Critical Consensus: Heartbreak Needs Discipline, Jane Worth Perusing, Seeker Reeks

October 5, 2007 at 6:11 pm Leave a comment

This week at the movies, we’ve got honeymooners (The Heartbreak Kid, starring Ben Stiller and Michelle Monaghan), teenage heroes (The Seeker, starring Alexander Ludwig), bookworms in love (The Jane Austen Book Club, starring Maria Bello and Emily Blunt), and fledgling rappers (Feel the Noise, starring Zulay Henao). What do the critics have to say?

For Rhode Islanders, the work of Bobby and Peter Farrelly has long been a source of regional pride; their best work (There’s Something About Mary, Dumb and Dumber) deftly combined taboo-busting, gross-out yucks with an undeniable sweetness. So it breaks the heart of this Ocean State native to report that their latest, The Heartbreak Kid, isn’t generating all that much warmth with the critics. Based upon Elaine May’s 1972 semi-classic, Kid stars Ben Stiller as a recently-married guy who quickly learns his new bride has much more baggage than he bargained for; on his honeymoon, he meets Miranda (Michelle Monhagan), who just might be the right gal for him. The pundits say that while the film does contain a smattering of raunchy laughs, they seemed shoehorned into the film, undercutting character development and any kind of message. If a compelling, magical fantasy world is something you’re actively seeking, critics say you may want to avoid The Seeker. Based upon the Newberry Award-winning book series, The Seeker is the story of a 14-year-old who discovers he’s the last in a long line of noble fighters dedicated to battling an evil force called the Dark. (Uh, so was Thomas Edison, like, the greatest of those warriors? Just asking.) Critics say The Seeker is several notches below the Harry Potter films in terms of emotional resonance and filmmaking quality, and underutilizes the talents of Ian McShane and Frances Conroy. At 25 percent on the Tomatometer, The Seeker may not be what you’re looking for.

If your sensibilities run toward action flicks, you are likely prejudiced against light comedies about smart people and their relationship troubles. In the case of The Jane Austen Book Club, the critics say you might want to swallow your pride. The film tells the story of a group of six women whose book club assignment is for each to read one of Austen’s novels; they soon find events in their lives eerily paralleling the texts they’re reading. The critics say that what could have been a bland exercise in chick-flick-dom is elevated by an outstanding cast that includes Maria Bello, Emily Blunt, and Kathy Baker; each of the principals plays her part with intelligence and warmth.

Critics weren’t allowed to come on and Feel the Noise, perhaps because it’s either too wild, wild, wild for them to understand, or it isn’t all that good. Either way, this tale of an aspiring rapper who finds love and redemption in the Puerto Rican Reggaeton scene was not screened before hitting theaters. You know the drill: Guess that Tomatometer!

Also opening this week in limited release: Lake of Fire, Tony Kaye’s expressionist, evenhanded documentary about the abortion debate, is at 100 percent; Desert Bayou, a doc about the plight of African-American Hurricane Katrina refugees in Utah, is at 100 percent; My Kid Could Paint That, a portrait of an artist who’s a very young girl (and may not be solely responsible for her highly-valued canvases), is at 100 percent; For the Bible Tells Me So, a doc that explores the Good Book’s teachings on homosexuality, is at 89 percent; Kurt Cobain: About a Son, an impressionistic look at the life of the Nirvana frontman, is at 82 percent; Michael Clayton, starring George Clooney as a corporate whistleblower, is at 81 percent ; Finishing the Game, a mockumentary about an attempt to complete Bruce Lee’s Game of Death after his untimely demise, is at 50 percent; and The Good Night, starring Gwyneth Paltrow in the tale of a romance that takes place in a man’s dreams.



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