Voices by Kiefer Sutherland, Eddie Izzard, Jim Belushi, Janeane Garofalo

ANIMATED

BY JASON LYNCH

Stop me if you've heard this one before: A group of animals housed in a Central Park zoo—led by a mighty lion who has never actually set foot in a jungle—escape their confinement, traipse around New York City and, after a series of wacky mishaps, find themselves on a boat headed for a mythical locale known as the "wild."

It's not Madagascar 2, though The Wild does seem like an unabashed follow-up to last year's animated hit. The wrinkle here is that Wild's lion, Samson, is trying to rescue his vocally challenged son Ryan; he's 11 "but roaring at a 9-year-old level," says his dad. Tired of living in Samson's shadow, Ryan hops a ride to Africa. The plot's not all that sounds familiar: The Wild's furry sidekicks, stale jokes and non sequitur musical numbers, while occasionally amusing, are all recycled from other, funnier kids films. The animation looks wondrous, but have studios learned nothing from Pixar, the undisputed king of the computer-animated jungle? Story, not scenery, makes these films memorable.

At least The Wild is valiantly anchored by Sutherland, whose gruff timbre is ideally tailored to Samson. Izzard also delights as a koala bear with a rock-star-like following. (G)

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Gretchen Mol, Chris Bauer, Lili Taylor

BIO

Today most of pin-up girl Bettie Page's photos wouldn't be considered racy enough for the cover of Maxim. But in the 1950s, her provocative poses, some in leather bondage outfits or no clothes at all, inspired a cult following and prompted a Senate investigation into pornography. It all seems like much ado about nothing to Page (Mol), who explains, "We're just dressing up. There's no harm in it."

Good for her, but bad for audiences. Yes, Mol admirably has Page's poses—pert, haughty, sexy, saucy—down cold. However, without much conflict about Page's so-called "notorious" line of work, the film often shuffles along as if director and cowriter Mary Harron (American Psycho) were shackled in Page's bondage gear herself. Look for a cameo by David Strathairn, who, in an eerie counterpoint to his turn as McCarthyism-battling Edward R. Murrow in Good Night, and Good Luck, plays morality crusader Sen. Estes Kefauver. (R)

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Patrick Wilson, Ellen Page

THRILLER

Jeff thinks he's met the adolescent girl of his dreams. At a café the photographer, 32, flirts with Hayley, a shy, 14-year-old girl clad in a red-hooded sweatshirt. "You certainly act older than you are," he coos to his prey. Especially when, after taking her back to his place, Jeff passes out and awakens tied to a chair. That's when Little Red Riding Hood morphs into the Big Bad Wolf, intent on making Jeff admit to killing a missing girl.

For Candy's first half, the tension and ambiguity simmer deliciously, thanks to a self-assured Page, who confidently navigates Hayley's 180-degree transformation, and an alternately poker-faced and red-faced Wilson. But on the heels of a horrific, extended sequence involving a scalpel and some sensitive body parts (the brutality occurs offscreen, but the images your mind conjures will haunt you for days), the taut thriller quickly goes slack. Page and Wilson are literally left running around in circles. (R)

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Kinky Boots
After he inherits his father's foundering shoe factory, an Englishman (Joel Edgerton) enlists a drag queen (Inside Man's feisty Chiwetel Ejiofor) to design funky footwear for cross-dressers. Fun, but needs more bounce in its step. (PG-13)

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The Benchwarmers
Three grown-up, though emotionally stunted, schlubs (Rob Schneider, David Spade and Jon Heder) play baseball against a bunch of Little Leaguers for, well, no good reason. The film is a step up from Schneider and Spade's usual unwatchable fare, though not enough to make one root, root, root for the home team. (PG-13)

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9 to 5 ($19.98) One might expect this 1980 comedy about three working women (Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin) and their "sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot" of a boss (Dabney Coleman, slimy and sex-starved) to feel as antiquated as a three-martini lunch, but it's still packed with belly laughs. Extras: The actresses reunite for a documentary and a rollicking audio commentary. Parton talks about creating the famous title song's typewriter-key cadence by tapping her long nails and pines for a sequel, while Fonda rightly points out that the film was one of the first to spotlight sexual harassment in the workplace. (PG)
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TOUGH GIRL OF THE WEEK

Is this the face of terror? Nova Scotia native Page, 19, takes vengeance on a pedophile in Hard Candy, and she'll fight on as a young mutant in X-Men: The Last Stand, out May 26.

ON PLAYING HARD CANDY'S AVENGING 14-YEAR-OLD I just worked on creating a balance of vulnerability. It was about letting all moral debate out of my head. She sees something wrong with society and she's going to do something about it.

ON CANADIAN COMMON SENSE I'm so grateful to be from Halifax. In L.A. people's heads get caught up in this silly world. It's like, "You're making movies. Congrats, but please, calm down. Have you seen the world lately?"

ON HER TURN AS KITTY PRIDE IN X-MEN Every single day my mind was blown. I got to do this great stunt where I'm 70 feet in the air. I look over and there's Halle [Berry] up on wires as well. She gave me the biggest, most genuine smile. That's when I was like, "Who gets to do stuff like this?" I know you'd rather hear that Famke [Janssen] threw a shoe at me, but that didn't happen.