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Short Subjectives 

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

Page 4 of 4

NAPOLEON DYNAMITE (PG) In Jared Hess' debut film, Jon Heder superbly plays the teenage anti-hero, a petulant curly-haired beanpole equally annoyed by life at home and high school. As long as Napoleon Dynamite restricts itself to the title character's geeky misadventures, the film finds laughs that are plentiful if not exactly deep. But Hess gives Napoleon's older relatives, like his chat room-obsessed brother (Aaron Ruell), ridiculous traits merely to mock them, and frequently cribs from the filmmaking styles of Todd Solondz and Wes Anderson.--CH

OPEN WATER (R) Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis play an overscheduled couple whose scuba trip takes a terrifying turn when the tour boat abandons them in the middle of the ocean. Director Chris Kentis makes the couple's flight feel unnervingly plausible, especially when the digital video camera films live sharks within feet of the actors. Like a masterful short story, Open Water sustains a mood of sheer dread and captures both the fear and stoic resignation in the face of mortality.--CH

SHE HATE ME (R) A whistle-blowing black executive (Anthony Mackie) becomes a $10,000-a-night stud for glam lesbians looking to get pregnant. Spike Lee so desperately tries to provoke his audience that he torches his own credibility, narrative sense and character insight. The film's gender politics look like sex fantasies better kept private, while the subplot of Enron-esque corporate corruption features dialogue and acting suitable to a financial-themed porn flick (titled something like Ball Street).--CH

THUNDERBIRDS (PG) On spring break from prep school, Alan Tracy (Brady Corbet) must save the world -- including his father (Bill Paxton) and four older brothers, who run their own international rescue operation. Wasn't this the plot of the first Spy Kids? An action-adventure for kids too young to sneak into R-rated movies, Thunderbirds adapts the 1960s British cult TV series. The movie's fast-paced silliness lacks nostalgic appeal for older fans but could win a new generation of followers.--SW

THE VILLAGE (PG-13) The citizens of an isolated 19th century community maintain an uneasy truce with the mysterious inhabitants of the surrounding woods, until the young generation (including Joaquin Phoenix and a spirited Bryce Dallas Howard) start testing the rules. The Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyamalan undermines the film's old-fashioned frights by turning it into an unlikely parable of public terror and homeland security. Yet the dialogue and performances prove so stilted that we can't take Shyamalan's big themes seriously, so The Village will satisfy exactly no one.--CH

WE DON'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE (R) An uneven film adapted from two Andre Dubus stories, Live is harrowing some moments, pretentious emotional scab-picking at others; an ensemble piece about two couples grappling with adultery that can often feel like scruffy, aging Gen Xers playacting at Bergman-style adult angst. Laura Dern delivers an exceptional performance, and some of the film's insights into the myriad ways married couples psychologically torture each other ring true, but the film often feels like an inadequate translation of fiction writing's texture and subtlety to film.--FF

WITHOUT A PADDLE (PG-13) Three 30-year-old boys (Seth Green, Matthew Lillard, Dax Shepard) postpone maturity by searching for the money D.B. Cooper supposedly carried when he disappeared. The best thing you can say about this comedy is that represents a step up for the director of Little Nicky. Deliverance references abound, including an appearance by Burt Reynolds as a mountain man. Alternating between being not quite serious and not quite funny -- but trying harder to be funny -- Without a Paddle could be a decent movie when it grows up.--SW

ZHOU YU'S TRAIN (PG-13) A man, a woman, another man and ... a train. The first human-meets-machine romantic quadrangle is a maddeningly obtuse story of an artist (Gong Li) torn between her love for a veterinarian (Honglei Sun) and a poet (Tony Leung Ka Fai). Traveling by train to visit the men, Li has ample time to gaze dreamily out the window, or run in slow motion through train stations. Much time and energy wasted on those frou-frou expressions of romantic ennui derail this endless romance early on.--FF

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