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Short Subjectives 

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

Page 2 of 4

Continuing
ALMOST FAMOUS (R) 1/2 Jerry Maguire director Cameron Crowe romanticizes his experiences as a 15-year-old Rolling Stone reporter, on tour with a fictional band called Stillwater. The film oversells the puppyish cuteness of leads Kate Hudson and Patrick Fugit but offers a pleasingly nostalgic portrait of a rock writer and the rock industry's loss of innocence, with terrific turns by Billy Crudup, Jason Lee and Philip Seymour Hoffman. -- CH

BAMBOOZLED (R) 1/2 Spike Lee's vicious, witty satire of a black television executive who concocts a "New Millennial Minstrel Show" to save his troubled network's ratings, is a color-blind comedy of the stereotypes perpetuated by both blacks and whites. Sharp and often laugh-out-loud funny in its first half, Bamboozled loses a little steam in its preachy denouement but remains a must-see fantasy of how the media eventually renders even the most offensive subject matter palatable. -- FF

BEDAZZLED (PG-13) 1/2 A good multiple-personality showcase for Brendan Fraser and, to a lesser extent, Frances O'Connor ("Mansfield Park") also proves that a little of Elizabeth Hurley's Joan Collins-wannabe routine goes a long way. The film fausts--er, foists--a very tired plot on us in a nominal remake of the 1967 Peter Cook/Dudley Moore comedy. Good-hearted but socially inept Fraser sells his soul to the Devil (Hurley) in exchange for seven wishes, which never turn out as he wishes they would. Things turn preachy with a spiritual and a humanist message in addition to the obvious "Be careful what you wish for." -- SW

BENJAMIN SMOKE (NR) Though the stylistic imprint of its makers can often overwhelm their subject, Jem Cohen and Peter Sillen's documentary of the late Atlanta singer/iconoclast Benjamin remains an affecting, respectful tribute to this unique drag queen, speed freak and profoundly talented man. Set in and around Benjamin's Cabbagetown residence as he struggles with the degenerative effects of addiction and HIV, the film is a cursory treatment of Benjamin's personal history, favoring instead the inspired, impromptu musings of the singer who fronted legendary local bands the Opal Foxx Quartet and Smoke. -- FF

BEST IN SHOW (PG-13) Mockumentarian Christopher Guest reunites his Waiting for Guffman collaborators (including Eugene Levy, Parker Posey and Catherine O'Hara) for a similar venture about the eccentric participants at a national dog show. A bit disappointingly, Guest and company rely on easy targets (tacky middle Americans and fatuous city dwellers) but also show a surprising affection for canine pageants and their four-legged contestants. -- CH

BILLY ELLIOTT (R) A hybrid of the miserable-English-childhood film and performing-British-nonconformist movies such as The Full Monty, Billy Elliott depicts an 11-year-old coal miner's son (Jamie Bell) who develops an improbable passion for ballet. Some of the self-conscious flourishes (like the soundtrack prominent with T-Rex) can be strange, but it's an endearingly idiosyncratic film that puts some new moves on its "feel-good" premise. -- CH

BOUNCE (PG-13) Almost any movie would benefit from comparison to Random Hearts, which also used a plane crash as the catalyst for romance, but this one's good on its own. A total change of pace for writer/director Don Roos (The Opposite of Sex), it's a tearjerker in which the often overrated Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow do some of their best work. External script details are sometimes ludicrous, but the emotions ring true. -- SW

THE BROKEN HEARTS CLUB (R) A contrived effort to market gay life to a mainstream audience, this fluffy romantic comedy seems to believe shallow, one-dimensional characters and sitcom situations will lure a "Friends" viewership -- in that sense it may achieve the expected results of making its gay characters bland and superficial enough for any taste. Set in the Los Angeles gay enclave of West Hollywood, the film concerns six bosom buddies who are trying to overcome bad habits like promiscuity and self-hatred while they search for love on a competitive, looks-oriented dating scene. -- FF

CHARLIE'S ANGELS (PG-13) On the theory that velocity is a substitute for quality, music video director McG zips through a series of sketches that were apparently more fun to shoot than they are to watch. Angels Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu find time between costume changes and dance numbers to solve the case of kidnapped techno-mogul Sam Rockwell. As their giggling constitutes a laugh track, I was reminded more of "The Carol Burnett Show" than the original "Charlie's Angels." Bill Murray is good as Bosley, the eunuch in their harem. -- SW

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