Film Openings

Week of June 19, 2002

Cherish. Finn Taylor. Trapped by an electronic ankle bracelet in a large inner-city warehouse after being put under house arrest, Robin Tunney once again charms the audience without the benefit of particularly good material. The meat of the story is in the relationship between her and her parole officer, played by Tim Blake Nelson, a better actor (O Brother, Where Art Thou?) than director (O), who shows signs of possibly becoming the next Steve Buscemi, a "funny-lookin'" Coen alumnus with inexplicable sex appeal. The set-up is overlong and unnecessarily convoluted, involving a mysterious stalker who's behind Tunney's arrest, and the film's last third awkwardly becomes a passable thriller with an inexplicable coda. Director Taylor (Dream With the Fishes) lays it on too thick at times, with silly fantasy sequences, a gay Jewish dwarf in a wheelchair and rocker Liz Phair playing a character in a world where posters for Liz Phair the musician are quite evident. Tunney's still looking for that big breakthrough, but at least the poster for this one looks great. Opens June 21 at the Tivoli. (LYT)

The Dangerous Lives of Alter Boys. Peter Care. Opens June 21 at the Plaza Frontenac and Tivoli. Reviewed this issue.

Juwanna Mann. Jesse Vaughan. Wonder whether Larry Gelbart's lawyers have begun drafting the paperwork; though he and Tootsie's countless other writers aren't mentioned in Juwanna Mann's credits, this limp gender-bender-baller from a first-time director and rookie screenwriter steals wholesale from that 1982 comedy, forgetting only to retain a single laugh. Every Tootsie character returns here: Miguel A. Nunez Jr., as self-aggrandizing pro basketball star Jamal Jeffries and his tucked-dick, Southern-fried she-male counterpart, gets the Dustin Hoffman role; Vivica A. Fox, playing Juwanna's teammate-friend-and-would-be-lover, snares the Jessica Lange part; Tommy Davidson, as a rapper with a mouth of gold and a head of marbles, gets to be Flavor-Flav as Charles Durning; and Kevin Pollak, as Jamal/Juwanna's agent, reprises the Sidney Pollack part, suggesting an inside joke, which would be the movie's only one. This is a weird freak of a film: It bleeps its foulest curse words, offers inspirational life lessons by the ton and has all the momentum of boulder on a flat surface; it feels archaic and plays old-fashioned, and when it wants to cut loose, it just gets loud. Oddest thing: Nunez looks better as a woman, though he looks the same as a man. Wha? Opens June 21 at multiple locations. (RW)

The Lady and the Duke. Eric Rohmer. Opens June 21 at the Plaza Frontenac. Reviewed this issue.

Lilo and Stitch. Chris Sanders and Dean Deblois. Somewhere outside the Magic Kingdom, there are bored people. Blissfully unaware of the suits who design the multiplex fodder they'll be mentally munching, these people discover a movie about a pug-nosed and pugnacious little Hawaiian girl bearing the boy's name of Lilo (voiced by Daveigh Chase) and her barely adult sister and guardian, Nani (Tia Carrere), who accidentally adopt a massively destructive galactic mutant named Experiment 626 (co-director Sanders), which they assume to be a weird dog and name Stitch. As the sisters' parentless home is threatened by a determined social worker named Cobra Bubbles (Ving Rhames) and Stitch is hunted by his literally four-eyed alien maker, Jumba Jookiba (Disney fave David Ogden Stiers), we get copious giggles and insistent messages about the importance of family -- or, in Hawaiian, 'ohana. As if it weren't already weird enough, the movie also proudly wears an Elvis fetish. When the chuckles subside, this slyly packaged show's all about integrity, identity and community -- the goals of anyone who's all shook up. Opens June 21 at multiple locations. (GW)

Minority Report. Steven Spielberg. Opens June 21 at multiple locations. Reviewed this issue.

Mysterious Object at Noon. Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Mysterious Object (2000) is a curious amalgam of fact and fiction set in Thailand. Director Weereasthakul has concocted an experimental structure that intersperses documentary-style interviews with a curious narrative, one that has been fed to them by the filmmaker. The result is challenging and captures the spirit of the country. Plays at 8 p.m. June 21-23 at Webster University. NR

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