Jeremy Northam) who may always be one step ahead, or behind, him (Jericho can't tell for sure). U-571 also employed an Enigma machine in its plot (and, of course, the Americans got credit for its capture in that film, though history dictates otherwise), but that silly sub drama doesn't compare to this picture (produced, incidentally, by Mick Jagger and Lorne Michaels), which unfolds just as a smart thriller should. All of the performances are excellent, though Northam stands out as the faux-friendly agent: It's the type of role generally played with a touch of romanticism (think Claude Rains in Casablanca), but Northam shrewdly never suggests that there's any trace of a soft heart at the center of this tough character.

ENOUGH A sleazy exploitation flick disguised as a serious message movie about a nutcase who beats his wife, this ultimately has as much to do with spousal abuse as The Wizard of Oz does with agriculture in Kansas. Jennifer Lopez plays a savvy waitress who ends up meeting and marrying the "perfect man" (Billy Campbell). But in about the time it takes to clip one half of one fingernail, Hubby turns into a complete monster, an ogre who has affairs with seemingly every woman on the continent, beats his wife to a bloody pulp and even gets rough with their helpless daughter (Tessa Allen, cast not so much for her acting ability as for the fact that she draws a collective "aww" from the audience every time the camera zooms in on her tear-streaked little face). The fact that he excuses his beastly behavior by declaring that he's simply doing what a man's gotta do is offensive enough, but don't think this wanna-be feminist empowerment fantasy goes easy on the women, either: Thousands of wives in this country feel trapped in abusive marriages because they don't have the funds to escape or fight back, but hey, that's no problem in this movie, not when Lopez manages to track down her estranged father (Fred Ward), a boisterous lout who's so rich he can personally bankroll his long-lost daughter's entire revenge plot. It would take too much space and effort to list the countless plot holes littering the movie, but rest assured there are enough of them to draw comparisons to the Grand Canyon.

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