Summary Judgment: 'Charlotte's Web,' 'Happyness,' 'Eragon'
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
There are a lot of new movies out now. Here's our regular Friday digest of what critics think about them from the online magazine Slate. Mark Jordan Legan has this summary judgment.
MARK JORDAN LEGAN: Have we got a holiday movie for you. Julia Roberts is a blood-sucking creature that wraps her victims up before killing them. No, Ms. Roberts isn't finally playing a vampire or a serial killer. She's the voice of Charlotte, the talking spider, in the live action CGI hybrid adaptation of E.B. White's classic 1952 tale, "Charlotte's Web." Dakota Fanning leads the human cast and everyone from Robert Redford to John Cleese provide some of the voices to the talking barnyard animals.
SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "CHARLOTTE'S WEB"
Mr. DOMINIC SCOTT KAY (Actor): (As Wilbur) Charlotte, what does a runt pig do?
Ms. JULIA ROBERTS (Actress): (As Charlotte) This isn't for what you do. It's for what you are. Some pigs might smile a bit.
SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE
LEGAN: The critics are split on "Charlotte's Web." The Hollywood Reporter raves a beautifully rendered motion picture that's full of warmth, wit and wonder. But Variety begs to differ complaining the direction consists of button pushing and the mechanics are palpable at every step. And the New York Times gives the faint praise of may not be perfect but it honors its source. Too bad my 7-year-old didn't read the reviews because she's already in line.
Next up, Will Smith stars in the wide-released drama, "The Pursuit of Happyness." Smith plays a man with a 5-year-old son played by Smith's real life offspring, Jaden, who must suddenly deal with being homeless. Thandie Newton also stars.
SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS"
Mr. WILL SMITH (Actor): (As Chris Gardner) Don't ever let somebody tell you, you can't do something. Not even me. All right?
Mr. JADEN CHRISTOPHER SYRE SMITH (Actor): (As Christopher Gardner) All right.
Mr. W. SMITH: (As Chris Gardner) You got to dream. You got to protect it.
LEGAN: Many critics commend the performances while others complain that it's just too grim. The Christian Science Monitor calls it a male-weepy engineered for the whole family. U.S.A Today finds "The Pursuit of Happyness" heartfelt and compelling. But News Week warns of a long, grim, and painful journey, and the Wall Street Journal dismisses it as manipulative and repetitive.
Our final wide-release is the fantasy adventure, "Eragon," based on the best-selling novel. A young farm boy learns of his true destiny. No, not once again to clean out the stables, but to ride a magical dragon and fight an evil empire. Jeremy Irons and Robert Carlyle star.
SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "ERAGON"
Mr. JEREMY IRONS (Actor): (As Brom) My story was about you, Eragon. Tis your fate to be a dragon rider. (Unidentified) need a rider, if they are to defeat Durza and the King.
Mr. EDWARD SPELEERS (Actor): (As Eragon) I didn't ask for any of this.
Mr. IRONS: (As Brom) But you were chosen nevertheless.
LEGAN: Fantasy fans may enjoy but the nation's critics pretty much dismissed it as "Lord of the Rings" light. The Chicago Tribune embraces its inner nerd and confesses Eragon is a bit cheesy but I rather liked it.
But the Washington Post snarls, too bad the acting is so lame. The story is so derivative and the thing is so long. And the Atlanta Journal Constitution thinks even fools for fantasy movies may find the foolishness of "Eragon" tough going.
Go ahead, call it foolish. Wish I had flying dragon. Have you been to the malls this week? On a flying dragon, you'd be able to swoop down the instant a parking space becomes available. I'd like to see that mean lady in a Hummer steal that space for me now. I know you saw me there with my blinker on.
Okay, what happens in the mall parking lot stays in the mall parking lot. Let it go. Think nice holiday thoughts - Grandma's house, candy canes, eggnog, torching that Hummer with my fire-breathing dragon. Oh no, wait, that's - err.
BRAND: Mark Jordan Legan is a writer living in Los Angeles.
SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.