Steve Carell, Morgan Freeman, Lauren Graham, John Goodman, Wanda Sykes | PG | [2 stars]
Politicians, take note: God is an environmentalist. At least as he's portrayed in Evan Almighty
, a hodgepodge of a sequel to 2003's Bruce Almighty
. Freeman, reprising his role as the big guy upstairs, looks at the suburban sprawl and McMansions now blanketing what was once a lush, verdant valley near Washington, D.C., and sees that it is bad.
His remedy? He shows up in mortal form to order Evan Baxter (Carell, moving to center stage after his scene-stealing cameo in Bruce), a newly elected U.S. congressman from Buffalo, to build a giant ark on the lawn of his D.C.-area suburban home. Soon Baxter is sporting an Old Testament look (flowing beard, tresses and robes) and hammering away while scores of furry or feathered twosomes gather to watch. His wife (Graham) and staff suspect a midlife crisis. "Couldn't he have just bought a Corvette?" grouses an aide (Sykes, who always knows her way around a zinger).
While kids may enjoy the many slapsticky sections of Evan (and the endless bird-poop jokes), older viewers will find the film a curious and ill-fitting mix of genres: family comedy, spiritual uplift and disaster movie. Carell, straitjacketed by all that hair and stuck playing straight man to his animal costars, often seems more flustered than funny.
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba
, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis PG | [1 star]
Call 'em the Unfantastic Four or, better yet, the Yawn-Inducing Four. The superhero quartet—which includes the Invisible Woman (Alba), stretchy Mr. Fantastic (Gruffudd), the Human Torch (Evans) and the mammoth Thing (Chiklis)—reunite to save Earth from being destroyed by the Silver Surfer, a sleek, metallic, genitalia-lacking figure who swooshes through space, wreaking havoc, on a shimmery surfboard. This tedious sequel to the foursome's equally mind-numbing but nonetheless moneymaking 2005 film is filled with dumb jokes, seen-it-before special effects and declamatory acting that would barely pass muster on a trashy daytime soap.
John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Mary McCormack PG-13 [2.5 stars]
Talk about lousy customer service. When author Mike Enslin (Cusack) insists on staying in room 1408
at Manhattan's Dolphin Hotel as research for a book on haunted locales, the manager (Jackson) tries mightily to dissuade him. "No one's ever lasted there more than an hour," the hotelier warns. Though 56 previous occupants checked in but never checked out, Mike takes the room anyway. Bad move. How much of what follows—ghostly visitors and terrifying visions—is real and how much reflects demons in Mike's own mind is a question this supernatural thriller leaves open. Based on a short story by Stephen King, 1408
is essentially a one-man show, with Cusack merrily chewing—or, more accurately, clawing at—the scenery. While slyly amusing and even mildly scary, the film makes as lasting an impression as, well, a stay in most hotel rooms.
You Kill Me
Ben Kingsley, Téa Leoni, Luke Wilson | R | [3 stars]
Amid all the big summer flicks, don't overlook this quirky gem from director John Dahl (The Last Seduction
). It's a romantic dramedy about an alcoholic hitman who falls in love. When a vodka-sodden Frank Falenczyk (Kingsley) sleeps through a crucial hit, he's sent to San Francisco to dry out. There he reluctantly joins AA, gets a job in a funeral parlor and begins courting a lanky sourpuss (Leoni), who's unfazed by his past. "But you're not gay," she says, specifying her biggest worry.
What makes You Kill Me
an off-center delight is that it trusts its characters enough just to put them in place and let 'em do whatever they're going to do. The dialogue is sharp and the performances sprightly. Like Tony Soprano, Kingsley's killer gets to you. As for Leoni, she just may be the single most underused, over-talented actress in Hollywood today.