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Film Clips

Capsule reviews of films currently playing in Charlotte

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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. ***

DECEPTION It's hard to believe a movie starring Hugh Jackman and Ewan McGregor, two impossibly charismatic actors, could be so dull, but the evidence is right here. McGregor stars as Jonathan McQuarry, a meek accountant who has no fun until a lawyer named Wyatt Bose (Jackman) swoops down like a slumming deus ex machina and introduces his new pal to the pleasures of pot, nightclubs and mixed doubles tennis matches. Just before Wyatt leaves town for a business trip, he "accidentally" switches cell phones with Jonathan; soon, the virginal numbers cruncher is receiving calls during which sexy female voices merely whisper, "Are you free tonight?" Passing himself off as Wyatt, Jonathan soon discovers an anonymous sex club in which the members all turn out to be Wall Street movers and shakers. Before long, though, he realizes he's the victim of a major – wait, let me check the title again – deception. Since this is a costly studio project subject to MPAA approval (and we know what those prudes think about s-e-x), viewers looking for some steamy stimulation will soon discover they're not getting Shortbus as much as they're getting the short end of the stick. Indeed, the sex club turns out to be so irrelevant to the plot than the characters might as well have belonged to the Wine of the Month Club or Oprah's Book Club instead. Ultimately, the movie packs less erotic heat than even Horton Hears a Who! or Young@Heart. This wouldn't matter if the mystery was in any way compelling, but there are no surprises to be found anywhere along the way to its laughable finale. It's best if Jackman sticks with the X-Men and leaves the XXX to others. *

88 MINUTES 88 Minutes actually runs 108 minutes, a cruel trick to play on moviegoers who check their watches at the 80-minute mark and erroneously believe they're on the verge of being set free. A film so moldy that it was released on DVD in some countries as far back as February 2007, this risible thriller stars Al Pacino as Dr. Jack Gramm, a college professor and forensic psychiatrist whose expertise has helped the FBI in nailing down serial killers. One such murderer is Jon Forster (Neal McDonough), whose claim of innocence – even on the day of his execution – is taken seriously once a new rash of similarly styled killings begins. But are these murders the work of a copycat? Is Forster innocent, and the real killer has never been caught? Is he masterminding the proceedings from his front-row seat on Death Row, with an accomplice on the outside doing his dirty deeds? Or is it possible that the killer is Gramm himself? Director Jon Avnet tries to ratchet up the suspense by presenting every character, right down to bit players, as the possible assassin, but it's an approach that only garners laughs. It's usually fun when a murder-mystery offers several suspects, but this goes beyond serving up some red herrings; here, we get trout, tilapia and mahi mahi as well. Scripter Gary Scott Thompson wrote The Fast and the Furious, so that probably explains why Gramm spends a good amount of time driving a taxi (don't ask) across the city looking for clues. But Thompson also wrote the straight-to-DVD sequels to K-9K-911 and K-9: P.I. – so he's also quite familiar with dogs. Rest assured, 88 Minutes joins the pack of movie mongrels. *1/2

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