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Short Subjectives 

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

Page 4 of 4

SHARK TALE (PG) A too-obvious message movie about keepin' it real and accepting "different" children, this computer-animated undersea comedy has its share of laughs but is no Shrek or Finding Nemo. It lands all the fish puns Nemo threw back, some in the name of product placement. (Kelpy Kreme Doughnuts, anyone?). Amid such fine voice actors as Will Smith, Renee Zellweger and Jack Black, Martin Scorsese, of all people, turns out to be the breakout talent. -- SW

SAW (R) Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannel (who wrote the screenplay) play two men who awaken chained in a basement with a dead body in this psychological drama from first-time director James Wan.

SHALL WE DANCE (PG-13) Only subtlety is lost in the translation of the 1997 Japanese film about a contented married man (Richard Gere) who becomes happy when he takes ballroom dancing lessons from Jennifer Lopez. This remake, directed by Englishman Peter Chelsom, seems so thoroughly American it's surprising how little was actually changed. The lack of communication between Gere and wife Susan Sarandon doesn't ring true, while Audrey Wells' screenplay manages to be both deeper and more frivolous than the original. We'll show the Japanese they can't beat us at either end of the emotional spectrum! -- SW

SIDEWAYS (R) A failed novelist (Paul Giamatti) takes his oldest friend, a has-been actor (Thomas Haden Church) for a pre-wedding trip through California wine country in the latest examination of American mediocrity from About Schmidt director Alexander Payne. The film expounds a surprisingly sincere belief in wine as a metaphor for life, and for a while unfolds as a mellow, impeccably acted idyll (with terrific supporting turns from Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh). Payne eventually sheds his merciless insights on his self-absorbed male characters, but like a fine wine, his harsh sensibilities have mellowed with age.--CH

THE SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS MOVIE (PG) When Plankton frames Mr. Krabs for stealing King Neptune's crown, his fry cook SpongeBob SquarePants boldly volunteers to retrieve the crown from dangerous Shell City to save his life. The film feels just like a super-long, but still-funny version of the Nickelodeon show with enough pop culture jokes to please adults and more than enough nonsense to amuse kids. After all, the main character is a sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea. -- Heather Kuldell

WHAT THE #$! DO WE KNOW? (NR) This head-scratching hybrid of philosophical documentary and narrative feature proves to be about everything and nothing. As a framing device follows a divorced photographer (Marlee Matlin) on her daily routine, intercut with talking-head interviews with physicists and other heavy thinkers about quantum science, human perception and positive thinking. Grating, silly animation accompanies the persuasive section about how people can get addicted to negative emotions, while much of the film's deep thoughts embody New Age spirituality at its most squishy. -- CH

ZELARY (R) Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia offers a beautiful young nurse (Anna Geislerova) few places to hide when she is exposed as a member of the resistance. A tiny, rural village appears to be the answer, complete with a husband-by-necessity (Gyorgy Cserhalmi) and idiosyncratic townsfolk. Director Ondrej Trojan shows us the seamy side of bucolic splendor--although there's much lounging about in the sunshine, everyone hits the vodka hard, leading unpleasantness. Though often predictable, the film benefits from the two leads' understated performances and the gorgeous photography of the Czech countryside. --CJ

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