Jennifer Aniston is just right as Justine, a not especially bright 30-year-old working a dead-end job and married to a house painter (John C. Reilly) who spends his free time smoking pot with his hayseed of a best friend (Tim Blake Nelson). Justine sees an opportunity for escape through her affair with a 22-year-old coworker (Jake Gyllenhaal), but once her illicit activity causes complications (as inevitably it must), she's forced to make a series of hasty decisions that could hurt rather than heal her situation. Director Miguel Arteta and writer Mike White earn our empathy by bouncing humor off the situations rather than the characters, resulting in a sterling example of the sort of "introspective cinema" that not enough filmmakers tackle. DVD extras include audio commentary and deleted scenes.
It grossed $228 million, yet I can't think of another 2002 release that left so many viewers dissatisfied. Mel Gibson is rock-solid as a former reverend who suspects an alien invasion is imminent, but the effective air of ambiguity established in the first hour gives way to a thuddingly obvious second half (think Independence Day without a budget). 1/2
Beating the Austin Powers films at their own game, this blaxploitation spoof (and, surprisingly, a favorite more with critics than audiences) downplays the raunch in favor of gags that rely on the strength of their own cleverness as opposed to the extent of their outrageousness. Granted, this hit-and-miss mode results in a lot of groaners, but the big laughs are tumultuous enough to barrel right over the slow patches.