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Film Openings 

Week of March 9, 2006

The Boys of Baraka. (Not Rated) Reviewed in this issue TV

Failure to Launch. (PG-13) At long last, Matthew McConaughey has chosen the perfect vehicle in which to highlight his slacker radiance: He plays the aptly named Tripp, a 35-year-old yacht salesman who still lives with his mommy (Kathy Bates) and daddy (Terry Bradshaw). Tripp uses the folks to break up with girls he feels are getting too attached: He brings them home for a night of foolin' around, then waits for Dad to barge in before springing the news he still lives at home. Works every time, at least until he brings home Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker), who doesn't blanch at the news. But that's only because Tripp's folks have hired her to lure their boy out of the nest; she's a paid girlfriend . . . fine, a whore. Failure to Launch, directed by Shanghai Noon's Tom Dey, has all the gravitas of a midseason-replacement sitcom. But beneath the sitcom sheen, there's a darker movie about broken people who use convenient, pitiful excuses to keep from growing up. You laugh at them, but you also have sympathy. (Robert Wilonsky) ARN, CGX, CW10, CC12, DP, EG, EQ, GL, J14, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, WO

The Hills Have Eyes. (R) Reviewed in this issue. ARN, CGX, CW10, CC12, DP, EQ, J14, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, WO

The Libertine. (R) An artful and brooding period piece about John Wilmot (Johnny Depp), a scandalously debauched earl of the English Restoration who apparently was not in contact with feelings of compassion or sympathy. The film opens with an attack — "I am John Wilmot, the second Earl of Rochester, and I do not want you to like me," the earl snarls — and doesn't soften, despite Wilmot's infatuation with actress Lizzie Barry (Samantha Morton). By the time the alcoholism and syphilis have peeled the skin from Wilmot's face and the muscle from his bones, it's hard not to feel at least a little tainted by his vast personal plague — and also moved, if not by his own self-loathing, then by the care of those around him. The Libertine is an interesting film, and a good one, with a harrowing performance by Depp, whose apparent enjoyment of the role seems only to increase as his character deteriorates. John Malkovich, playing King Charles II, is a delight. (Levine) CGX, CC12, RON, STCH, WO

The Shaggy Dog. (PG) After being bitten by a 300-year-old Buddhist canine that U.S. government commandos have snatched from Tibet (this is what it takes to make a dog movie exportable?), a workaholic family man and inveterate pooch-hater (Tim Allen) starts scratching behind the ears, hearing high-pitched sounds, slurping milk from the cereal bowl, and licking his wife's face. And the grown-up viewer starts checking his watch. Disney's tried-and-true slapstick material (est. 1959) is here given a heinously unimaginative interpretation by five screenwriters and a director who manages to squander the gifts of an absurdly overqualified supporting cast. The bit players (Robert Downey Jr., Danny Glover, Jane Curtin, Philip Baker Hall) barely clock screen time with the Bearded Collie, which may be co-producer Allen's way of protecting his sleepy performance from competition. Where the original film generously reflected Cold War angst and budding youth-culture dissent, this dad-in-the-doghouse tract could've been made in 1995 . . . or 1985. My eight-year-old nephew sat nearly silent throughout, so when he says he had fun, he must be talking about the treats. (Rob Nelson) ARN, CGX, CW10, CC12, DP, EG, EQ, J14, KEN, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, WO

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