Capsule reviews of films playing the week of Oct. 6 | Film Clips | Creative Loafing Charlotte

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Capsule reviews of films playing the week of Oct. 6

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SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is the movie that Kick-Ass wishes it could be when it grows up. Thematically savvy, cinematically eye-popping, and infused with a here-and-now pop-culture specificity that's part of the organic whole rather than just a cynical or faddish way to tackle the material, this adaptation of Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novels isn't just for the gamers and gawkers. Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) helms this disarming yarn about an insecure 20-something (Michael Cera) who jams with a band when he's not busy dating a high school student. Scott does enjoy the time spent with young Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), but his romantic focus shifts once he lays eyes on standoffish punker Ramona Flowers (Rocky Mount, N.C., native Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Unceremoniously dumping Knives, he then pursues Ramona, who's game but reluctantly informs him that in order to date her, Scott must first defeat all seven of her exes. Combining a giddy, sometimes campy approach to action (complete with Wham! and Pow!-style balloons) with an earnest look at messy modern relationships, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World often feels like the unholy love child of TV's 60s-era Batman and Chasing Amy — a melding I never thought I would see on this world or any other. ***

SHREK FOREVER AFTER The Shrek series now stands at 2-2 thanks to the latest addition to the cartoon canon. After the first two entertaining (if wildly overrated) installments made enough money to seemingly feed and clothe the entire U.S. population, the filmmakers opted to give us a pair of desperate lunges at more filthy lucre. Shrek Forever After is an improvement over Shrek the Third, but it's not enough of a step up to revitalize the ailing franchise. This entry gives us a Shrek (again voiced by Mike Myers) who's none too happy with his domesticated lot in life. Feeling stifled, he ends up signing a contract whipped up by the devious Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn), one that eventually leads to an alternate reality in which Shrek never existed. Thus, Rumpelstiltskin rules the kingdom, Fiona (Cameron Diaz) is a resistance fighter, Donkey (Eddie Murphy) is an unwilling servant to the witches that serve as Rumpelstiltkin's enforcers, and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) has grown lazy and fat. Living on the contract's borrowed time, Shrek has less than 24 hours to make everything right. While the plotline aggressively lifts from It's a Wonderful Life, it's clear that this isn't a wonderful movie, just an average one whose primary function will be to serve as a babysitter once it hits DVD. **

THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE The penchant for creating faux-excitement simply by making everything blaring and calamitous is a specialty of both producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Jon Turteltaub, who previously gave us two daft National Treasure movies. This is basically more of the same, although unlike that twofer, this at least has the decency to clock in at under two hours. Nicolas Cage is miscast as Balthazar Blake, one of Merlin's original disciples(!) who turns up in modern-day NYC searching for a novice wizard. He finds him in geeky college kid Dave Stutler (Jay Baruchel), and they team up to battle another Merlin disciple: treacherous Maxim Horvarth (Alfred Molina). Inspired in part by the delightful Mickey Mouse sequence from Disney's 1940 Fantasia (there's even a scene in which Dave battles dancing mops), The Sorcerer's Apprentice is strictly standard action-fantasy fare, not too bad as these Bruckheimer boom boxes go. There's some clever CGI trickery mixed in with the more lackluster effects, Baruchel is appealing in his limited way, and the jackhammer pace insures that there's no time to get bored. But is any of it memorable? Hardly. I remember the contours of my theater seat better than I recall the particulars of this cinematic sleight of hand. **

THE SWITCH Deciding that Jeffrey Eugenides' short story would be perfect for expanding into a wacky comedy, this film's creators ran with the premise of Jennifer Aniston as a single woman who badly wants a baby. Aniston's Kassie opts to go the route of a sperm donor, despite the objections of her whiny best friend Wally (Jason Bateman). The donor is a hunky athlete (Patrick Wilson), but through circumstances too mind-numbingly stupid to detail here, a drunken Wally spills the filled baby-batter cup and replaces the lost content with his own seed. Will the dumb-as-a-brick Kassie ever learn that Wally made a switch? And did none of the filmmakers — or the audience members at my screening — realize that Wally's action of implanting his unwanted sperm into an unwilling woman qualifies as a form of rape? If the film ever addressed this issue beyond some ever-so-modest poo-pooing by Wally's confidant (Jeff Goldblum, the lone bright spot), it might warrant some respect, but everything is played at an inane sitcom level, and we're supposed to cheer Wally on as he tries to bag his woman (shouldn't he be going to jail instead?). Strip away the ramifications of the plot and The Switch is merely one more failed Aniston rom-com bomb. But add it back in and we're talking about a fairly revolting piece of work. *


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