Critical Consensus: Enchanted Bewitches, Hitman Misses, No Country is Certified Fresh
Plus: The Mist shines through, August Rush hits a sweet note, and This Christmas is a gift.
Sort of a Wizard of Oz in reverse, Enchanted is the story of Giselle (Amy Adams), a princess in an animated magical kingdom who's transported to the streets of Manhattan by an evil queen (Susan Sarandon). There, she meets a kindly lawyer (Patrick Dempsey) and attempts to negotiate the line between fantasy and reality. The pundits say Enchanted lives up to its title, featuring sharp gags, excellent animation, and a smart re-imagining of fairy-tale tropes. But they hold out the highest praise for Adams, a sharp scene stealer who makes the most of her top billing here. At 89 percent on the Tomatometer, Enchanted is bewitching.
The Mist springs forth from the collective minds of author Stephen King and director Frank Darabont, the winning combination that's previously brought us The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. But in their latest collaboration the two take a decidedly horrific bent: A small town is terrorized by a group of deadly creatures lurking in a particularly thick fog. Could a top-secret experiment at a nearby military base have anything to do with it? Critics are less ecstatic with The Mist than previous King/Darabont joints: they say the chills and thrills are there, and Darabont valiantly attempts for a psychological depth rarely seen in horror, but he frequently comes off as didactic and heavy-handed. At 69 percent Tomatometer, the gold shines through in The Mist. (Read our interview with the Mist cast and crew here.)
Hitman stars Timothy Olyphant as an accomplished assassin named 47 who stumbles into the midst of some political intrigue and goes on the run. Considering the well-publicized news of Hitman's reshoots and its origin as a video game, it's no surprise that the movie isn't sitting well with the critics. They call it vulgar, gratuitously violent, too reliant on CG to propel the action, and just an overall dizzying blur of explosions and bullets -- the usual barbs critics reserve for video game adaptations, and exactly the stuff that gets gamers off the couch and into the theaters. At 14 percent on the Tomatometer, looks like it's game over, Hitman.
In August Rush, an orphan (Freddie Highmore) runs away to New York, where an overseer of young musicians (Robin Williams) recognizes his guitar skills. As it turns out, the orphan was the product of a one-night stand between a cellist (Keri Russell) and a singer-songwriter (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), whom he now hopes to reunite. It's a fairly absurd premise but the performers give it their all, and goes a long way to overcome Kristen Sheridan's sentimental and cloying direction. At 58 percent on the Tomatometer, August Rush hits a sickly sweet note. (Read our interview with Freddie Highmore here.)
It's time for another Christmas movie in which each member of a dysfunctional family brings plenty of baggage with them to the yuletide festivities. Bah, humbug, right? Not so fast. Critics say This Christmas is a delightful surprise, a solid dramedy that, in lesser hands, could have been chaotic and mawkish. In Christmas the members of the Whitfield clan returns home, setting off a maelstrom of unresolved tensions and revelations. The pundits say director Preston A. Whitmore II takes a variety of contrived plotines and deftly weaves them together with wit and finesse, and the cast, which features such excellent thespians as Delroy Lindo, Regina King, Idris Elba, and Mekhi Phifer, is never less than stellar. At 65 percent on the Tomatometer, This Christmas is a pleasant gift.
With No Country for Old Men, the Coen Brothers return to the moral ambiguity, black humor, and horrifying violence that reverberated throughout some of their best work, movies like Blood Simple and Fargo. And critics say that's a very, very good thing. Javier Bardem stars as a psychopathic killer on the trail of an average Joe (Josh Brolin) who stumbles across a huge sum of money. The pundits say No Country is a triumph: grim, suspenseful, frightening, and loaded with pitch-perfect performances. At 96 percent on the No Country for Old Men is not only Certified Fresh, it's one of the best-reviewed films of the year and trails only Blood Simple within the brothers' filmography. (Check out our Total Recall feature on the Coens' filmography here.)
"You don't want to know what I'll do if that Tomatometer drops below 90."
Also opening this week in limited release: The Red Balloon, Albert Lamorisse's French children's classic, is at 100 percent on the Tomatometer; Starting Out in the Evening, about a relationship between a solitary novelist and a grad student starring Frank Langella and Lauren Ambrose, is at 93 percent; Todd Haynes' I'm Not There, an unconventional biopic of Bob Dylan starring Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, and Richard Gere, is at 76 percent; Everything's Cool, a personal documentary about global warming, is at 60 percent; and Nina's Heavenly Delights, a culture-clash rom-com, is at zero percent.
Recent Timothy Olyphant Movies:
22% -- Catch and Release (2007)
80% -- Live Free or Die Hard (2006)
74% -- Coastlines (2006)
41% -- The Girl Next Door (2006)
23% -- Dreamcatcher (2006)