Film Openings

Week of February 9, 2006

Curious George

Caché (Hidden). (R) The best thing about Michael Haneke's latest is the way it draws on very contemporary fears without ever mentioning them. It's not a biological weapon that arrives on the doorstep of Georges and Anne Laurent (French superstars Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche), but a videotape, seemingly filmed from a static camera just outside their house — a camera that, judging by the footage, Georges walked right past without noticing. The tape itself isn't that intimidating. But then another one comes, wrapped in what appears to be a child's drawing of someone spitting up blood. Anonymous phone calls are received, and Georges and Anne's 12-year-old son (Lester Makedonsky) gets a similar blood-spitting drawing delivered to him at school. Subsequent videotapes showcase Georges' childhood home, then a totally new location. To say more about why the film works would be to risk revealing too much. Not knowing is what makes people afraid, and not knowing where Haneke is going is a large part of what works. (Luke Y. Thompson) TV

Curious George. (G) From a 65-year-old franchise comes a palatable, even occasionally fizzy concoction kids will gulp up and their folks won't choke on. There are snippets of classic Curious George stories: George painting a white bedroom in palm-tree greens and leopardskin yellows; George scaling a high-rise like a miniature King Kong; George soaring over Manhattan with a handful of helium-filled balloons; etc. Those looking for subtext — or even the occasional pop-culture gag — can peek elsewhere. I know one two-year-old who thought it the best thing ever; presumably, he's the demo, and I'm just the wallet and car keys. The story couldn't be more mundane: The owner of a natural science museum (voiced by Dick Van Dyke) will be forced to let his scheming son turn the joint into a parking lot unless museum anthropologist Ted (Will Ferrell) returns from Africa with a 40-foot-tall idol. The best thing you can say for the movie is that it's decidedly old-fashioned (or timeless, choose your back-handed compliment). (Robert Wilonsky) ARN, CGX, CC12, DP, EG, J14, KEN, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, WO

Final Destination 3. (R) Reviewed in this issue. (Thompson) ARN, CGX, CW10, CC12, DP, EG, EQ, J14, KEN, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, WO

Firewall. (PG-13) Reviewed in this issue. (Wilonsky) ARN, CGX, CC12, DP, EQ, J14, KEN, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, WO

Go For Zucker!. (Not Rated) This comedy from director Dani Levy (Aimee & Jaguar) has American remake written all over it: Jakob Zuckerman, once a famous sports anchor in East Germany and an avowed "godless Communist," owes some 45,000 Euros, and his banker (his son, Thomas, no less) wants him put in jail; his wife just wants him out of the house. That is, until Jakob — also a pool hustler and owner of an upscale Berlin brothel — receives a telegram from his brother Samuel, the most pseudo of Orthodox Jews, informing him their mama's died; the brothers can receive her inheritance only if they reconcile and sit shiva, which interferes with Jakob's plan to make 100,000 Euros in a pool tourney. But both families are in on the hustle. Zucker!'s a bona fide hit in Germany, where, apparently, there's been a shortage of Jewish comedies since, oh, 1939, give or take. But it deserves its imported rep; rare's the movie that has an Orthodox Jew tripping on Ecstasy while getting a massage from a Palestinian prostitute hours before his mamala's funeral. (Wilonsky) TV

The Pink Panther. (PG) This occasionally amusing but wrongheaded remake of the Peter Sellers/Blake Edwards comedy classic stars Steve Martin as the famously inept French detective Inspector Clouseau. While Martin retains from his great model a sheer ignorance of the mayhem he's inflicting on the world, the nouveau Clouseau misfires badly when it comes to sustaining the blind vanity that's been the source of our delight since 1963. The current moviemakers (including director Shawn Levy) not only ask us to pity the fallen Clouseau; they also give him a glimpse into his own folly and a touch of competence. That's fatal. Martin collaborated on the screenplay. With Kevin Kline as the inspector's pompous boss, Dreyfus, French star Jean Reno as his sidekick, and diva Beyoncé Knowles as the required flash of beauty. As with the Eiffel Tower, there is only one Clouseau. (Bill Gallo) ARN, CGX, CW10, CC12, DP, EG, EQ, J14, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, WO

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