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Capsule reviews of films playing the week of June 22

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BIG MOMMAS: LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son isn't like Some Like It Hot; instead, it's like every other witless sequel meant to prolong the life cycle of a flailing franchise. Like it or not, the fact remains that there's not much to like here, and it only escapes a bomb rating because it's more irritating than offensive — like an ant crawling across a countertop rather than a roach roosting in the cereal box. The second sequel to the 2000 box office hit Big Momma's House, this finds Martin Lawrence again cast as FBI agent Malcolm Turner, donning the wig and fat suit once more to elude some Russian mobsters. The added, uh, hilarity comes with the notion that Malcolm's stepson Trent (Brandon T. Jackson) must also disguise himself as a female — in his case, a student named Charmaine. Together, Madea — excuse me, Big Momma — and Charmaine head to an all-girls arts school to uncover some evidence that will put away the criminals on their trail. Big Momma gets romantically wooed by a hefty caretaker (Faizon Love) who's into hefty women, Charmaine ogles the young ladies as they strip down to their undies, and everyone involved dutifully collects their paychecks while hoping for better luck the next time out. *1/2

BRIDESMAIDS Bridesmaids can't maintain a high level of hilarity over the course of its 125 minutes, but when its game is on, it ranks among the funnier endeavors of the past few years. Judd Apatow is one of its producers, and the film certainly falls in line more with his brand of product — raunchy comedies that often reveal unexpected depths (e.g. The 40-Year-Old Virgin) — than with the usual formulaic rom-coms with female protagonists and wedding themes (e.g. the abysmal Something Borrowed). But let's be quick to steer most of the credit away from Apatow — and even director Paul Feig — and place it where it clearly belongs: at the feet of Kristen Wiig. The talented comedienne has perked up many a movie in supporting roles, and she's sensational in her largest part to date. Working from a screenplay she co-wrote with Annie Mumolo, she plays Annie, who's been chosen by her lifelong best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) to serve as her maid of honor. But Annie feels increasingly threatened by the presence of Lllian's new friend, the lovely and wealthy Helen (Rose Byrne), and matters soon get awkward and out-of-hand. Wiig possesses the same sort of brashness that the likes of Madeline Kahn and Bette Midler used to display in comedies, yet her more delicate features allow her to smoothly apply the brakes and ease back into the more vulnerable aspects of her characterization. As expected, the film contains a smattering of gross-out gags, yet while some are undeniably funny, they can't compete with the moments in which the laughs stem mostly from Wiig's genuine comic chops, whether it's the perfect scene involving a microphone stand-off or the sequence in which she unwisely mixes booze and pills while aboard an airplane. Granted, the actress has been around for years, but with Bridesmaids, it's not exactly inappropriate to declare that a star is born. ***

FAST FIVE Stating that Fast Five is the best of the Fast and the Furious series is perhaps like claiming that the Big Mac is the best hamburger served at McDonald's: It's not so much a declaration of excellence as an example of damning with faint praise. Still, fans of this high-octane franchise will find plenty to enjoy, newbies should be able to hop aboard the ride without getting left behind (any references to past pictures tend to be negligible or easy to absorb), and dates dragged against their will can at least enjoy the Cowboys & Aliens trailer that precedes the picture. OK, so the viewing experience admittedly offers more than just a sneak peek at an anticipated sci-fi summer blockbuster. Even with a generous 130-minute running time, the film never brakes for boredom. There's also a notable attempt on the parts of director Justin Lin and writer Chris Morgan to give everyone a moment to shine in the spotlight. And considering this entry brings back various characters from all four previous installments, that's a lot of illumination taking place. Front and center, of course, is the triumvirate of bad-ass Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), bad-ass wannabe Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) and tough yet tender Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster). Return offenders include Tyrese Gibson (who still can't act a lick, bless him) and the always engaging Chris "Ludacris" Bridges as two of the numerous car-crazy accomplices. New to the cast is Dwayne Johnson as a federal agent in hot pursuit of our anti-heroes. As for the plot, it concerns the efforts of — oh, who am I kidding? All that's important is that it involves lots of car chases, mucho macho posturing, a nonstop barrage of wisecracks (some amusing, some anything but), and the continued sight of Brian O'Conner trying to look like a bad ass (or did I already mention that?). Oh, and it all takes place in Rio de Janeiro. Look fast and you can even spot a cameo appearance by Blu, the animated star of the current hit Rio. OK, not really, but wouldn't Rio and Fast Five make for a more intriguing cross-promotion than Rio and Angry Birds? **1/2

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