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Short Subjectives 

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

Page 4 of 7

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS (PG-13) The venerable role-playing phenom comes to theaters, if not quite to life, in this frequently fun and basically brainless romp about a thief trying to best a malevolent magician (Jeremy Irons) from unleashing a plague of dragons on an imaginary kingdom. High- (or Low-) lights include a bizarre Tom Baker (Dr. Who ) cameo and Marlon Wayan's turn as the hero's Stepp'n Fetchin' sidekick, probably the year's weirdest performance. -- Eddy Von Mueller

THE EMPEROR'S NEW GROOVE (G) Besides being one of the year's funniest comedies, Disney's latest animated feature is a perfect mating of voice actors with characters: David Spade as the spoiled emperor who's turned into a llama; John Goodman as the kindly peasant who turns the other cheek to help him; Eartha Kitt as a classic Disney villain who lacks only a song; and Patrick Warburton as her dim thug. The drawing style is simpler than in most of Disney's classics, but the picture's packed with fun, action and comedy that appeals to all ages. -- SW

THE FAMILY MAN (PG-13) 1/2 A Republican plot to make poor working stiffs content with their lot so they won't begrudge the wealthy their new tax breaks, this dramedy is a virtual big-budget remake of Me Myself I, in which Rachel Griffiths was better than Nicolas Cage is here as someone visiting an alternate universe for a "glimpse" of how life would have been had they married for love 13 years ago instead of pursuing a single, career-oriented life. Tea Leoni is this version's greatest asset as the old girlfriend with whom playboy Cage gets to sample married life. -- SW

FINDING FORRESTER (PG-13) Gus Van Sant revisits Good Will Hunting territory in a tale of a brilliant but unrecognized student and athlete (newcomer Robert Brown) who bonds with a reclusive, Salingeresque novelist (Sean Connery). The pair has enjoyable moments together, but van Sant is clearly more interested in the basketball games and the Bronx setting than the film's contrived prep-school conflicts and its lip service to great literature. As yet another story of a reluctant young genius, it could be called Good Will Finding. -- CH

THE GIFT (R) Where do I go to return The Gift? Cate Blanchett plays a small town medium who gets embroiled in violence and sleazy behavior in a script, co-written by Billy Bob Thornton, that plays like "Peyton Place" with ESP. Director Sam Raimi injects a few shocks, but the film proves too over-the-top to be taken seriously, and with too many classy performers (including Keanu Reeves and Hilary Swank) for camp value. -- CH

HOUSE OF MIRTH (PG) Gillian Anderson gives a luminous, unforgettable performance as the upper-crust orphan who falls from the heights of turn-of-the-century New York society into abject poverty in Terence Davies' stunning adaptation of Edith Wharton's novel of manners. More than simply a reverse fairy tale of an innocent beauty dragged into the mud, this languidly paced, intelligent film honors the complexity of Lily Bart (Anderson), while taking measure of her faults, and offers a painfully realistic portrait of the kind of human pettiness and weakness that yields horrific results. -- FF

IMAX AT FERNBANK: ADVENTURES IN WILD CALIFORNIA (NR) It's "California Dreamin'" for the new millennium as IMAX and Everest director Greg MacGillivray pack a lot of extreme sports and environmentalism into 40 unhurried minutes, including sky- and sea-surfing sequences that put Hollywood movie stunts and special effects to shame. You'll see baby otters and bald eagles being prepared by humans for life in the wild and trees that have lived for 3000 years. You'll ride a roller coaster at Disneyland, walk down the red carpet at the Academy Awards and descend 125 feet into a hollow space in an ancient sequoia. Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m., 1, 3 and 5 p.m., Sun. 1, 3 and 5 p.m. and Fri. 8 and 10 p.m. BEAVERS (NR) 1/2 Two furry rodents build a dam and a family in an IMAX nature film that strains to fill 40 minutes. There's glorious photography of the wilderness of Alberta, Canada, blessedly little narration, and fascination in watching these natural-born engineers at work. Fans of Animal Planet should enjoy this giant-screen study of another of nature's wonders. Mon.-Sat. at 10 a.m., noon, 2 and 4 p.m., Sun. at noon, 2 and 4 p.m., and Fri. at 7 and 9 p.m.. Films run through March 4 at Fernbank Museum of Natural History, 767 Clifton Road. -- SW

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