Critical Consensus: Champ Is No Chump; Nanny Is Dire, Bean is No Holiday, Dawn Needs Rescue
And War goes unscreened. Guess that Tomatometer!The Nanny Diaries, starring Scarlett Johansson and Laura Linney) manchilds (Mr. Bean's Holiday, starring Rowan Atkinson), boxers (Resurrecting the Champ, starring Josh Hartnett and Samuel L. Jackson), Mormons (September Dawn, starring Jon Voight), and rogues (War, starring Jet Li and Jason Statham). What are the critics saying?
The Nanny Diaries features a stellar cast that includes Scarlett
Johansson, Laura Linney, and
Paul Giamatti, and it's directed by
and Shari Springer Berman, the team behind the wonderfully unconventional
Splendor. So why, critics ask, is Diaries so mediocre? Perhaps it's
because the tone shifts between dark satire and lighter comedy. Johansson stars
as a woman who takes a job tending to the child of an affluent-but-cold New York
City couple. Pundits say the biggest problem with the film is not the
performers, who do what they can with the material. It's that their characters
are one-dimensional, and the satire lacks the edge to really make it work. At 24
percent on the Tomatometer, this Diary isn't held dear.
"What'd I tell you about doing Jell-O shots before noon?"
Mr. Bean is something of an acquired taste, and critics say Mr. Bean's Holiday may not be the place to acquire it. But they also note the irrepressible Rowan Atkinson works really hard to sell the gags, and families could do much worse than this good-natured comedy. With a nod to Jacques Tati's legendary Monsieur Hulot's Holiday, the film finds Bean leaving the dreary confines of London for Cannes, where he's alternately mistaken for a master filmmaker and a kidnapper. The critics say Bean is mostly harmless fun, but if you aren't already a fan (or a little kid) you may find this stuff pretty tough going. At 43 percent on the Tomatometer, this one might not amount to a hill of beans, but at least it's a cut above the original Bean (36 percent).
"I see London, I see France..."
Sort of a rough cross between Cinderella Man and Shattered Glass, Resurrecting the Champ gives you two tropes for the price of one: the washed-up coulda-been-a-contendah and the newspaper man whose hot story may all be a hoax. Still, critics say Champ works surprisingly well, thanks to committed performances from Samuel L. Jackson and Josh Hartnett. Based on a true story, the film tells the tale of a sportswriter (Hartnett) who finds what could be the biggest story of his career in a homeless man (Jackson) who calls himself Champ and claims to be a former ring king. Critics say that although the film gets a little melodramatic at times, it's wise in the ways of the newspaper life, and it's got plenty of heart. At 75 percent on the Tomatometer, Champ puts up a good fight.
"I'll fight you for the merry-go-round."
September Dawn was denounced by the Mormon Church before its release; the LDS claimed it was a distortion of the faith's history. Now it's movie critics' turn, albeit for different reasons. Dawn tells the story of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, a still-controversial 1857 attack in which a group of Mormons attacked a wagon train (the church hotly disputes the film's assertion that LDS president Brigham Young approved of the killings). Despite the presence of such acclaimed thespians as Terence Stamp and Jon Voight, critics say the film works neither as history nor drama, thanks to mediocre filmmaking throughout; they also note Dawn's attempts to draw parallels to contemporary conflicts are muddled at best. Dawn currently stands at 10 percent on the Tomatometer.
"Tonight we dine in Utah!"
It appears the folks behind War have feared an attack from critics. That seems to be the reason they're using the cinematic equivalent of camouflage: not screening the film before its release. Jet Li and Jason Statham star in this tale of betrayal and revenge, in which the CIA, Yakuza, and Triads figure prominently. Guess that Tomatometer.
"I'll trade you all this for a Wii."
Also opening this week in limited release: Deep Water, a doc about a fateful solo, around-the-world boat race, is at 100 percent; Right At Your Door, a drama about a terrorist attack in L.A., is at 68 percent; Hannah Takes the Stairs, about a young woman's romantic angst, is at 61 percent (check out our interview with director Joe Swanberg here); No. 2, a Fijian family dramedy starring Ruby Dee, is at 56 percent; The Bothersome Man, a Norwegian drama about a man who forgets his past and finds himself in a strange town, is at 56 percent; Dedication, an unconventional romance about a troubled children's book author starring Mandy Moore and Billy Crudup, is at 42 percent; The Hottest State, the Ethan Hawke-helmed tale of a singer trying to make it in New York, is at 42 percent; and Illegal Tender, a drama about a woman's longstanding blood feud with her husband's killer, is at 33 percent.
Slinky: the new cup and string.
Recent Scarlett Johansson Movies:
37% -- Scoop (2006)
75% -- The Prestige (2006)
35% -- The Black Dahlia (2006)
79% -- Match Point (2005)
39% -- A Good Woman (2005)