Tuesday, November 15, 2005

SAW II, rated R for gratuitous violence, and also for replacing Cary Elwes with Donnie Wahlberg.

Everyone loves a sequel. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked for a DVD to enjoy and found myself saying “Let’s watch Jewel of the Nile or Lethal Weapon 4 again!” 2005 is truly becoming the Year of the Sequel, first with Oscar contender The Legend of Zorro emerging as a smash hit, and now with Saw II capturing the spotlight.

Oh, enough with this. The editors here at Reviews pressure us to write upbeat articles and look for the positive in every film. “If you can’t say something nice, make it up” says my boss. But today, I’m going to tell you the truth. Saw II sucks. Maybe director Darren Lynn Bousman has a secret book called “How to Make a Sequel Really Really Suck,” because he seems to have succeeded on every point.

First, he replaced an offbeat yet recognizable star who can really act--Cary Elwes--with a forgettable actor that nobody particularly likes or dislikes: Donnie Wahlberg. I had to look up his name three times before I could manage to write it down, because I kept forgetting it in the time it took to click over to my Word doc. Is it just me, or does he look like you took Matt Damon and smoothed out his face and performed a lobotomy to remove any traces of personality?

Second, where the film might have explored character motivation, back story or plot, it instead fell again and again into stupid, gratuitous violence. Donnie walks into a room and eek! There’s a bloody arm on the floor! Donnie goes home to his apartment and eek! There’s a note with an ear pinned to it! Donnie follows up on a lead and eek! His partner is caught in an elaborate man-trap that must have taken an entire crew of Survivor stagehands to set up! After the tenth or eleventh discovery, the body parts and blood spatter just aren’t shocking anymore.

Third, Bousman took what was a disturbing and unique idea in Saw—locking two guys in a room to solve the psychopath’s puzzle and possibly murder each other—and decided “more victims, more murder, more better!” In the sequel there are not two but EIGHT people locked in a room with a puzzle to solve and a body count to amass. Of course they fall into the usual stereotypes: The cool guy, the hot chick, the uncool guy who lusts after the hot chick, the not-hot chick who is played by a hot actress with glasses and dyed-black hair; the smart guy who happens to know trivia relating to the puzzle; the professor; Mary Ann; and a child/sweet mentally impaired person/pregnant woman/other figure who inspires pity. Yawn.

Anyway, I’m going to post this now. Maybe my editors will take it down, maybe they’ll replace it with a glowing review. Maybe I’ll get fired. But for once I want to warn you: Saw II is terrible! Don’t see it!

On the sequel scale, which ranks Batman Forever at -**** and Look Who’s Talking Now at -*****, I rate Saw II right down there next to Home Alone III.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Jarhead, rated R for graphic war violence as imagined by an effete Hollywood fancylad.

I'll admit that I didn't hate "American Beauty." True, you had the dopey kid who followed the floating cellophane bag around with a video camera. That was pretty dumb. You also had the eyebrows guy from "The OC" to have to look at, and that's harsh. On the other hand,the movie made you realize what a great actor Kevin Spacey really is. Imagine, for example, the sheer professionalism and mastery of the craft that it took for him not to want to run offstage and wretch when he had to pretend to be about to get it on with Mena Suvari.

Yet, for all the swirling, varied thoughts that came to mind after watching "American Beauty," here's one that never did:

Gee, I'd love to see this director's take on the Marine Corps.

Yes, folks, Jarhead is a movie about Marines made by the guy who made "American Beauty."

The story opens with Spuds MacKenzie, the Bud Light Party Dog, paying a visit to the troops a few days before hostilities break out over Hussein's conquest of Kuwait. The party is a rager. Somebody's got a keg on the 3rd floor of the ammo dump and a funnel with a really long tube attached to it so that if you're standing at the bottom of that thing when the beer comes out, it hits you like a Steven Seagall punch to the throat. Party on, jarheads!

Soon, the war starts, but what's interesting is that these particular Marines don't seem to be involved in any fighting. They do a lot of walking through the desert and making overly obvious early 90s pop culture references. For example, Gyllenhaal says at one point, "How about that 'Parker Lewis Can't Lose'?" To which one of his jarhead buddies replies, "yes, despite the fact that they have a limited number of affiliates, Fox has demonstrated a willingness to experiment with innovative forms of programming which may lead them to success in the coming decade."

Then there's the one jarhead who keeps repeating lines from Max Headroom and being told, "hey, man, it's 1991. Max Headroom is no longer cool." War, however, is cruel, and what the jarheads don't know, but the audience does, is that Max Headroom was never cool. It's a grim foreshadowing of things to come.

Jamie Foxx stars as one of the other jarheads. His role in the movie is to act as the foil to the white characters love of Def Leppard and Sylvester Stallone movies and drop in all the appropriate black cultural references of the time. Fair enough, but with little more than "Mo' Betta Blues" and basketball to work with, it gets tiresome pretty fast. So in traditional Hollywood form, he's the first guy in the platoon to die. Not from battle, mind you. They never seem to get to that. Instead Foxx suffocates on his own vomit after Spuds pays them another visit on the front lines, they all get trashed, and nobody turns Foxx onto his stomach when he passes out.

Through a series of Gyllenhaal flashbacks to a life-changing experience at the "Us" Festival, we learn that Gyllenhaal joined the Marines not just as a way to get to party with Spuds Mackenzie, but also to live out his dream of marrying Christina Applegate. Frankly, it's not much of a plan. It revolves chiefly around going to ragers because he thinks Applegate's character on "Married with Children" is real and will probably show up at the kind of bitchin' parties Marines have.

After a few days of walking around, cursing meaningfully at each other and casually referring to things like the "Humpty Dance" while artillery shells explode in the background, the war ends.

But that doesn't mean the party has to!

To the strains of "Fight the Power," our heroes celebrate their victory in the desert, and with Hussein out of the way, there's an awkward scene where they all realize they're sexually attracted to each other. Since it's 1991, they can't do anything about it except look angry, confused and stupid. They'll have to wait until 1997 or so, when suddenly everyone in movies like this became gay.

The story closes with a voiceover from Gyllenhaal as Spuds Mackenzie leads the troops on a ticker tape parade down Wall Street in New York. It's a rager, and Chrstina Applegate is there. Gyllenhaal's character declares that he loved every minute of his stupid life, just before he chokes on his own vomit.

What is striking about this movie is the realism. It's a very convincing portrayal of what the director of American Beauty would imagine happens during a war, which is mostly Marines suddenly realizing they're gay.

On a scale of Max Headroom being the worst (never cool) to Christina Applegate being the best (still pretty cool), I rate this movie a Corey Haim, which is pretty freakin' bad.

THE LEGEND OF ZORRO, rated PG for gentle poking with forks swordfighting and even gentler conjugal smoldering between hot stars Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones-Douglas.

This time of year, right when you can find half-price candy corn alongside giant singing Santa Clauses, the Oscar buzz begins as the year’s best films line up for release in November and December. Crash, Jarhead, Munich, Brokeback Mountain and The Legend of Zorro are all slated as early favorites in the coveted Best Picture category. With its nonstop action, riveting character portrayals and lush period dressings, The Legend of Zorro is a strong contender.

If this film wins, it will be only the third sequel ever to win Best Picture (after The Godfather, Part II in 1974 and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2003). Oh—didn’t you realize this was a sequel? It’s a common misconception that The Legend of Zorro is “that Zorro movie that came out a couple years ago.” In fact, that’s The Mask of Zorro, the 1998 film that launched the Banderas/Zeta-Jones-Douglas franchise (whose comparison to Hollywood duos like Bogart/Bacall and Tracy/Hepburn is now almost a cliché).

The long awaited sequel to that beloved film is finally here. Seven years have passed in our universe, but in Zorro’s, it’s been long enough for him and Elena to have married and spawned a 10-year-old son, Zorritorito, a precocious whipper-snapper with dark flashing eyes, day-glo teeth and an infinitely tousleable head of slightly messy hair. Zorritorito is played by the talented young Adrian Alonso, who is rumored to be on the short list for Best Supporting Actor. Zorritorito’s trademark phrase “Kill the white bandits! Viva la Aztlan!” has already become a rallying cry for MEChA, and is sure to trickle down to the grade school set across the nation who have been pining for a playground punchline ever since “Eat my shorts” went out of style in the late 80s.

Antonio Banderas smolders his way through the film as an older-but-wiser Zorro who interjects bits of fatherly wisdom between swordfights and lingering kisses with his wife, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones-Douglas. CZJD, as she’s known to her close friends, does some smoldering of her own and shows off theWelsh swordfighting skills that have made her famous. In recent years, CZJD’s fame has intensified thanks to her job as the T-Mobile spokeswoman, which has turned her into something of a pop icon. What started as an advertising campaign grew into a cultural phenomenon, spurring everything from underground zines to streetwear emblazoned with CZJD’s likeness and unforgettable slogan, “Get more.”

The plot of The Mask of Zorro goes pretty much like you’d expect. Elena worries over Zorro. Zorro squeezes into his black leather pants (I’m getting the DVD just for that scene—hello slow motion!). Zorro fights for truth, justice and the Mexican way. Zorro, Elena and Zorritorito team up against the abjectly evil bad guys who are easy to hate and even easier to kill beat up and turn over to the authorities (this being a PG film). In the end, we get a healthy dose of the soccer mom values we’ve come to expect from today’s Oscar-winning films, only this time they’re delivered with a spicy Latin flair!

On a scale of Oscar winners from Casablanca to Titanic, I rate this film somewhere between Dances with Wolves and Driving Miss Daisy.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Chicken Little, rated G in the vain hope that just because it's legal for more people to come to this, they will.

We've all heard the story of Chicken Little and his famous hissy fit, but did you ever wonder what happened to Chicken Little AFTER he learned the sky wasn't falling?

No, neither did I. It never even crossed my mind.

See, that's why neither you nor I are hotshot Disney movie producers, because while we're traipsing through life, trying to be productive citizens, raising children or working for a living without a care in the world, the boys at Disney are sweating it out on the backlots of Burbank day after Craft Services-fueled day. And they do it all for us.

They're doing the hard and important jobs and asking the tough questions. Speaking of which, I have a tough question: why in the name of God would anyone go and see this movie?

Here's the premise: Chicken Little grows up with self-esteem problems for obvious reasons. He overcompensates by becoming some kind of karate prodigy, but it's no use. Nobody can forget what a little jackass he had been and so they keep treating him with the contempt he deserves.

All of this catches the attention of a the Director of Self-Esteem of the California Education Department, who forces the principal of Chicken Little's school (who is a cow, strangely) to hold a "Chicken Little Day." Of course, this backfires and the kids (who are animals) go from just hating him in silence to a combination of vicious and sudden physical attacks and some of the most mean-spirited insults you've ever heard in a G-rated picture. Eventually, Chicken Little succumbs to the pressure and runs home from school saying that "the whole school hates me." His parents, naturally, assume he's exaggerating, but in fact, it's true.

Naturally, Chicken Little eventually is called upon to save the lives of all the cruel little bastards who had been tormenting him by using his Karate powers against a group of aliens bent on taking over the Earth, starting with the school gym. Chicken Little realizes that even though his feelings have been hurt, the survival of the whole world is in his hands (or claws), so he puts on a display of cartoon ass-kicking like you haven't seen since you snuck out of bed when you were 10 and watched "Heavy Metal" on HBO after your parents went to sleep. The aliens are rat like creatures whose deaths at the hand of Chicken Little you will not mourn. Personally, I was hoping that Chicken Little and the rat leader of the aliens would kill each other at the end in one final orgy of blood. Alas, no.

After Chicken Little saves his classmates, they all celebrate, ironically among the ruins of the Chicken Little Day celebration that was supposed to have been. Like the rest of this movie, that irony is neither funny nor charming.

I can't be more enthusiastic in my recommendation that you not see this movie. Indeed, if for some reason you're given a choice between being stabbed gently with a fork for the running time of this movie (while not having to watch it) or watching this movie, I would strongly recommend that you think about the fact that being stabbed gently with a fork won't do you any permanent harm, but that this movie might.

If you want to take your kids to a movie and you were thinking of this one, I would strongly recommend that you poke them gently with a fork for a while instead. They'll thank you when they're adults.

On scale ranging from "wonderful, relaxing massage from a talented masseuse" being best to "slightly uncomfortable massage from a novice masseuse with long fingernails" being worst, I rate this movie a "painful 30 minute session of being poked with a fork by a chimpanzee."

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Review of "Doom," rated R for being based on a video game and for having The Rock in it.

Not since Pong has a video game cried out for a movie version the way "Doom" does. One time, my brother (a grown up at the time, by the way) got onto a "Doom"-playing jag and couldn't tear himself away from the screen for a couple days straight. He nearly lost a job and a girlfriend over it, and as lucky, in retrospect, as that would have been, he eventually had to get some sleep. Still, two and a half straight days is a lot of zombie killin', if you know what I mean.

And if you do know what I mean, then you pretty much know what happens in this movie. The Rock plays a war hero from the wrong side of the tracks in the world-gone-bad future in which "Doom" is set. (By the way, why does the future always look like Detroit in 1984?) He's the country or galaxy's most decorated war veteran of all-time, but he gets involved in running guns or drugs or bootlegging Britney Spears CDs after leaving the service, and gets busted.

He is condemned to a futuristic and yet decrepit prison. The door locks and medical tools are fancy and high tech, but everything else is rusty, moldy and broken. Even the sink in The Rock's cell leaks, and boy, does that bug him. It'll bug you too, because the expression that The Rock's acting teacher showed him to express repressed rage makes him look even dimmer than usual.

Anyway, a couple days later, Nick Nolte comes into the prison and demands to see The Rock. It seems the country, planet or galaxy is in danger because a bunch of lumbering, fleshy-headed monsters have taken over what appears to be either a dungeon or some kind of elaborate S&M club on a faraway planet. For some reason, this particular S&M club is strategically critical and must be cleared of all zombie-life. In fact, Nolte tells The Rock he can just go ahead and kill whatever's in there, zombie or otherwise, on the house.

The Rock considers this offer briefly and then squints at Nolte across the low-tech prison table and asks, "What's the catch?" The funniest part about this moment is that Nolte hasn't yet told him he'll be pardoned if he goes on the mission.

Eventually, The Rock's character bargains Nolte down from "full pardon" to "fix that damn sink." Nolte agrees, assuming that since The Rock won't survive the Zombie S&M dungeon, he'll never have to fix the sink anyway. Then he buys The Rock a Zagnut bar and tells him it's his gosh-darned dinner. The Rock thanks him and starts to return to his cell before Nolte reminds him of their deal.

Anyway, The Rock also has worked it out so that he can pick his own team for the mission, and interestingly, they're all in jail, they're all from different target audiences (I mean, ethnic groups) and have remarkably narrow zombie-fighting specialties: the black guy only uses exotic knives; a Japanese guy uses karate and Japanese movie magic; the big dunder-headed farm boy is good at taking a beating so the rest of the group can get away; and then, there's a sophisticated-looking blonde who, being a hot white woman in a movie of this kind, is under no obligation to do anything useful at all.

When they reach the S&M zombie dungeon, The Rock motivates the group with some comments that are intended to be cold-blooded gallow's humor but end up sounding instead like he's reading the English-language script of a Japanese beer commercial. Personally, I wondered for a minute if I had misheard it, because although each word makes sense individually, I didn't recognize a meaningful pattern in the English language. "We're the star for our fight," just doesn't cut it as a catch phrase (or as any kind of phrase at all), but The Rock keeps saying it throughout the movie like we're supposed to know what he's talking about. It's embarassing. With lame action-hero repartee like that, he's clearly not qualified to be Governor.

A couple hours later, they're still on the first level, having all been killed and inexplicably regenerated 10 or 12 times. It's tough to stop watching because the boss of the first level is right around the corner from that apparently pointless red glowing vent in the floor. As soon as The Rock can get that chain gun from a couple scenes back, he'll be able to take out the one Mancubus standing between our heroes and the first boss, and you just know he's going to do it next time.

With "Doom"'s running time of more than 50 hours, I strongly recommend you stop to shower, sleep, talk to your spouse or significant other, and eat something other than microwave pizza.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being as-bad-as-Ishtar and 10 being as-good-as-The-Godfather, I give this movie an it's-based-on-a-videogame.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

JUST LIKE HEAVEN, rated PG-13 for a sexually suggestive scene involving a potting wheel and a lump of wet clay...no wait, that was Ghost. Nevermind.

In Just Like Heaven, Reese Witherspoon plays a dedicated and charmingly blonde physician who is married to her job. Sure, she’s cute as a button, has perfected the sexy-yet-cute pout, has expensive highlights in her hair and sports a sleek pilates bod, but seriously? For real? She works all the time and is super-brilliant and has no social life whatsoever. She does however have a lovely apartment—you know the type—it’s expensive, gorgeous, decorated just right and very very clean. It looks like 99.99% of the homes you see on TV and movies, and like 0.01% of the homes you see in real life.

And then she dies! And then this guy, Mark Ruffalo, moves into her lovely apartment in ignorance that he will be rooming with Reese’s charmingly blonde ghostly presence. First there are the misunderstandings as Mark and Reese mistake one another for real people. But oops, Reese is a ghost! And Mark is a cardboard cutout 30-something sexy-in-a-safe-geeky-way guy. Then Mark thinks he must be insane. But then Reese helps him save a life because seriously for real? She’s a super-brilliant doctor? And the life she saves turns out to be an angel, only he chose to fall and become human so he can eat ice cream and...no wait, that was City of Angels. Nevermind.

After this turning point, Reese and Mark find themselves falling into a quirky yet meaningful relationship. Isn’t it ironic, that this 30-something sexy-in-a-safe-geeky-way guy is finally having the best relationship of his life...but it’s with a dead girl? Gosh, he’s learning so much from her...and laughing so much with her...and falling in love with her...but oh no! This can’t end well.

And it doesn’t. After the couple finally figures out how to kiss, they also figure out how Reese can finally walk into the light and go to heaven, a charmingly blonde place that’s all glowy and pleasant, where anyone who’s really really nice and does good deeds can get in. Don’t worry about all those silly religious rules or that (shhh) Jesus guy. Let’s just talk about “God” a little bit and keep things fuzzy, so that the Christians in the audience can feel irritated and people of other religions can feel superior and atheists can roll their eyes and agnostics can continue trying to decide between the popcorn and the junior mints...in other words, not really reach anyone in the audience but also not seriously alienate anyone either...ah, such a lofty goal! Yeah, Reese gets to go there, and Mark’s kinda sad but kinda uplifted, because he knows that since he’s a nice guy, he’ll get to go there someday too.

My favorite thing about this movie is that it’s only 95 minutes long. Thank Jesus! Either movies are getting longer or my attention span is getting shorter, but lately it seems like romantic comedies are running two hours and dramas are running 2 hours 20 minutes for Coach Carter-esques and up to 3 hours for anything with a horse or long dresses. Ridiculous! But at 95 minutes Just Like Heaven is completely tolerable.

On a scale of “Hey it has that Sex and the City guy in it!” to "Hey it has that Napoleon Dynamite guy in it!” I give this movie a “Legally Blonde 3: Dead and Loving It!”

Thursday, July 28, 2005

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, rated a family-friendly PG for bearing no resemblance to the story of Michael Jackson.

I broke the rules this time and actually saw this movie BEFORE I wrote the review. Then again, that wasn't so much a "rule" as it was something I just blurted out during lunch one day and turned into a blog, so it's probably ok.

I admit I had some concerns about this movie. Wasn't it kinda obvious that Johnny Depp's creepy, pasty-faced Wonka was just a stand-in for creepy, pasty-faced Michael Jackson and that the freak asylum of Wonka's factory was just a metaphor for the freak asylum of Neverland? And wasn't it pretty obvious that Fizzy Lifting Drink was just another way of saying Jesus Juice and Veruca Salt was just Priscilla Presley? Anyway, that's what I was worried about, especially the Veruca Salt part.

It turns out my fears were all in vain, because this movie is true to the original story. For those of you who aren't familiar, here's the premise: an adorable and obviously special little boy, Charlie, grows up with a poor but supportive family in a dingy little town called Gary, Indiana. The members of his family struggle to get out of bed, and when they do, it's just to perform as a funky R&B band known as The Chocolate Factory.

Despite their best efforts, The Chocolate Factory just doesn't catch on and as a result are forced to eat cabbage soup every night. Then, there's some contest involving tickets of some kind, but none of them wins. Other better behaved and wealthier kids do. I'm not even sure why this part was in the movie.

Anyway, they soon discover that Charlie, the youngest child of the Five, can really, really sing and he's a natural dancer. In fact, he's so good and crowds love him so much, that they're soon forced to change the name of the band to Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. Despite some initial pangs of jealousy by his older, greasier, less talented brothers, pretty soon Charlie has the group at the top of the charts, and the money starts rolling in.

That's when the problems start. Charlie's brothers can't handle success well and start hitting the sweets pretty hard: gobstoppers, blueberry chewing gum, edible flowers, you name it. Soon, people on the street start thinking they're some kind of Al Roker tribute group. Meanwhile, the boys overbearing father pushes them to do more and more gigs, which of course means that Charlie's brothers ride the Brown Horse (you know, chocolate) even harder.

One day, Charlie declares that he can't take it anymore and leaves the band. Without Charlie, The Chocolate Factory fails to produce another hit record but instead hires an oompa-loompa to replace their brother, and although he's pretty good, he just doesn't have Charlie's chops. Their pitiful attempt to tour with the oompa-loompa as a front man ends one night when their new lead singer infuriates the rest of the group with a patronizing song scolding them for all their chocolate eating. He was never seen again, which is fine because no one likes a goody two-shoes.

Despite this setback, Charlie on his own goes on to make "Chiller," the best-selling record in history and becomes a hundred times bigger than The Chocolate Factory ever was. From there, it's all smooth sailing for Charlie, who becomes a productive, contributing member of society (who has a nose), after having his no-account, trifling brothers killed by calling in a favor from NASA's Death Ray division, who owed him a favor for a little help he had given them on solving a particularly tricky engineering problem around the time "Chiller" was released. He eventually becomes Governor of California and solves all the state's problems.

Then some creep gives him a factory and his life gets complicated and heavy. We are left with mixed emotions, but don't want to say anything because we're afraid he'll use that awful Death Ray on us too.

Overall, this movie surprised me for its complete lack of resemblance to the Michael Jackson story and the fact that NASA will just kill guys for you if you're their friend. On a scale of "Man in the Mirror" on the low end to "Billie Jean" on the other, I give this movie a "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough."

Thursday, July 14, 2005

MUST LOVE DOGS, starring Diane Lane and John Cusack, rated PG-13 for some scenes of animated violence.

Diane Lane stars as Sarah Hurlihy, an attractive, single middle-aged woman with a terrible secret: she's an android, whose mission is to take good roles in movies from human actresses. Also, her circuitry is programmed with a prime directive that she can under no circumstances disobey, which obviously provides the title of the film.

So once she's uncovered the awful truth about her life, her recent breakup and career as a preschool teacher become even more depressing. Fortunately, she's got one of those meddling movie sisters who enjoys the feeling of superiority she gets by trying to set Sarah up with guys. The result is a long parade of colorful losers that Sarah has to date: disco guy; obnoxious lawyer guy; too-eager-for-sex guy; probably-gay guy; eskimo-with-a-harpoon guy; bumblebee-costume-guy; former-president-of-the-united-states-who-isn't-carter-bush-or-ford guy. You've seen the scene before.

Finally, in desperation, meddling sister puts a personal ad in the paper on behalf of her sister that says what a lovely, sensitive person she is and describes the type of non-loser man that she would like to meet and also says she's easy. As a result, another cavalcade of creeps present themselves to Sarah for inspection, but this time, having discovered her android powers, she shapes her index finger into a long, pointy knife like the creepy cop in Terminator 2 and stabs them in the eye one by one after the salad course.

After that, the movie gets a little gratuitous with the violence for my taste. Sarah becomes a killing machine that threatens the whole planet. Eventually, Morgan Freeman (the President, of course) is forced to make a speech on television in which he advises everyone that the United States has chosen to do what it must in order to survive, which means that scientists, artists, politicians, NFL cheerleaders and a handful of other important personages are to be evacuated immediately to a secure bunker in a Bahamas resort.

John Cusack is a single father caught up in this world-ending madness, responsible for protecting his wide-eyed daughter, played by Verne Troyer, from the onslaught. As cities are destroyed one by one, Cusack remains determined to stand with surviving remnant of society not on the beach in the Bahamas and find a way to defeat Sarah before the threat spreads to other countries.

Eventually, his rag-tag band of cohorts discover that Sarah has no resistance to water, which makes her sister realize why Sarah always refused to go shopping for swimsuits with her even though she was always so thin and everyone hated her for it. I'll try not to ruin the ending, but Cusack sets up a Wile E. Coyote-style trap wherein she pulls a rope next to a sign that says: "Pull Rope for Perfect Man." The rope doesn't in fact deliver a perfect man, but instead, pours a cartoony silver bucket of water on her head and she melts like the Wicked Witch of the West.

I'm not the first person to express my displeasure with Hollywood's belief that it can just jam-pack a movie with special effects and then expect us to line up to watch it. Unfortunately, MUST LOVE DOGS is a stereotypical example of just such a movie. On the other hand, it has Diane Lane in most of the scenes.

On a scale of "War of the Worlds" on the radio in 1929 on the good end to "War of the Worlds" as a movie in 2005 on the other, I give MUST LOVE DOGS an "At Least Diane Lane Is In Most Of The Scenes."

Special note: if, like Sarah, you'd like to kill losery suitors that you've had a hard time breaking up with, this movie as a double feature with "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" provides a certain but legal way of getting the job done.