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Slate's Summary Judgment: 'Scary Movie 4,' 'The Wild,' 'The Notorious Bettie Page'


And if you are ambitious enough to file your taxes ahead of deadline, you might have some time to take in a movie this weekend. To help you make a choice is Mark Jordan Legan. Here he is with the digest of what critics are saying about some new releases from the online magazine, Slate. It's Summary Judgment.

Mr. MARK JORDAN LEGAN (Contributing Writer, Slate Magazine): First up in wide release, we have Scary Movie 4, the latest in the comedy franchise. Yes, they've made another. So, legally, all of you who saw the first three have to rush out today and see number four. That's the law. Directed by David Zucker, of Airplane fame, the latest installment parodies everything from War of the Worlds to Dr. Phil. And a fair of stars with cameos from the likes of Carmen Electra and Shaquille O'Neal.

(Soundbite of "Scary Movie 4")

Unidentified Woman: Please. Your son wouldn't want this. His soul walks the earth because of the pain you're causing.

Unidentified Man #1: No. I have crossed the galaxy for revenge.

Unidentified Man #2: No. Wet Willy.

Mr. LEGAN: The best the nation's critics can say is if you like the first three, you'll probably like this one. The New York Times calls it, "cleverly stupid." The Seattle Post Intelligencer chirps, "A barrage of low-minded gags with high spirited energy." And the BBC sniffs, "Three is a trilogy. Four is a bore."

Next up, also in wide release, is the Disney computer animated family film, The Wild. A New York Zoo lion and his animal pals escape to find his missing cub. The celebrity vocal talent is led by Kiefer Sutherland.

(Soundbite of movie "The Wild")

Mr. KIEFER SUTHERLAND (As Samson): Nigel, show them what we're looking for.

Mr. EDDIE IZZARD (as Nigel): No idea what he's talking about. You?

Unidentified Man: Doesn't even register.

Mr. SUTHERLAND (As Samson): Nigel, do the thing with the, ahhh.

Mr. IZZARD (As Nigel): Ahhh, the big female with the spikes on her melons.

Unidentified Man: The tourists.

Mr. LEGAN: The critics pretty much want The Wild put to sleep, even though the Chicago Tribune howls, "It has a good director, snazzy visuals and some really funny animals." Most agree with the point made by Entertainment Weekly, which snarls, "a flat out regurgitation of 'Madagascar'." And the L.A. Weekly moans, "The animation is cheesy. The banter isn't funny. And the score is noisy and grating." So parents who have to take their kids to it this weekend, that's what the iPod is for. Catch up on some NPR podcasts.

And we close, in limited release, with the biopic The Notorious Bettie Page. Mary Harron, the director of American Psycho, co-writes and directs Gretchen Mol as the legendary 1950s pinup girl, who became big in the bondage industry.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Notorious Bettie Page")

Unidentified Man (Actor): This is Maxine. You can learn from her. She knows all about the three essentials: clothes, pose, and expression.

Ms. GRETCHEN MOL (As Bettie Page): Clothes, pose, and expression.

Mr. LEGAN: While some critics complain of the storytelling, or lack thereof, almost all rave about the lead performance. The Hollywood Reporter says, "While Gretchen Mol delivers a delightfully exuberant lead performance, the film, itself, seldom goes beyond skin deep." Rolling Stone cheers, "Mol delivers the first performance this year that deserves serious Oscar consideration." While Variety offers, "A superficial look at the 50s sex icon. Pic feels like it was researched via press clippings."

So, what better way to celebrate Passover and Easter than with a film about a bondage pinup girl?

BRAND: Mark Jordan Legan is a writer living in Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mark Jordan Legan