Film Openings

Week of April 2, 2003

Phone Booth. Joel Schumacher. Kiefer Sutherland's got a sniper rifle, Colin Farrell's trapped in a phone booth for the better part of 80 minutes, Forest Whitaker shows up, people get picked off and, just maybe, our protagonist will learn what it means to be a better person. Think of Phone Booth as a radical remake of Regarding Henry: It takes a bad thing to make a callous man good and whole and pure, which is what passes for therapy in the movies. Phone Booth really plays more like a sick joke, the director's revenge on publicists. PR man Farrell, barely concealing his Irish brogue beneath a New Yawk blurt, walks fast, dresses flash, talks loud and treats underlings like something stuck to his shoe; he's got a wife and a would-be mistress but is really in love with himself, which is why Sutherland wants to off him -- and that's as compelling a premise as dialing the wrong number. A gimmick hung up on itself, in other words, not a movie. Opens Friday, April 4, at multiple locations. (Robert Wilonsky)

Spider. David Cronenberg. Opens Friday, April 4, at the Tivoli. Reviewed this issue. (Bill Gallo)

What a Girl Wants. Dennie Gordon. Dipstick teen Daphne (Amanda Bynes) flees her boho American mother (Kelly Preston) to harass her long-estranged father (Colin Firth), who happens to be an esteemed British lord. With her dad beset by foul political manipulation by his scheming fiancée (Anna Chancellor) and dastardly future father-in-law (Jonathan Pryce), what's a young American chick to do? Why, dance around in trashy clothes to vapid pop music (title song curiously absent) to show those uptight limeys what's what, that's what! Very sketchily based on The Reluctant Debutante (minus the charm, plot and characterization), this stunt could have worked, but alleged screenwriters Jenny Bicks (Dawson's Creek) and Elizabeth Chandler (Someone Like You) and alleged director Gordon (The Adventures of Joe Dirt) seem to think prolonged nonsensical slop is funny. Most offensive are Firth and Pryce as top-honor graduates of the Dan Aykroyd School of Never Saying No. Those Yankee dollars must be pretty damned tempting. God save the queen. No, really. Opens Friday, April 4, at multiple locations. (Gregory Weinkauf)

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