BAD COMPANY Taking an explosive comic actor like Chris Rock and corralling his talents by sticking him in a dull action film is like buying an expensive sports car and solely using it to drive to the grocery store down the block. Yet that's the story that unfolds with this blob of studio-generated claptrap that's so generic, nobody could even bother to come up with a more original title (there have been approximately a dozen movies over the years with the same moniker). Anthony Hopkins, whose appearances in subpar films are so frequent that one suspects he's planning to purchase a small nation with his blood money, plays veteran CIA agent Gaylord Oakes, whose partner (Chris Rock) gets killed while they're both on a mission involving the appropriation of (what else?) a nuclear weapon. Needing a stand-in or the whole caper goes bust, Oakes recruits his late partner's twin brother, a street-smart small-timer (also Rock), to pose as his slain sibling. What could have been a savvy mix of laughs and thrills (think Beverly Hills Cop) is instead transformed by director Joel Schumacher and a quartet of writers into a strained comedy that quickly jettisons all opportunities for Rock to make his mark by serving up the usual chaotic nonsense. Needlessly overlong at 112 minutes (there are at least two points where you think the movie's wrapping up, but nooo), this is also the sort of sloppy cinema in which a character gets shot point-blank in the back yet reappears a few scenes later with only his arm in a sling. 1/2
THE BOURNE IDENTITY With real-life best buddy Ben Affleck off trying to save the world in the current The Sum of All Fears, it's only fitting that Matt Damon would be involved in his own spy game in The Bourne Identity. In an attempt to make the dog-eared espionage genre more palatable to younger audiences, Universal Pictures elected to go with a young director (Doug Liman of Swingers fame) and a youthful star (Damon's Jason Bourne is at least a decade younger than the book's Bourne, who was previously played at a more appropriate age by Richard Chamberlain in a 1988 TV-movie adaptation). Damon's a better actor than Affleck, yet it was easier to accept Affleck as a greenhorn CIA analyst learning the ropes than it is to believe Damon as a seasoned CIA assassin. Nevertheless, Damon brings the proper conviction to his role as an amnesiac who slowly uncovers clues to his identity even as he's being pursued across Europe by various killers working for a slippery government suit (Chris Cooper). With so-so action sequences that often elicit as many giggles as gasps and an impressive supporting cast that largely goes to waste (Clive Owen, the exciting new talent from Croupier and Gosford Park, is criminally underused as one of Bourne's pursuers), The Bourne Identity stands no chance of ranking with the classic espionage epics of yesteryear. At the same time, Damon enjoys a strong rapport with co-star Franka Potente (the Run Lola Run actress plays an innocent passerby who ends up aiding Bourne in his quest), and the constant locale switches (a prerequisite in all thrillers of this nature) help ensure that the movie's breathless pace never flags. 1/2
DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD Because it largely takes place in Louisiana (though filming was done in Wilmington), it's appropriate to tag this adaptation of two novels by Rebecca Wells as a big pot of gumbo, with varied ingredients all swimming together in a sea of saucy girl power. Yet while many of these ingredients may stick to the heart, they don't necessarily stick to the head: Divine Secrets is sloppy in a number of fundamental ways, with the chronology making little sense (the story whiplashes between at least three different time periods), entire themes getting discarded within a matter of seconds, and important characters given too little screen time. And yet, for all its random chaos, this works because of the power of its convictions -- and its cast. Ellen Burstyn, Maggie Smith, Fionnula Flanagan and Shirley Knight play the title lifelong friends in their advanced years, with three of them coming to the rescue to prevent the fourth (Burstyn) from severing all ties with her angry young daughter (Sandra Bullock), who doesn't know the dark secrets that have haunted her mother over the years (Ashley Judd plays the young Burstyn in the flashback sequences). The tough-love approach taken by writer-director Callie Khouri (still best known for her Oscar-winning script for Thelma & Louise) makes this a curious yet ultimately satisfying melodrama.
ENOUGH A sleazy exploitation flick disguised as a serious message movie about a nutcase who beats his wife, this ultimately has as much to do with spousal abuse as The Wizard of Oz does with agriculture in Kansas. Jennifer Lopez plays a savvy waitress who ends up meeting and marrying the "perfect man" (Billy Campbell). But in about the time it takes to clip one half of one fingernail, Hubby turns into a complete monster, an ogre who has affairs with seemingly every woman on the continent, beats his wife to a bloody pulp and even gets rough with their helpless daughter (Tessa Allen, cast not so much for her acting ability as for the fact that she draws a collective "aww" from the audience every time the camera zooms in on her tear-streaked little face). The fact that he excuses his beastly behavior by declaring that he's simply doing what a man's gotta do is offensive enough, but don't think this wanna-be feminist empowerment fantasy goes easy on the women, either: Thousands of wives in this country feel trapped in abusive marriages because they don't have the funds to escape or fight back, but hey, that's no problem in this movie, not when Lopez manages to track down her estranged father (Fred Ward), a boisterous lout who's so rich he can personally bankroll his long-lost daughter's entire revenge plot. It would take too much space and effort to list the countless plot holes littering the movie, but rest assured there are enough of them to draw comparisons to the Grand Canyon.