Critical Consensus: "Charlotte's Web" Is Good, Indeed; Smith Is Strong, "Pursuit" Less So; "Eragon" Gets Burned

This week at the movies, we've got a barnyard full of talking animals ("Charlotte's Web," starring Dakota Fanning and the voices of Julia Roberts and Robert Redford), a real-life rags-to-riches story ("The Pursuit of Happyness," starring Will Smith), and a tale of dragons and swordplay ("Eragon," starring Edward Speleers and Jeremy Irons). What do the critics have to say?



If there's one thing critics can agree on with "Charlotte's Web," it's how much they all loved the children's novel. If there's another, it's how much they like the big screen adaptation, about a bunch of talking farm animals and a pig saved by a very literate spider. Though some feared that the simple story would be modernized with the ironic and brash attitudes afflicting recent kid flicks, the pundits are in awe of the quiet, humble replication of E.B. White's genteel and distinguished prose. Also, they really like Robert Redford doing the voice of Ike the wussy horse. At 89 percent Tomatometer, this is some movie, indeed.


"How about you and I cruise in my Power Wheels sometime?"

Will Smith has been in pursuit of an Oscar for a while, and with "The Pursuit of Happyness" the critics think this could be where he catches up with the Academy. Smith, as a homeless single father trying to climb the corporate ladder, is garnering widespread praise for his performance, though said praise isn't quite being doled out upon the film itself. The critics are calling "Happyness" a slick Hallmark card of a movie, a bit too obsessed with the desire to inspire. At 56 percent on the Tomatometer, the critics are split on whether "Happyness" is worth it for Smith's heartfelt presence alone.


"Once upon a time, in the Kingdom of Periodic Stock Dividends..."

Scribes have posited several excuses as to the overwhelming awfulness of "Eragon" (the movie's source books were written by a teenager, it's being directed by a first-timer, etc.), but few critics are terribly forgiving of the derivative plot. "Eragon" spins a tale of a peasant boy (Speleers) who is suddenly entrusted with a dragon and must, with the help of a mentor (Irons), train, grow strong, and defeat an evil emperor. The way the critics describe it, the makers of the "Star Wars"-esque"Eragon" should soon be expecting an annoyed phone call from George Lucas, though the movie's current nine percent Tomatometer might be insult enough. (At the scene for "Eragon"'s London Premiere was RT-UK's Joe Utichi; check out his writeup here.


"Wait, what movie are we from again?"

Also playing this week in limited release: Oscar hopeful "Dreamgirls," starring Beyonce Knowles, Jamie Foxx, and Eddie Murphy in the tale of a Motown group's rise and fall, is at 83 percent (check out RT's interview with co-star Jennifer Hudson here); "The Secret Life of Words," starring Tim Robbins and Sarah Polley in a tale of high drama on an oil rig, is at 80 percent; "Automatons," a zero-budget dystopian sci-fi flick, is at 67 percent; "Breaking and Entering," a story of the tangled webs weaved after a burglary starring Jude Law and Juliette Binoche, is at 48 percent; "The Good German," Steven Soderbergh's "Casablanca"-esque drama set in post-WWII Berlin starring George Clooney and Cate Blanchett, is at 26 percent; and "Home of the Brave," about the trials of vets returning home from Iraq starring Samuel L. Jackson, Jessica Biel, and 50 Cent, is at 15 percent.


"I'm giving the wardrobe guy the evil eye."

Recent Will Smith Movies:
---------------------------------
69% -- Hitch (2005)
35% -- Shark Tale (2004)
59% -- I, Robot (2004)
25% -- Bad Boys II (2003)
38% -- Men in Black II (2002)

Recent Dakota Fanning Movies:
---------------------------------------
63% -- Dreamer (2005)
73% -- Nine Lives (2005)
73% -- War of the Worlds (2005)
13% -- Hide and Seek (2005)
74% -- In the Realms of the Unreal (2004)

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