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Week of May 17, 2007

Away From Her. (PG-13) Reviewed in this issue PF

Fay Grim. (R) Hard to remember, but back in the early 1990s, Hal Hartley was regarded as the hot young American indie filmmaker, and the 1997 Henry Fool, a seriously frivolous allegory on art, fame, fate, and the power of the internet, was hailed as his breakthrough. Hartley's career promptly stumbled; as Henry Fool's belated sequel, Fay Grim seems nearly an act of desperation. Three of the principals return: the Queens sanitation man turned poet Simon Grim (professionally affectless James Urbaniak), his sister Fay (Parker Posey), and, briefly, the saturnine mystery tramp who changed their life, Henry Fool (Thomas Jay Ryan). A decade has passed as the CIA comes to Queens in the form of Jeff Goldblum, who appears as a duplicitous spook. Not lacking for ambition, Fay Grim adds a topical, national-security subtext to Henry Fool's more romantic concerns: The MacGuffin is a series of confessional notebooks that Henry may have written in a code that amounts to a secret, highly damning history of the Reagan Era. Off to Paris in search of the notebooks, Posey looks smashing in a fitted town-coat ensemble, and for perhaps 40 minutes, Fay Grim actually sort of works as a comic thriller. But precisely when the film strains for the big narrative revelation, it seems least consequential. (J. Hoberman) TV

Shrek the Third. (PG) There's not much to get excited about in this gaseous, overstuffed, prime case of franchise fatigue. Our stinky ogre grows flabbier by the sequel, and this time around we find him reeling not only from the death of his froggy father-in-law and the prospect of running the kingdom of Far Far Away in his stead, but the news that the lovely Fiona is great with child. What to do in the face of such crisis but take to the road with Donkey and Puss In Boots while shoehorning in a new character (voiced by Justin Timberlake) designed to drag the middle-school demographic away from its iPods and into the multiplex? Bolstered by fart jokes, mass marketing, and the usual flood of tie-ins, Shrek the Third will surely take in its usual bundle at the international box office. But that doesn't make the movie a success. Like many another shoddy sequel, this one founders not only on the difficulty of extending a franchise beyond its natural life, but also on the unbearable strain of juggling a bunch of target demographics at once. Blinded by avarice and all out of ideas, once again Hollywood can't tell when enough is way more than enough. (Taylor) ARN, CPP, CGX, DP, EG, GL, J14, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, TS12

 
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