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Film Clips

CL's capsule reviews are rated on a four-star rating system.

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NEW RELEASES

2 FAST 2 FURIOUS Never rising much above the level of a mediocrity, the 2001 sleeper smash The Fast and the Furious at least had two things going for it: the magnetic presence of co-star Vin Diesel and plenty of spectacular stunt work involving car races, car chases and car crashes. But with Diesel deciding to commit himself to other projects (namely, follow-ups to Pitch Black and XXX), this sequel's appeal is immediately cut in half -- and it's reduced even more by the fact that the car sequences don't match the visceral impact of the first film's auto focus. Whereas 1 Fast 1 Furious centered on illegal street racing, part deux relies on that standard plotline known to B-movie aficionados worldwide: the efforts of an undercover cop to... yawn... infiltrate a crime kingpin's inner circle and expose his corrupt ways. Returning star Paul Walker remains as dull as ever, but he's no worse than his co-stars: the hammy Tyrese as his best friend and the wooden Eva Mendes as a fellow undercover operative who may have switched allegiances. Director John Singleton once earned an Oscar nod for Boyz N The Hood but has now been reduced to this drivel. Still, let's not be too hard on him -- after all, John Boorman made Exorcist II: The Heretic a few short years after Deliverance and still managed to work his way up again. 1/2

CURRENT RELEASES

BRUCE ALMIGHTY In this hit-and-miss comedy, Jim Carrey, frequently playing to the rafters in what in anybody else's hands would have been a fairly restrained character, stars as Bruce Nolan, a TV reporter who's tired of fluff pieces and yearns to become the new anchorman. But instead of getting his wish, he ends up enduring the worst day of his life, leading to a tirade directed at God. Faced with this outburst, God (Morgan Freeman) pays Bruce a visit and offers him a challenge: Take charge for a while, and see if you can do a better job of overseeing the planet. If, as the saying goes, God is in the details, then that's also where to look in Bruce Almighty for some of the film's finest moments, as the throwaway bits are generally funnier than the big set pieces. Naturally, Carrey's adept (if overly exaggerated) with the comic shtick, but the quasi-serious scenes in which he expresses self-righteous anger are actually among the movie's strongest -- it's no wonder that at one point It's a Wonderful Life is shown playing on TV, because Bruce's predicament, a decent man who's been drop-kicked by life yet given the chance to envision an alternate reality, is the same one that plagued James Stewart's George Bailey. But because this is a summer popcorn flick, the movie backs away from taking Bruce to the edge -- he never flirts with the dark side, as George Bailey did. What's left is harmless, acceptable entertainment, just not the galvanizing religious experience that was within its almighty grasp. 1/2

DADDY DAY CARE There's been a lot of grousing lately about how any time Eddie Murphy appears in a family film, he's wasting the hard-edged skills that initially made him a star in such R-rated hits as 48HRS. and Beverly Hills Cop. I'd be more sympathetic to this argument had Murphy only made good R-rated flicks, but the truth is that he's far easier to take in pictures like Mulan and now Daddy Day Care than in foul-mouthed turkeys like Beverly Hills Cop II, Harlem Nights and Vampire In Brooklyn. In fact, Murphy's charming performance proves to be one of the stronger aspects of this PG-rated piffle about two marketing executives (Murphy and Jeff Garlin) who, after losing their jobs, decide to open their own day care center. The usual unimaginative touches are on view -- several flatulence bits, over-the-top comic foils (played by Anjelica Huston and Kevin Nealon), etc. -- but an acceptable number of decent gags, a sweet turn by Steve Zahn as a Daddy Day Care employee with a Star Trek obsession, and Murphy's strong rapport with his young co-stars (especially Khamani Griffin as his son) make this more enjoyable than any level-headed adult could have reasonably expected. 1/2

DOWN WITH LOVE Trying to replicate those frothy Rock Hudson-Doris Day romantic comedies from the late 50s/early 60s was a clever idea; cross-pollinating it with the Austin Powers movies before letting it reach the screen was a terrible one. Indeed, it's the smarmy, smutty humor that single-handedly threatens to torpedo this kitschy throwback that nevertheless contains enough appealing elements to just barely overcome its fondness for awkward double entendres. Director Peyton Reed (Bring It On) and his crew certainly get the look right, from the Technicolor saturation to the lavish sets to the ab-fab costumes, and scripters Eve Ahlert and Dennis Drake have come up with an acceptable plotline involving a playboy-journalist (Ewan McGregor) and his attempts to tame the author (Renee Zellweger) of a best-selling pre-feminist manifesto. McGregor and Zellweger are likable in their roles, even if they're far more mannered than Hudson and Day ever were. Still, movies of this ilk were often stolen by the supporting players, and that's the case here as well, with Sarah Paulson and especially David Hyde Pierce delightful as the leads' confidantes. Had this steered clear of the juvenile gags that pop up every now and then (the split-screen phone conversation sequence is downright dreadful), it might have been closer to last year's Far From Heaven as both a homage and a deepening of vintage classics; instead, it's merely an adequate comedy with eye-popping visuals. 1/2

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