Critics Consensus: Unknown's Plot Twists Too Much

Plus, I Am Number Four is so-so, and Big Mommas is dire stuff.

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This week at the movies, we've got a mystery man (Unknown, starring Liam Neeson and January Jones), a teenage alien (I Am Number Four, starring Alex Pettyfer and Timothy Olyphant), and a cross-dressing fed (Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son, starring Martin Lawrence and Brandon T. Jackson). What do the critics have to say?

Unknown

56%

Lately, Liam Neeson has a thing for European intrigue. He journeyed to Paris to rescue his daughter in 2009's Taken, and now he heads to Berlin for Unknown, a twisty thriller that critics say undermines its strong premise with implausible plotting. Neeson stars as a man who falls into a coma after a car accident; when he awakens, he discovers his wife (January Jones) doesn't recognize him, and he's being targeted by shadowy forces. The pundits say Neeson and an expert supporting cast help keep Unknown watchable, but ultimately, the unlikely story and excessive action set pieces keep it from truly soaring.

I Am Number Four

19%

Another week, another tale of a teenager with supernatural powers. In I Am Number Four, our hero is neither a vampire nor a wizard, but an alien -- which matters little to critics, who say the movie has some decent action scenes, but little in the way of memorable characters or original plotting. Alex Pettyfer stars as a teenage alien with extraordinary powers who wants to settle down and enjoy high school life in a sleepy Ohio town; unfortunately, some evil aliens have already killed three of his associates. The pundits say Four rips off just about every other film of its ilk, from Twilight to Harry Potter, without adding much to the formula, though there are a few exciting moments here and there.

Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son

5%

Some cinematic stories are so sprawling or emotionally overwhelming that it takes a trilogy to tell them -- think Lord of the Rings or the Apu trilogy. But the Big Momma movies? If the first two installments didn't exactly set the critical world afire, the pundits are especially unamused by Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son, calling it a particularly slim assemblage of crass gags that furthers the franchise's one-joke premise without, ahem, expanding upon it. Once again, Martin Lawrence plays an FBI agent who must go undercover in the most counterintuitive of disguises -- this time in an all-girls school after his nephew witnesses a killing. The pundits say Big Mommas is tired stuff - clichéd, dull, and shrill, with little reason to exist. (Check out this week's Total Recall, in which we present a brief history of movies with dudes in drag.)

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • The Last Lions, a documentary about a lioness defending her cubs during a harsh journey, is at 90 percent.
  • We Are What We Are, about a family of cannibals in a desperate situation, is at 77 percent.
  • Zero Bridge, a realist portrait of young people in a gritty Kashmiri town, is at 75 percent.
  • Even the Rain, starring Gael García Bernal in an ambitious drama about Spanish imperialism through the ages, is at 67 percent.
  • Putty Hill, a drama about the effect of a young man's death on a close-knit blue-collar community, is at 67 percent.
  • Brotherhood, the tale of a fraternity hazing ritual gone seriously wrong, is at 50 percent.
  • Vanishing On 7th Street, starring Hayden Christensen and Thandie Newton in a thriller about a mysteriously abandoned city neighborhood, is at 48 percent.
  • The Chaperone, starring Paul "Triple H" Levesque in a comedy about an ex-con who tries to escape his bank robbing past by chaperoning a class trip, is at 33 percent.

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