THE HONEYMOONERS The classic 1950s TV sitcom gets refitted for a 21st century big-screen excursion, but unfortunately, it's the audience who gets it right in the kisser. This film has so few connective threads with the original that it's clear Paramount simply awarded the title to the highest bidder - for all we know, the makers of other recent Paramount releases like Sahara, Coach Carter and The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie might have wanted to call their film The Honeymooners but couldn't raise enough cash to secure the rights. We do get an irascible bus driver named Ralph Kramden and his dim-witted friend Ed Norton, played here by Cedric the Entertainer and Mike Epps. The plot centers around their efforts to raise enough money to place a down payment on a duplex coveted by their wives (Gabrielle Union and Regina Hall); to make that dream a reality, Ralph invests their savings in dubious schemes involving an abandoned train car and an abandoned mutt. One character makes a crack about The WB, which in all honesty is where this soggy film belongs. Nothing about it screams "motion picture"; instead, its feeble jokes and rudimentary acting would make it at home smack in the middle of a primetime sit-com line-up. On the plus side, John Leguizamo is a hoot as a motor-mouthed hustler, and there's one funny line about the "Shah of Argentina." On the puzzling side, there's a curious bit in which people keep mistaking our African-American protagonists for Chinese musicians (say what?). Forget Gleason's "To the moon, Alice" catchphrase: "To the video bargain bin" is more like it.
MR. AND MRS. SMITH Based on the countless scenes in which Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie strip down to their underwear, it's obvious there isn't an ounce of flab on either of those beautiful bodies - it's just too bad the same can't be said about the film itself. Sorry, Ms. Aniston, but Brad and Angelina make a hot on-screen couple, and they gleefully throw themselves into this chaotic action flick in which the sharp dialogue is too often drowned out by the incessant explosions and automatic weapons fire. The People Magazine perennials play John and Jane Smith, a suburban couple who've grown bored with each other over the six years they've been married. But what they don't realize is that they're both skilled assassins working for competing agencies; once this tidbit of information becomes known to both parties, each is suddenly forced to try to kill the other. Mr. and Mrs. Smith begins promisingly, with Simon Kinberg contributing a script full of wry observations about the level of secrecy inherent in most marriages, and how the stakes might be raised exponentially when the spousal subterfuge occurs between people who kill for a living. But the movie's pacing is damaged by Doug Liman's lackadaisical direction, and once the emphasis shifts from the characters to the hardware they employ, it becomes just another noisy spectacle that cops out with a crowd-friendly ending (instead of the more downbeat finale that would logically follow the climactic set piece).
CINDERELLA MAN No filmmaker in his right mind would want his boxing picture to be released a scant few months after Million Dollar Baby, but Cinderella Man is so structurally and tonally different from Clint Eastwood's masterwork that it might as well be about jai alai. Almost every summer has one tony Oscar-bait production geared toward older audiences, and Cinderella Man, which relates the real-life story of pugilist James J. Braddock, adequately fills the role. Russell Crowe's touching portrayal is instrumental in recruiting the audience's sympathies from the get-go, and director Ron Howard and his A Beautiful Mind writer Akiva Goldsman take care to spend as much time detailing the ravages of the Depression as they do Braddock's exploits in the ring. This film may not break new ground, but in its ability to provide old-fashioned entertainment, the gloves come flying off.
HIGH TENSION In this dismal French import badly dubbed into English, a filthy guy (Philippe Nahon) in mechanic's garb murders a married couple and their little boy before setting about raping the daughter (Maiwenn). But unbeknownst to the killer, the girl has a pal (Cecile De France) who tries to figure out a way to rescue her friend from the clutches of this madman. There are slivers of genuine style to be found in writer-director Alexandre Aja's approach - here's a man who, for better or worse, is trying to deliver a no-holds-barred exercise in grueling horror, and he has the technical savvy to back him up. But any semblance of psychological complexity remains a no-show until an absurd final twist: The film isn't scary, suspenseful, thought-provoking or - heck - even remotely entertaining, and the murderer goes through the motions as mechanically as the slashers in the Friday the 13th and Halloween franchises.