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Slate's Summary Judgment: 'Bad News Bears,' Hustle & Flow,' 'The Island'


Time now for Summary Judgment, our weekly digest of the latest film reviews. If you're headed to the movies this weekend, here's word about the critics' picks from Slate's Mark Jordan Legan.


First up, we have the "Bad News Bears," a remake of the raunchy '70s comedy that starred Walter Matthau and Tatum O'Neal. This time around, Billy Bob Thornton plays the hard-drinking former ballplayer who ends up coaching an inept group of Little Leaguers.

(Soundbite of "Bad News Bears")

Mr. BILLY BOB THORNTON: (As Buttermaker) You go home. You look your old man straight in the eye, and you say, `Guess what, Dad? We won today,' you know.

Unidentified Boy: But we didn't win.

Mr. THORNTON: (As Buttermaker) Well, I know that. You lie. It's the only way. Look, this is America.

LEGAN: The nation's critics seemed split on the Bears. Hollywood Reporter calls it `laugh-out-loud funny,' and Entertainment Weekly finds it `a swell fair-ball remake of the well loved anti-PC 1976 sports comedy.' But for the many critics who quickly grew tired of the profanity and naughtiness, they agree with The San Jose Mercury News, which warns `the charm of listening to 10- and 11-year-old children swearing at one another begins to wear off quickly.' And as a parent who drives kids around in a car pool, take it from me, that is so true.

Next up, also in wide release, is the gritty drama "Hustle & Flow." Written and directed by newcomer Craig Brewer, the story focuses on a Memphis pimp who hopes to one day follow his dreams of making it in the music business. Terrence Howard and Anthony Anderson star.

(Soundbite of "Hustle & Flow")

Unidentified Man #1: There are two types of people: those that talk the talk and those that walk the walk. People who walk the walk, they sometimes talk the talk, but most of the time, they don't talk at all, 'cause they're walkin'. Now people who talk the talk, when it comes time for them to walk, you want to know what they do?

Unidentified Man #2: What is that?

Unidentified Man #1: They talk people like me into walking for them.

Unidentified Man #2: Look, I'm just asking you, just listen what I got here, man.

LEGAN: Most of the critics praise the handling of the story and especially the acting. Time magazine says it `boasts a seductive lead performance and the best ensemble cast since "Ray."' Rolling Stone calls it `explosive entertainment,' and The New Yorker thinks the filmmakers `produce a modest regional portrait that could become a classic of its kind.'

And last up, Michael Bay, the director of "Con Air" and "Bad Boys," brings us "The Island," a futuristic action thriller where residents of a utopian paradise are shocked to discover they are just clones set to be harvested for body parts. Same thing kind of happens once you join a fraternity. Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson star.

(Soundbite of "The Island")

Ms. SCARLETT JOHANSSON: (As Jordan Two Delta/Sarah Jordan) I grew up on a farm. I have a little dog, and I had a bike.

Mr. STEVE BUSCEMI: (As McCord) And a bike, right. It was a pink Flexiflyer(ph) with little tassels on the handlebars, and you rode it up the street to your grandmother's house, and you ring the little bell, and she came out and served you cookies on a hot plate.

Ms. JOHANSSON: (As Jordan) Yeah.

Mr. BUSCEMI: (As McCord) No. Memory imprints.

LEGAN: The critics are definitely split on this one. Even though the Minneapolis Star-Tribune shouts, `As futuristic nightmares go, "The Island" is pretty appealing,' and the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel calls it `taut, succinct and entertaining,' many complain of the endless sensory overkill, like The Arizona Republic's take on the film as, quote, "a high-concept movie that Michael Bay turns into `Bad Boys 3: Send in the Clones,'" end quote. Now The Arizona Republic can joke all they want, but this cloning thing is a serious important issue, and--well, I'd like to say more, but Alex Chadwick is watching me. Or should I say Alex Chadwick's clone?

CHADWICK: Mark Jordan Legan and his clones are all writers living in Los Angeles.

DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News with contributions from slate.com. Our theme was composed by Greg Smith. I'm Alex Chadwick. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mark Jordan Legan