Critical Consensus: The Golden Compass Loses Its Way

Plus, Juno and Atonement are Certified Fresh.

This week at the movies, we've got the first installment of the His Dark Materials trilogy: The Golden Compass, starring Nicole Kidman, Dakota Blue Richards, and Daniel Craig. What do the critics have to say?

The highly-anticipated The Golden Compass is the first of Philip Pullman's novels to hit the screen. It has a veritable Murderer's Row of acting talent (Nicole Kidman, Sam Elliott, Eva Green, Daniel Craig, Ian McKellen, Tom Courtenay, Derek Jacobi, Ian McShane, Christopher Lee, and newcomer Dakota Blue Richards). And critics say it's got visual flash to spare. Unfortunately, they also largely feel Compass is a little too cold to work any kind of spell. The film tells the story of a 12-year-old girl attempting to save her friend from the strange, malevolent Gobblers, and finds herself in a realm of mystery and fantastical beings. Pundits say the wondrous production design and way-too-brisk plot overwhelms the characters, and delivers little of the intended sense of wonder. At 45 percent on the Tomatometer, The Golden Compass doesn't quite shine.

But does it know the way to San Jose?

Also opening this week in limited release: Mexican import The Violin, about three generations of musicians/guerillas, is at 100 percent on the Tomatometer; Juno, starring Ellen Page and Michael Cera in the comic tale of a sharp teen coping with an unplanned pregnancy, is Certified Fresh at 92 percent (read our Page interview here); Atonement, a period drama about star-crossed lovers starring Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, is Certified Fresh at 88 percent (read our McAvoy and director Joe Wright interviews here and here, respectively); Billy the Kid, a doc about a teen dealing with behavior issues in rural Maine, is at 82 percent; 'Tis Autumn -- the Search for Jackie Paris, a doc about an elusive, velvet-voiced jazz singer, is at 71 percent; Grace is Gone, starring John Cusack as a man who picks up the pieces after his wife is killed in Iraq, is at 69 percent; Man in the Chair, about the bond between an elderly film crew member and a young cinephile starring Christopher Plummer, is at 57 percent; Paul Schrader's The Walker, starring Woody Harrelson as a D.C. socialite in the midst of some criminal intrigue, is at 56 percent; The Amateurs, starring Jeff Bridges in the story of a group of suburbanites who make an adult film, is at 22 percent; Tony N' Tina's Wedding, based on the semi-improvisational off-Broadway comedy, is at 20 percent; and Guy Ritchie's Revolver, starring Jason Statham as an expert gambler who goes up against a crime boss, is at 15 percent.

"When I put headphones on my tummy, should I play Pavement or Archers of Loaf?"

Finally, we'd like to give props to Rocdahut for staying awake long enough to come closest to guessing Awake's 16 percent Tomatometer. I guess this gives you a good reason to, um, rock the hut, Rocdahut.

Recent Keira Knightly Movies:
8% -- Silk (2007)
46% -- Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007)
54% -- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)
85% -- Pride and Prejudice (2005)
73% -- Pure (2005)


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