Film Openings

Week of March 22, 2007

Opal Dream. (PG) Rush screaming from anything that announces itself as "a movie for children and grown-ups of all ages." Slight and shamelessly saccharine, Opal Dream is devoted to the proposition that it takes an Australian outback village to validate the imaginary friends of a blond child who is too sensitive for this world but not, alas, for this sappy movie. Adapted from what I suspect is a much better children's novel by Ben Rice, the story turns on eight-year-old Kellyanne (Sapphire Boyce), an arty type who takes after her precious-stone-prospecting dad (Vince Colosimo) and does the pale-and-consumptive thing when her ethereal buddies Pobby and Dingan disappear. Everything goes wrong, until suddenly everything goes right when Kellyanne's practical brother Ashmol (Christian Byers) and their long-suffering mum (Jacqueline McKenzie) rustle up all the crusty salt-of-the-earth types in their dusty village to bond in sympathy for the vanishing dreams of children large and small. Awkwardly directed by Peter Cattaneo, who also made The Full Monty, Opal Dream is burdened with lashings of that movie's schmaltz, but none of its raucous comedy. Pardon my disbelief, but even G-rated tots will roll their worldly little eyes. (Taylor) PF

Pride. (PG) The feature debut from South African director Sunu Gonera is straight from the sports-film playbook, the one in which an underdog team coached by an obstinate overachiever overcomes obstacles and adversity to take home the gold. It's Hoosiers in a swimming pool — well, Glory Road, anyway, given this is about a group of black swimmers competing against all-white teams who wouldn't toss the brothers a life preserver if they were drowning in the deep end. Like most sports pics, Pride is based on a true-life tale, that of Jim Ellis (played here by Terrence Howard), a former college swimmer who, in the 1970s, resuscitates a Philly rec center by filling the pool with water and some neighborhood kids with hope. Destined to be drug-runners for a dangerous but ultimately dim neighborhood thug, the kids instead excel between the lane ropes. If everything about the movie is overly familiar, at least Gonera and his writers get the details right: The pool sequences capture the isolation of the competitive swimmer who crawls for miles in lonely, aching silence. Howard, playing Ellis with equal measures of desperation and determination, is terrific — when is he not? Better still is Bernie Mac as the rec center's janitor, who is suspicious of Ellis' motives until at last he dives in. If nothing else, Pride has the best sports-film soundtrack ever — Philly funk and soul, '70s style. And hell, that'll get ya wet. (Robert Wilonsky) ARN, CGX, DP, J14, MR, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, TS12

Reign Over Me. (R) As Charlie Fineman, a New York dentist who lost his wife and three young daughters in one of the September 11 plane crashes, Adam Sandler sports a mass of bedraggled locks and walks with his head hung low, the sounds of the city drowned out by the Who or Bruce Springsteen blaring from his ever-present iPod. The central figure in writer-director Mike Binder's Reign Over Me, Charlie is the sort of troubled but good-hearted character Hollywood movies yearn to heal or redeem. And Reign Over Me offers up its potential savior in the form of Charlie's former dental-school roommate, Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle), who bumps into Charlie by accident one night and slowly starts to reconnect with his traumatized friend. But particularly in its harrowing third act, the movie proves surprisingly honest and unsentimental about survivor guilt, mental illness, and the inability of time (or therapy or Hollywood movies) to heal certain wounds. As in his 2005 picture The Upside of Anger, Binder loads down his screenplay with too many clunky metaphors and superfluous subplots, but Reign Over Me remains buoyant because the feelings in it are immutable and because Sandler has never before held the screen with greater intensity. (Scott Foundas) CPP, DP, OF, RON, SP, STCH

Shooter. (R) Reviewed in this issue. ARN, CMP, DP, J14, KEN, MR, MOO, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, TS12

TMNT. (PG) There may be no finer phrase in the English language than "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," but given how kids these days are super into that whole internet thing, the latest adventure of the crime-fighting, sewer-dwelling, slang-dropping pop-culture phenomenon is called simply TMNT. Unlikely to achieve BFF status with the MMORPG set, this CGI feature is light on the LOL factor, heavy on the ADD action scenes, and, like, TOOIFM (Totally Out Of Its Freakin' Mind). To wit: 3,000 years ago, a power-mad warrior opened a nasty magic portal that granted him immortality, turned his four brothers into stone, and unleashed 13 monsters upon his foes. Cut to the present, where the immortal warrior turned melancholy industrialist (voiced by Patrick Stewart) has rounded up his rocky brethren and enlisted Karai (Ziyi Zhang) and her ninja Foot Clan to capture the monsters, thereby reversing the curse. Meanwhile, the color-coordinated turtle dudes reunite to foil the plot with the help of Splinter (Mako), their Fu Manchu rat guru, and two dorky white kids (Sarah Michelle Gellar, Chris Evans). Oodles of madcap digi-fu ensues, along with some halfhearted life lessons for the shelled heroes. Writer-director Kevin Munroe parties like it's 1989, grooving on the Xtreme sports set pieces and vintage slang to generally cowabusted effect. (Lee) ARN, CMP, DP, EG, GL, J14, KEN, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, TS12

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