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Capsule reviews of films playing the week of June 3



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I LOVE YOU, MAN Like most films in the Judd Apatow vein (the man himself wasn't involved with this project, but the principal players are all veterans of his works), this attempts to strike a desirable balance between sweet sincerity and risqué raunch. Yet perhaps more than any of the other films (Knocked Up, Superbad, etc.), it frequently pulls back when it reaches the edge of vulgarity. (That's not to say the picture doesn't fully deserve its R rating: With its ample selection of crude language, no one will be mistaking it for Mary Poppins.) Paul Rudd (in a disarming performance) stars as Peter Klaven, a nice guy who's always put his energy into his relationships with women. Because of this, he doesn't have a single male friend, so after he proposes to his girlfriend Zooey (immensely appealing Rashida Jones) and realizes he has no one to serve as his best man at their wedding, he sets out on a mission to find an eligible dude. His first few "dates" are disastrous, but he eventually meets Sydney Fife (Jason Segel), who's his complete opposite: disheveled in appearance, able to converse openly about sex, and completely comfortable in his own guy-skin. It's after Sydney's first appearance that I Love You, Man had the potential to self-destruct, as most filmmakers would turn Sydney into a complete creep or psychopath, a walking nightmare fueled by booze and testosterone. Yet while he does often come across as boorish, he's allowed to remain a fundamentally ordinary guy, and an often decent one at that. Unlike some of the other sweet-and-sour comedies of modern times, this one doesn't provide much in the way of large belly laughs. But it's pleasurable enough to paste a smile on the face for the majority of its running time. ***

MONSTERS VS. ALIENS With a title like Monsters vs. Aliens, the latest animated effort from DreamWorks sounds as if it could match all those Pixar gems in terms of emerging as a toon tale equally likely to entertain the adults as the small fry. After all, what film-lovin' grown-up, specifically one weaned on a steady diet of 50s fantasy flicks playing all night on late-night TV, could resist a movie guaranteed to be crammed with more inside jokes than anybody could reasonably hope to absorb during the initial viewing? Unfortunately, this doesn't come close to fulfilling what appeared to be its lot in (cinematic) life. Sure, there are plenty of bright colors and wacky characters and slapstick antics to amuse the children, but many adults will, to a degree, be left wanting. The monsters, here reconfigured as the good guys, are all based on creatures found in classic sci-fi romps of the 1950s: Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, The Blob, The Fly, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Japan's monster mash (Mothra, Godzilla, etc.). These creations are amusing enough, but what of the alien half of the equation? Where's the savory mix that would pay homage to the E.T.s found in The Thing (from Another World), The Day the Earth Stood Still, This Island Earth – heck, even The Monolith Monsters? Instead, we get one tiresome extraterrestrial megalomaniac (Rainn Wilson), a clear indication that inspiration ran out long before this promising premise was saturated. The film's visual scheme is inventive, but for a movie that had the potential to knock the genre out of this world, the pleasant but frequently pedestrian Monsters vs. Aliens remains too earthbound for its own good. **1/2

NEXT DAY AIR From its slapdash opening that rips off City of God to its guns-blazing finale that feels like a steal from the Quentin Tarantino playbook, Next Day Air doesn't possess one moment or idea that can be called its own. Here's a project so ill-conceived that it finds room in its cast for the talented Mos Def but then bungles that gift by giving him the smallest role among the principal cast members. Of course, you wouldn't know this from the posters and previews, most of which place the actor front and center. The marketing gurus behind this picture are brilliant; maybe they should have been assigned to make this film instead of director Benny Boom and writer Blair Cobbs. At least Mos Def is good while he lasts, appearing in only two scenes as a perpetually stoned delivery man for a UPS-style company. Much more of the screen time is given to Donald Faison, also playing a perpetually stoned delivery man – and the one who mistakenly delivers a box of cocaine bricks to a pair of bumbling bank robbers (Mike Epps and Wood Harris) instead of the proper recipient, a Latino middle man named Jesus (Cisco Reyes). When the crime lord (Emilio Rivera) who sent the package learns of this screw-up, he decides to handle the matter in person. Despite the fact that they're only required to play "types" rather than characters, all of the actors acquit themselves nicely, including Yasmin Deliz in a feisty film debut as Jesus' girlfriend. But even a gung-ho cast can't work miracles when the scripter can't think of anything witty for them to say and the director is incapable of building any sort of momentum from scene to scene. Just mark this one Return To Sender. *1/2

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