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Film Clips

Capsule reviews of films playing in Charlotte

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New Releases

THEN SHE FOUND ME Before Then She Found Me, it appeared that only two reactions to the soft-spoken Colin Firth were at all possible. Either audiences found him charming in that brooding sort of way (as did the legions of women who swooned over him in Bridget Jones's Diary and the miniseries Pride and Prejudice) or they found him on the dull side in that drowsy-Brit sort of way. But with this picture, Helen Hunt successfully turns Firth into something new: an annoyance. Firth delivers such an aggravating performance that you just want to separate him from his character and slap them both. Then again, everything about Hunt's directorial debut – she also co-wrote the script and served as one of the 13 producers – is similarly obnoxious, to say nothing of arch and artificial. Hunt stars as April Epner, an elementary school teacher who, at 39, is desperate to have a baby. Having been adopted, she's insistent on giving birth herself, a problem when her newly anointed husband Ben (Matthew Broderick, becoming less interesting all the time) abandons her. She does strike up a relationship with the dad (Firth) of one of her students, but even that romance is fraught with tension. Most of her troubles, however, come from the fact that her natural mother (Bette Midler) shows up after all these years hoping to get to know the daughter she gave up decades earlier. Hunt, an overrated actress (her Oscar for As Good As It Gets should be classified as a felony on the part of the Academy), directs as unimaginatively as she performs, which is to say in the traditionally limiting manner of the TV sitcom genre in which she garnered her fame and fortune. Midler tries to provide some lift, but she can't begin to dent the film's slipshod construction. *1/2

WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS When invited to join me at the press screening for What Happens In Vegas, a good friend of mine declined, e-mailing, "I can only stand one romantic comedy a year, and No Country for Old Men was it for me in '08." That quip's funnier than anything found in the actual movie, and 20th Century Fox would have done well to hire him to pen the film's screenplay. As it stands, this is the year's umpteenth assembly-line rom-com, although it's admittedly easier to take than most of its predecessors: It's less obnoxious than Fool's Gold, less forced than Made of Honor and less formulaic (well, by a sliver, anyway) than 27 Dresses. Cameron Diaz plays Joy, an ambitious Wall Street trader who's just been dumped by her fiancé (Jason Sudeikis); Ashton Kutcher is Jack, a slacker who's just been fired from the company business by his own dad (Treat Williams). They both decide to head to Vegas, where they meet, get drunk and wind up married. After sobering up, they realize they don't even like each other, so once they're back in New York, they try desperately to get a divorce. Instead, the judge (Dennis Miller) sentences them to six months of marriage, requiring them to visit a counselor (Queen Latifah) weekly to monitor their progress. While the veterans in the cast are a welcome presence (especially Dennis Farina as Joy's boss), the couple's best friends are the same, nondescript group of dullards we'd always get in movies like this before Judd Apatow came along and individualized them in such titles as The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. As for the leads, Diaz is typically winning, while Kutcher doesn't blend in with the furniture as much as he usually does. But those attending the film hoping to scope out the title city will be disappointed, since most of the action takes place in New York City. Viewers interested in the Vegas scene should stick with Danny Ocean instead. **

Current Releases

BABY MAMA With Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler and other comedians routinely hoarding the screens in our nation's multiplexes, here come Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to remind audiences that girls just want to have fun. Indeed, the Cyndi Lauper hit of that name is granted its own karaoke-set scene, and its inclusion is fitting in a movie that's similarly pointed, joyous, and light on its feet. This stars Fey as Kate Holbrook, a successful businesswoman who, upon finding out that she only has a one-in-a-million chance of getting pregnant, turns to an agency to provide her with a surrogate mom; she ends up getting Angie Ostrowiski (Poehler), who clearly resides several rungs down the social ladder. The plot complications arrive with clockwork precision, and it's this rigid formula (along with a ludicrous happy ending) that prevents a fine movie from being even better. Yet judging it strictly on its comic merit, Baby Mama delivers (pun not intended, I assure you). Scripter Michael McCullers (who also directed) serves up several killer quips guaranteed to remain among the year's freshest, and the two perfectly cast leading ladies are backed by an engaging mix of emerging talents. Yet it's the old pros who really shine: Sigourney Weaver is suitably smug as the head of the surrogate center, gamely being shellacked by some of the script's best zingers, while Steven Martin is perfect as the owner of an organic health food chain. Martin's ponytailed character is a real piece of P.C. work, and with this portrayal, the actor emerges as Baby Mama's mack daddy. ***

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