Based on E.B. White’s enduring children’s story we meet Wilbur the Pig (Dominic Scott Kay) a runt who is saved from the axe by a little farm girl named Fern (Dakota Fanning). She raises Wilbur from infancy but eventually she has to send Wilbur over to her uncle’s neighboring farm since there’s no room for a pig in her house. There in the barn Wilbur meets the assortment of colorful animal characters: Betsy (Reba McEntire) and Bitsy (Kathy Bates) two pessimistic cows; motherly goose Gussy (Oprah Winfrey) and her henpecked hubby Golly (Cedric the Entertainer); Samuel (John Cleese) an uptight sheep; the skittish horse Ike (Robert Redford); the self-serving rat Templeton (Steve Buscemi); and of course sweet Charlotte (Julia Roberts) a spider with a heart of gold. When the naïve Wilbur finds out he might be Christmas dinner Charlotte makes a promise to her new friend that she’ll do everything in her power to make sure Wilbur sees the Christmas snow—and everyone ends up helping her out. What could be more fun than to voice a barnyard animal? Winfrey and Cedric’s geese banter is like an old married couple. Cleese gives Samuel the sheep a certain upper-crustiness. Redford is actually pretty funny as a horse who’s deathly afraid of spiders (“I’ll listen to you but I just can’t look at you”). Buscemi is a particularly nice choice as the sneaky rat Templeton who only thinks about filling his belly with food (no typecasting there we swear). For pure comic relief there are also two crows voiced by Andre Benjamin and Thomas Haden Church who just can’t quite get around the whole scarecrow thing. And as Charlotte Roberts has a truly soothing and loving tone sort of how you’d imagine it from the book. As for the human aspect Fanning continues to do what she does best playing Fern with the right amount of youthful innocence spunkiness and determination. Just wondering how we are going to handle it when this amazing little actress grows up and starts doing like adult things. Actually it is sort of a shame they couldn’t get a live-action version of Charlotte's Web made before Babe. Sure there was the 1973 animated cutesy film but a live-action adaptation of this timeless tale really should have been the standard by which all computer-generated talking farm animal movies would follow don’t you think? Instead Charlotte's Web pales ever so slightly in comparison. Oh well water under the bridge. Director Gary Winick (13 Going on 30) still manages to invoke the wonderful and uplifting spirit of the novel keeping faithful to the text in all ways. Visually the film is crisp and flawless in its execution particularly in the beauty and splendor of how Charlotte spins her webs and emotionally hearts will indeed swell and tears will flow. Charlotte's Web is the perfect family movie to inspire the next generation of young readers and viewers as well as for the rest of us who fondly remember the childhood classic.
She's a hip-hoppin' be-boppin' mean ol' nanny who whips a mean stew and your butt for not doing your homework—and now she's back! Alas we don't speak of the Mrs. Doubtfire sequel but rather that of Big Momma a.k.a. FBI Agent Malcolm Turner (Martin Lawrence). Agent Warner has cut ties with the FBI at the behest of Sherry (Nia Long)—who as you no doubt recall is the granddaughter of the real Big Momma—since she's pregnant with Malcolm's baby. But wouldn't you know that he gets sucked back in after a former colleague is killed. Posing as Big Momma he's hired as a nanny to a suburban family the deadbeat dad of which is involved in the murder and a crime plot. She does it all—cooks cleans dances and even runs down bad guys but it's a race against time to stop the potential national security crisis. That is a race against the film's (mercifully) short running time. Although Lawrence's resume includes some of the dregs of comedy it's hard to argue that he is truly blessed when it comes to physical comedy and comedic timing. He continues both trends here this time without the help of the breakthrough actors of the past two years Paul Giamatti and Terrence Howard who yes both starred in the first Big Momma's House. That means Lawrence's urban mania is truly on its own and absurd and juvenile as the film may be even film snobs can't hold back a few laughs at his Big Momma outlandishness. Longreturns for no more than a select few scenes and to provide a minor conflict in the story. The notable newcomer is CSI's Emily Procter as the sterile mother who hires Big Momma. She does a serviceable job as a suburban Petite Momma. Might she be the next Giamatti or Howard to bolt to bigger and better things in time for the next sequel? No.
Big Momma's House 2 is right up director John Whitesell's alley. He's the guy behind such misses—though not necessarily financially—as Malibu's Most Wanted and See Spot Run and he's right at home here. Whitesell doesn't hold back in (literally and figuratively) pulling the robe off Big Momma but he clearly knows that nothing is to interrupt Lawrence's antics not even the thin story line. Aside from that he knows quite well how to execute thinly veiled rip-offs of the aforementioned Mrs. Doubtfire as well as countless other hidden-motive comedies (i.e. Kindergarten Cop Houseguest et al). Because while the main guise is the Big Momma fat suit Whitesell parades the film about as a feel-good/family flick.
It's 1978 and in the suburbs of Chicago every day begins and ends at the roller-skating rinks. For X (Bow Wow) and his friends the news that their home-base rink is going out of business is devastating. They were men amongst boys on the rink and now they're forced to try to fit in at another more classy skating joint--the Sweetwater Roller Rink. There they must face Sweetness Sweetwater's resident celebrity and roller-skating champion and his pirouetting entourage. Everyone except X is intimidated by this daunting obstacle. See although everyone has it rough in their neighborhood X's mom just died and his disapproving dad (Chi McBride) is out of work so the rink is his only outlet. And he's pretty darn good at skating. Eventually X and his crew stand up to Sweetness challenging him and his cast of flamboyant flunkies to a skate off. It's the moment X has been waiting for and what he might lack in skating ability he more than makes up for in heart.
Hollywood seems to have found a remedy for the conundrum of casting the parts of precocious teens: either hire Dakota Fanning or find older actors who can look the part. But in the case of Roll Bounce charismatic star Bow Wow is actually not too far off his character's young age. Now all grown up the actor has the ability to grasp his character's urban attitude as well as his internal strife involving some genuine dramatic scenes which a href="/celebrity/Shad_Gregory_Moss/1123746" >Bow Wow pulls off with surprising conviction. Chi McBride--something of a hot film commodity these days but best known for his stint on TV's Boston Public--interacts convincingly with Bow Wow as X's widower-father struggling to be everything to everyone while butting heads with X on a number of issues primarily his obsession with skating. Then there's X's posse played with joie de vivre by a few up and coming actors. They include Khleo Thomas (Holes) as the sweet-natured Mixed Mike; Marcus T. Paulk as the shy Boo; Brandon T. Jackson as the brazen Junior; and Jurnee Smollett (Eve's Bayou) as the only girl in the bunch. The camaraderie is certainly evident.
For what it's worth director Malcolm D. Lee is Spike Lee's cousin who has no doubt lent a helping hand to his cousin's own flourishing career. Whereas Spike makes movies that are usually topical Malcolm tends to make parodies of the inequalities his cousin tries to solve which would include Malcolm's most well-known film Undercover Brother. Accordingly Roll Bounce is able to get away with some crude juvenile humor because it wouldn't dare take itself too seriously. Of course the coming-of-age story is sticky sweet and poignant but really the best part is the roller skating sequences to the groovin' '70s disco soundtrack. Roll Bounce is all about the fun which is achieved rather seamlessly.
At his first day of Sky High Will Stronghold (Michael Angarano) the son of two of the greatest superheroes ever Commander (Kurt Russell) and Jetstream (Kelly Preston) shocks everyone by exhibiting absolutely no superpowers. To make matters worse Will inherits an archenemy and family foe in Warren Peace (Stevens Strait) who can shoot fire from his hands. But Will's "Sidekick" status is quickly upgraded to "Hero" when he realizes he possesses superhuman strength. Newfound status in tow Will deserts his geeky pals and falls for Gwen (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) a technopath who can control technology with her mind). But when Commander and Jetstream's biggest bounty the villainous Royal Pain comes back to threaten his family Will and his sidekick friends reunite to save them their friends and the destiny of Sky High. It's a tough first homework assignment but hey that's high school.
Veteran stars Kurt Russell (Miracle) and Kelly Preston (Eulogy) give comical performances as real estate agents by day superheroes by night but it's the younger cast that steals the show. Lords of Dogtown's Michael Angarano probably better known for his role as Jack's biological son Elliot on NBC's Will & Grace flawlessly depicts an angst ridden high schooler dealing with teen pressures. Meanwhile Mary Elizabeth Winstead (The Ring Two) who plays Will's love interest Gwen gives a first-class performance as the most popular--and most hated--girl in school. But the heart and soul of the movie resides in the sidekicks: Layla (Danielle Panabaker) Ethan (Dee-Jay Daniels) Zach (Nicholas Braun) and Magenta (Kelly Vitz) who round out a young cast of lovable outcasts. Also look for some surprisingly delightful performances from Lynda Carter (the original Wonder Woman) as the school principal cult favorite Bruce Campbell (The Evil Dead's Ash) as Coach Boomer and Kids in the Hall trooper Kevin McDonald as Mr. Medulla.
Director Mike Mitchell the man responsible for hilarious Rob Schneider comedy Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo and Ben Affleck's fiasco Surviving Christmas strips this family comedy of the violence normally associated with characters that go "ker-pow" in the in dark alleys and infuses it instead with a old-fashioned comic book feel. As a scene changer for example he flashes the Sky High logo across the screen. And the special effects were surprisingly dazzling: Super strength is demonstrated by smashing the entire gym floor and the flying bus that took them to and from school all add to the film's appeal. Everyone's power--whether it be flying freezing flaming stretching or speed--is shown seamlessly which makes the film so pleasantly watchable. While the students may be "saving the world one homework assignment at a time " Mitchell's comic-y touch is the key to the film's success.