BIOPIC

Alexander

Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer, Rosario Dawson, Anthony Hopkins, Jared Leto, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Christopher Plummer

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Director Oliver Stone has made bombastically bad films (1994's Natural Born Killers) but never one that was boring. Until now. Alexander, or Alexander the Grating as it shall henceforth be known in these quarters, is one long, irritating snooze.

Long is the key word: This plodding portrait of the ruler who conquered the world while still in his 20s and was dead by age 32 runs for 2 hours and 55 finger-drumming, leg-jiggling minutes.

Farrell, decked out in pale blond wigs and thigh-baring togas, plays Alexander, who succeeds to the throne of Macedonia in 236 B.C. at age 20, following the assassination of his father (Kilmer). He promptly sets out to conquer Western Asia, Persia and parts east, waging war for eight straight years. In between battles, he tries to shake off the influence of his domineering mother (Jolie); exchanges yearning, passion-filled glances with Hephaistion (Leto), a boyhood friend turned adviser; weds an exotic dancer (Dawson, in a role that will do little to further her career) to beget an heir; and makes eyes at a fetching eunuch (Francisco Bosch).

The film is a mish-mash, flitting from political intrigue to battles to Alexander's sex life (there are male-to-male hugs and two kisses, but the sole sex scene is heterosexual). It rises above the level of a mediocre TV miniseries only when Jolie shows up. At least she, as Olympias, Alexander's scheming, snake-handling mom, plays this balderdash with conviction and a trace of wit. Farrell emotes mightily but comes off as a petulant schoolboy rather than a mighty ruler. How bad is Alexander? It makes Troy—a thoroughly average film—seem a masterpiece. (R)

ACTION

National Treasure

Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger

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This is one of those movies that excites audiences and causes critics to turn up their noses. Reviewers sitting" through the perfunctory National Treasure feel as if we've already seen the film too many times before. Its plot—Cage plays a fellow obsessed with finding a treasure supposedly hidden by the Founding Fathers—is an excuse for the same old car chases, gun battles, foreign-accented villains (in this case, Englishman Sean Bean) and an ending out of an Indiana Jones picture.

Audiences, though, seem to be digging the fact that the treasure clues involve the Declaration of Independence and other historical nuggets. Is Treasure a good movie? Not really. But if it turns one kid who watches it into a future historian or archeologist or sparks a single viewer to read the actual Declaration, hey, that's more than similar popcorn pictures can claim. (PG)

COMEDY

Christmas with the Kranks

Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Aykroyd, Cheech Marin, Jake Busey

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When Luther and Nora Krank's only child heads to Peru for a stint with the Peace Corps, the couple (Allen and Curtis) plan to spend their first solo Noel aboard an island-hopping cruise. Neighbors in the duo's Chicago suburb are irked upon discovering that the Kranks won't be hoisting Frosty the Snowman onto their roof this year or holding their annual Christmas Eve shindig. But Christmas with the Kranks, based on a 2001 novel, Skipping Christmas, by John Grisham, is no misanthropic Bad Santa. The Xmas spirit will prevail, despite the film's laborious set up and predilection for pratfalls. Allen and Curtis do what they can, earning honest chuckles along the way through sheer charm and talent, but this undistinguished comedy is not likely to wind up on anyone's list of seasonal classics. (PG)

  • Contributors:
  • Leah Rozen.