Critics Consensus: Coraline Is Certified Fresh

Plus, the critics just aren't that into He's Just Not That Into You, Pink Panther 2, and Push, to varying degrees.

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This week at the movies, we've got dark whimsy (Coraline, with voice work by Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher); love mishaps (He's Just Not That Into You, starring Jennifer Aniston and Scarlett Johansson); a bumbling detective (The Pink Panther 2, starring Steve Martin and Aishwarya Rai) and some paranormal antagonists (Push, starring Chris Evans and Djimon Hounsou). What do the critics have to say?

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If any proof were needed that 3-D movies have entered a bold new era, the critics say Coraline is it; this stylistically bold, emotionally resonant stop-motion flick is a twisted marvel. Directed by Henry Selick (who helmed the bewitchingly macabre The Nightmare Before Christmas) and based upon the best seller by Neil Gaiman, Coraline follows the phantasmagoric exploits of the title character (voiced by Dakota Fanning), a bored 11-year-old who discovers a door in her house that leads to a parallel version of her life -- one that at first is enchanting, but soon threatens to entrap our hero. The pundits say Coraline is one of the most visually dazzling pictures to come along in many a moon, and it's anchored by a delightfully twisted storyline. It's not only Certified Fresh, it's also the best-reviewed wide release of the year so far. (Be forewarned, however; the scribes say this film may be too scary for small children.)

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He's Just Not That Into You

He's Just Not That Into You is the latest in a long line of romantic comedies that attempt to navigate the complexities of modern relationships. The movie's problem, critics say, is that by juggling so many plot threads it ends up giving a short shrift to characterization and insight. An embarrassment of talented actors (including Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Scarlett Johansson, Ben Affleck, and Jennifer Connelly) play Baltimore residents who are attempting to find the perfect match, but are regularly stymied by self-questioning and unreturned phone calls. The pundits say the film is bogged down by the fact that there's too much going on for the characters to emerge as three-dimensional personalities, thus reducing its talented thespians (despite their best efforts) to playing stereotypes.

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The Pink Panther 2

As the self-important, supremely incompetent, and impenetrably-accented Inspector Clouseau, Peter Sellers created one of the most memorable comic characters of modern times. Steve Martin is a very funny guy too, but critics say that's not enough to redeem The Pink Panther 2's uninspired script and tired gags. In the second installment starring Martin, Clouseau is enlisted into a team of super detectives in order to track down some priceless cultural artifacts that have been purloined by a rogue named the Tornado. The pundits say that like its predecessor, The Pink Panther 2 is a "beumb"; it's aimlessly plotted and emphasizes lame slapstick gags at the expense of the considerable talents of Martin, John Cleese, Lily Tomlin, Jeremy Irons, and Aishwarya Rai, among others. (Check out this week's Total Recall, in which we explore Martin's best-reviewed movies, and click here for co-star Jean Reno's five favorite films.)

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Establishing a credible science fiction world -- especially one containing characters with super abilities -- is a tall order. Unfortunately, critics say Push isn't up to it, squandering an intriguing premise with hyperkinetic pacing and a general lack of coherence. Chris Evans plays Nick, who has remarkable paranormal powers and finds himself on the run from unseemly government agents, including the dangerous Henry (Djimon Hounsou), who want to utilize his abilities for their own means. The pundits say that despite director Paul McGuigan's visual flair, Push is really hard to follow, with a convoluted script and an excess of style. (Check out our interview with McGuigan, in which he shares his five favorite films with RT.)

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • Chocolate, a bizarre Thai martial arts flick about an autistic girl with remarkable fighting skills, is at 71 percent.
  • Our City Dreams, a documentary about a year in the life of five female artists in New York City, is at 67 percent.
  • The road trip comedy Fanboys, which follows several Star Wars fanatics on their quest to see The Phantom Menace before its release, is at 27 percent.
  • Memorial Day, a mockumentary about a group of hard-partying soldiers and their bad behavior on leave and in Iraq, is at 14 percent.