Film Openings

Week of June 16, 2004

Around the World in 80 Days Frank Coraci. (PG) It took three people to write this latest adaptation of the Jules Verne classic, and it claims as its director the man who made The Waterboy. Complete with bargain-bin cameos (Rob Schneider, Owen and Luke Wilson as the Wright Brothers), this is barely an adaptation of the novel, just a Jackie Chan vehicle shoehorned into hoary material that steals its central plot from, of all things, Shanghai Knights. Chan plays the role of Passepartout, valet to inventor Phileas Fogg (Steve Coogan), and it's one more mediocre Hollywood film in which Chan engages in a few elaborately and amusingly staged fight sequences while playing sidekick to someone for whom English is not a second language. But Coogan's decision to appear in this film is particularly distressing, because it suggests a bald-faced desire to swap hipster respectability for the easy paycheck. The whole thing looks like something filmed on a studio back lot that's been closed for years. Opens Wednesday, June 16, at multiple locations. (Robert Wilonsky) [See full review here].

Baadasssss! Mario Van Peebles. (R) Opens Friday, June 18, at the Plaza Frontenac. Reviewed in this issue.

Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story Rawson Marshall Thurber. (PG-13) A national fitness franchise threatens to take over Average Joe's, a small-time gym. A group of friends (led by Vince Vaughn) rally to save their local gym in a "winner takes all" dodgeball contest in Las Vegas. Ben Stiller also stars. The question is: Are there any dodgeball yuks left after South Park's definitive episode on the subject? Opens Friday, June 18, at multiple locations. NR

The Terminal Steven Spielberg. (PG-13) Opens Friday, June 18, at multiple locations. Reviewed in this issue.

The Trilogy: After the Life Lucas Belvaux. (unrated) Arduous and redundant, yet ultimately satisfying, this feature must be seen third out of Lucas Belvaux's so-called trilogy, which is better defined as a cinematic triptych, offering three views of the same general scenarios. The director's basic thesis -- that fragmented perceptions tell only part of anyone's story -- arrives here at its clearest, and the film would seem very random without the other two. Stepping beyond the failed "thriller" that was On the Run and the modest romantic comedy of An Amazing Couple, After the Life gives a much fuller picture of former peripheral characters Pascal (Gilbert Melki) and Agnés (Dominique Blanc). He's a punchy cop pitched somewhere between Al Pacino and Andy Garcia; she's his long-suffering, morphine-addicted wife. Trouble brews when she turns to the first film's lefty-terrorist antihero (Belvaux) for support, and the melodrama, while occasionally soap-opera wishy-washy, proves affecting through Blanc's strong delivery. Although the first film is laughably bad, the overall directorial achievement is ambitious and noteworthy, particularly coming from an actor. Opens Sunday, June 20, at the Tivoli. (Gregory Weinkauf)

The Trilogy: An Amazing Couple Lucas Belvaux. (unrated) Sexless and farceless, yet French, this romantic comedy was released in Europe as the first of Lucas Belvaux's trio of parallel films (prior to the limp "thriller" On the Run), and it's the most confident and enjoyable of the bunch. Here the gorgeous Cécile (Ornella Muti) frets that her nerdy, hypochondriac husband Alain (François Morel, disturbingly channeling Tom Hanks) is cheating and hires uppity, omnipresent cop Pascal (Gilbert Melki) to tail him. Silly social faux pas ensue, mostly involving Alain freaking out at his personal assistant (Valérie Mairesse) and everybody else, with Cécile passionately adoring him throughout for utterly inexplicable reasons. Surprisingly, these "bit players" from the other two films stand strongest overall, and the linking interstitials are the least random and distracting. Director Belvaux delivers a quaint series of misunderstandings amid his sharpest technical achievement and seems in best form when he's not trying to force some vague ideological agenda on us. Don't go for big yuks, but the movie does evince a sweet charm, right up to its peculiar non-ending. Opens Friday, June 18, at the Tivoli. (Gregory Weinkauf)

 
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