Critical Consensus: I Am Legend All Over the Map, Chipmunks Hits Sour Note

And Holiday is less than Perfect.

This week at the movies, we've got the last man on earth (I Am Legend, starring Will Smith), Alvin, Simon, and Theodore (Alvin and the Chipmunks, starring Jason Lee), and mommy kissing Santa Claus (The Perfect Holiday, starring Gabrielle Union and Morris Chestnut). What do the critics have to say?

The hotly-anticipated I Am Legend stars box office champ Will Smith as a man who finds he's the last of the human race. It's an intriguing premise, but critics say the film is something of a mixed bag. Smith plays scientist Robert Neville, the only survivor of a worldwide plague. As he roams the abandoned streets of New York City, he slowly comes to the realization that he's not alone: a band of bloodthirsty quasi-humans have been watching him. Critics say the film features outstanding work from Will Smith; they also note the film's excellent production design and interesting philosophical questions about the nature of humanity. But there's also the feeling from many pundits that while the movie starts out contemplative and intriguing, it heads into schlocky B-movie territory as it goes along, jettisoning the elements that made the setup so intriguing. At 57 percent on the Tomatometer, this one isn't quite legendary. (Check here for our Total Recall feature on I Am Legend author Richard Matheson.)

"You guys don't super size meals anymore?"

It appears the big-screen version of Alvin and the Chipmunks gives lie to the theme song of the group's Saturday morning incarnation, which said Alvin, Simon, and Theodore were "coming on stronger than ever before." In fact, critics say this may be the weakest vehicle for the helium-voiced rodents yet. Jason Lee stars as David Seville, the impresario behind the famed band of singing, anthropomorphic woodland creatures, who run afoul of the record industry. The pundits say despite a few laughs, this is pretty bland stuff: dated, weakly constructed, and lacking in three-dimensional characters of the human or CGI variety. Kids, sing along! "Twenty-eight-percent Tomatometer-time is here/time for toys, and time for cheer...."

The Chipmunks rehearsing their cover of "Pink Moon."

Another week, another ribald-but-sentimental holiday comedy. The latest entry in the subgenre is The Perfect Holiday, a film critics say is inaccurately titled. Holiday tells the story of a single parent (Gabrielle Union) who takes her kids to see Santa (Morris Chestnut) at the local mall, and starts thinking she might like to be Mrs. Claus. The critics say the film squanders an excellent cast that also includes the likes of Queen Latifah, Terrance Howard, and Charlie Murphy (oops, I mean "Chaaahhlllie Murphaaaay") on a shopworn script that delivers few laughs and less cheer. At 20 percent on the Tomatometer, you may want to skip this Holiday.

Queen Latifah ignores the elephant in the room.

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • Nanking, a documentary about the Japanese invasion of China in the early days of World War II, is at 95 percent on the Tomatometer.
  • The Kurdish drama Half Moon, about a family band journeying to Iraq to play a concert celebrating Saddam's fall, is at 100 percent.
  • The Kite Runner, which tells the story of the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan from the perspective of a family, is at 63 percent. (Click here for our interview with writer David Benioff, here for author Khaled Hosseini, or maybe even here for our chat with Khalid Abdalla.)
  • Look, a drama shot on security cameras that ties together several storylines, is at 58 percent.
  • Goodbye Bafana, a drama about a prison guard who befriends Nelson Mandella, is at 44 percent.
  • Francis Ford Coppola's Youth Without Youth, starring Tim Roth as a writer who ages in reverse after being struck by lightning, is at 34 percent. (Check out our interview with editor Walter Murch here.)

    Tim Roth doing his best Lady from Shanghai impression.

Recent Will Smith Movies:
66% -- The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
69% -- Hitch (2005)
34% -- Shark Tale (2004)
59% -- I, Robot (2004)
24% -- Bad Boys II (2003)

Recent Queen Latifah Movies:
93% -- Hairspray (2007)
61% -- Arctic Tale (2007)
73% -- Stranger than Fiction (2006)
55% -- Last Holiday (2006)
56% -- Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006)


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