Martin Lawrence in Big Momma's HouseBIG MOMMA'S HOUSE, SHANGHAI NOON, and ROAD TRIP

 

First, the good news: the new Martin Lawrence comedy, Big Momma's House, is nowhere near as terrible as Mrs. Doubtfire, his last film to put its comic star is prosthetic drag for most of its length. The bad news, as you might have expected, is that the movie still isn't very good.

Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible 2Mission: Impossible 2, the sequel to Brian De Palma's 1996 crime-caper flick, has a major advantage over its predecessor - you're actually able to follow the plot. For the most part.

Woody Allen and Elaine May in Small Time CrooksSMALL TIME CROOKS

Woody Allen's latest offering is such a light and enjoyable work that it's bound to be underrated, to be seen as a throwback to the "early, funny" movies that Woody fans hold such a fondness for. And yes, it has some of the go-for-broke spirit that energized movies like Sleeper and Bananas, and some of the same slapstick silliness, too.

Russell Crowe in GladiatorGLADIATOR

Ridley Scott's Gladiator, a surprisingly pungent and entertaining historical epic, displays, among other things, the pleasures of a great audience-grabbing pot (based loosely on actual events).

Jim Caviezel in FrequencyFREQUENCY

All tearjerkers, in one way or another, focus on death. Tearjerkers for Guys, however, focus on the death (or impending death) of one's father. For my money, the crème de la crème of this genre is Field of Dreams, where Kevin Costner's love of baseball (another Tearjerkers-for-Guys staple) leads to the resurrection of his long-deceased dad, and which is so shamelessly manipulative and contrived and romantic about its supernatural and spiritual possibilities that it's irresistible.

Ben Stiller and Edward Norton in Keeping the FaithKEEPING THE FAITH

If you've seen the trailer for Keeping the Faith - a slapsticky montage featuring the sight of Edward Norton, as a priest, setting his clerical robe on fire (which he extinguishes by leaping into holy water), and Ben Stiller, as a rabbi, punching a woman in the stomach - you might be shocked at the sweetness and earnestness of the movie itself. The film's trailer is one of the biggest pieces of false advertising in recent movies.

Chloe Sevigny and Christian Bale in American PsychoAMERICAN PSYCHO

Do you know what movie I was reminded of during American Psycho? The Bridges of Madison County.

Minnie Driver and David Duchovny in Return to MeRETURN TO ME

There's so much goodwill built into Return to Me - the promise of an audience-pleasing romantic comedy, the likability of the cast, the presence of director/co-writer/co-star Bonnie Hunt, the prospect of David Duchovny smiling - that I feel like something of a heel for saying that the movie itself is pretty crummy.

Todd Louiso, John Cusack, and Jack Black in High FidelityHIGH FIDELITY

John Cusack, at his best, has made a career out of playing two disarmingly similar character types: those who feel like losers, but are actually cooler than anyone else in the room (see his roles in The Sure Thing, Say Anything..., and Grosse Pointe Blank), and those who think they're cooler than anyone else in the room, but are actually losers (The Grifters, Bullets Over Broadway, and Being John Malkovich).

Julia Roberts and Albert Finney in Erin BrockovichERIN BROCKOVICH

In director Steven Soderbergh's Erin Brockovich, which is based on a true story, Julia Roberts plays the titular heroine, a divorced, unemployed mother of three, who bullies her way into a job at the law offices of Ed Masry (Albert Finney), the lawyer who previously lost a case for Brockovich.

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