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Film Clips

Capsule reviews from recently released flicks

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CLERKS II The sequel to the 1994 film that placed Smith on the indie map in the first place, this Jersey hurl is pretty much what you'd expect from this often crude, often insightful filmmaker, only with too much of the former and not enough of the latter. Twelve years down the road, wishy-washy Dante (Brian O'Halloran) and foul-mouthed Randal (Jeff Anderson) are still minimum wage earners, here flipping burgers for the Mooby's fast food chain. Randal isn't happy that his buddy will be abandoning him for marriage and Florida; neither is Becky (Rosario Dawson, quite delightful here), the Mooby's manager who enjoys her easygoing relationship with Dante. That's more than enough plot for a Kevin Smith feature, since with him, the wordplay's the thing. But the verbal exchanges aren't as clever as in past flicks, and while the romance and the raunch coexisted easily in the wonderful Chasing Amy (still his best film), here they're often at odds. Even those reliable cutups Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith) aren't allowed to live up to their potential. **

THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA Meryl Streep deserves all the accolades she can stomach for her poison-dipped performance in this satisfying screen version of Lauren Weisberger's best-selling novel. As Miranda Priestley, the ice-cold and rock-hard editor of the fashion magazine Runway, Streep delivers a terrific comic performance, as rich as the ones she gave in Postcards from the Edge and the otherwise unwatchable She-Devil. But let's not undervalue the contribution of Anne Hathaway, who's just fine as Andy Sachs, a college grad whose cluelessness about the fashion industry proves to be a drawback in her stint as Miranda's worked-to-the-bone assistant. (Stanley Tucci and Emily Blunt, as Andy's cynical coworkers, likewise deserve kudos.) The film's peeks into the fashion world are amusing, and the script makes some salient points about the lengths to which a person will allow themselves to be humiliated simply to hold onto a job. Once the focus turns to Andy's crisis of conscience, the picture loses some of its bite. But not Meryl, whose ferocious work continues to take a sizable chunk out of the couture culture. ***

AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH The cacophonous naysaying has already begun (largely by those who haven't seen the movie, natch), but this absorbing documentary about global warming gently pushes a message that all Americans of sound mind and good conscience can embrace: Let's work together to make the world a better place. It's a tall order, but the beauty of the film is that it inspires audience members to actually believe they can be a part of something important -- as Gore notes, all the resources are already available for combating global warming, and the only thing that's missing is "political will." Personal anecdotes, charts, slide shows and even cartoons are employed to allow the information to be easily digested by almost anyone. As for Gore, he's far more personable and animated than he ever was on the campaign trail -- what remains unchanged is his blazing intelligence, a far cry from the monosyllabic chimp presently sitting in the White House. As has been the case with Jimmy Carter, getting ousted from office might end up being the best way for Gore to serve his country. ***1/2

LADY IN THE WATER With each subsequent picture, writer/director M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs) has exposed himself as a filmmaker of limited means; if this pattern of diminishing returns continues, he may soon be reduced to trying to revive the long dormant Police Academy series. For now, though, we're stuck with this dud about an apartment complex superintendent (Paul Giamatti) who tries to protect a Narf (sea nymph) from a Scrunt (wolf) until she can make contact with the Great Eatlon (eagle), all the while keeping one eye peeled for the Tartutic (killer monkeys). This was originally conceived by the auteur as a bedtime story for his daughters, and in that context, it probably worked fine. But as a motion picture aimed at adult audiences, it's a mess, at once ridiculous and risible. Requiring characters to behave in illogical ways and making up the rules of the game as it goes along, this eventually reaches such high levels of absurdity that by the end you can't help but wonder if it was all a put-on, Shyamalan's "screw you" to the critics, studio suits and audience members who abandoned him with The Village. *1/2

LITTLE MAN When an unsuspecting couple (Shawn Wayans and Kerry Washington) end up in possession of a stolen diamond, criminal dwarf Calvin Sims (Marlon Wayans) disguises himself as a baby in order to infiltrate their home and retrieve the priceless bauble. A robustly performed sequence involving a rectal thermometer is amusing (or maybe I just felt compelled to laugh at something), but the rest is slapdash and bare, despite Marlon's Herculean efforts to turn Calvin into a notable comic creation. The incessant barrage of just-under-the-MPAA-radar crudity leaves the impression that director Keenen Ivory Wayans felt constrained by a PG-13 rating when he really had an R in mind. I'm not saying an R rating would have necessarily made Little Man a better movie, but at least it would have made it a more honest one. *1/2

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