Big Trouble

This intricate farce with a Miami setting was adapted from a Dave Barry novel and directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, and it’s a letdown from the man who brought us Men in Black and Addams Family Values. Various crooks and kooks converge on a mysterious suitcase, and it’s symptomatic of what’s wrong (as well as sometimes right) with the picture that the peripheral gags are usually the funniest. There are certainly worse entertainments around, but count on familiar types and gags rather than originality. With Tim Allen (the nominal hero, and Barry’s apparent stand-in), Rene Russo, Stanley Tucci, Tom Sizemore, Johnny Knoxville, Dennis Farina, and Janeane Garofalo. Written by Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone, this was held up for months after September 11 because it concludes with a hijacking. 85 min. (JR)

Published on 26 Mar 2002 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Panic Room

This closed-space thriller pits a divorced mother (Jody Foster) and daughter (Kristen Stewart) against three ruthless burglars (Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, Dwight Yoakam) in a huge brownstone. It’s set up as a stylish exercise in suspense but, barring one or two fancy camera movements, doesn’t succeed as either style or suspense; it’s mainly a matter of applied mechanics. Director David Fincher has a way of squelching some of his best opportunities by shifting to slow motion when real time is what’s needed, and the script by David Koepp is much too predictable in showing that Whitaker has a heart after alland has too little idea of what it or we should do with this belated discovery. I was never bored but only occasionally interested. With Ann Magnuson and Patrick Bauchau. 112 min. (JR)

Published on 26 Mar 2002 in Featured Texts, by admin

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The Project Greenlight Movie: Stolen Summer

The script of local writer-director Pete Jones, set in 1976 Chicago, was the winning entry in an on-line screenwriting competition sponsored by Miramax and HBO, who’ve hawked their operations further by making the film the subject of an HBO documentary series that has subsequently become part of the film’s title. Oblivious to this background when I saw the film, I was alert only to the usual efforts of Miramax to provide heartwarming Oscar fodder, ample in this tale of an earnest eight-year-old Catholic boy who befriends a determined seven-year-old Jewish boy dying of leukemia. There are many plot complications, most designed to get us to applaud our tolerance of religious differences. The eight-year-old’s father, a fireman, saves the life of the seven-year-old; then the seven-year-old’s father, a rabbi, gets his temple to award a med-school scholarship to the eight-year-old’s older brother; but the fireman is too proud to allow him to accept it, until . . . Jones and the actorsAidan Quinn, Bonnie Hunt, Kevin Pollak, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Mike Weinberg, Adi Stein, and Brian Dennehy as a humorous priestdo a pretty good job of filling in the blanks. I say give them all Oscars, send them home, and leave the rest of us in peace. 91 min. (JR)

Published on 18 Mar 2002 in Featured Texts, by admin

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