Short Takes 

This week in local theaters

This week in local theaters

BE KIND REWIND The pleasures of Michel Gondry’s latest as writer and director do not extend far beyond its premise: Jack Black, magnetized and manic (yawn), erases every single video tape in the rental store where he hangs out and has to reshoot the movies with pal Mos Def. Theirs becomes a ramshackle filmography of re-dos made for pennies on the multi-millions: Ghostbusters, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Rush Hour 2, The Lion King, Robocop and, most amusingly, the Ali-Foreman doc When We Were Kings. Too bad the makeovers occupy only a few minutes of screen time—the film doesn’t even seem terribly interested in its own conceit. Instead, it dawdles around the margins lurching toward a shaky let’s-put-on-a-show climax. Be Kind Rewind is neither amiably ambling nor affably shaggy, just a mess that looks improvised by amateurs more concerned with appearing clever than being affectionate. For the first time in his scattershot career, which includes a heartbreaking, mind-bending masterpiece (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which he didn’t write) bookended by dazzling disappointments (Human Nature and The Science of Sleep), Gondry seems completely lost. The greatest mystery is how something peddling the bliss of moviemaking is absent any hint of joy. —Robert Wilonsky (Opens Friday)

IN BRUGES Black, fluffy and gloriously unilateral, Colin Farrell’s eyebrows aren’t the prettiest things about In Bruges—that honor falls to the Belgian city itself, known for its scenic medieval turrets, bourgeois tedium, and unfavorable comparisons with Amsterdam. Bruges may be the movie’s too long-running joke, but Farrell’s shaggy brows are easily the most entertaining thing in Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’s charming but slight first foray into the crime caper. Flying about the actor’s face like unhinged windshield wipers, they tell you all you need to know about Ray, a dim-bulb hit man forcibly furloughed in Bruges with staid older colleague Ken (Brendan Gleeson) by their boss, played with evil relish by Ralph Fiennes. While Ken pores over guidebooks, Ray pursues a Dutch nymph (Clémence Poésy), who furthers the movie’s surrealist ambitions by supplying hard drugs to the film set Ray and Ken keep mysteriously stumbling upon—the kind of film set that features angry dwarfs, fog machines and copious allusions to the Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch. Fellini ahoy! Expletive-heavy monologues, father-son bonding and gunplay ensue, but there’s something glib and derivative about this clever chatter, and all the proletarian poetry in the world can’t save the movie from its blurry mess of mixed motives and callow pretensions to moral inquiry. —Ella Taylor (Opens Friday at Green Hills)

CHARLIE BARTLETT Like most wannabe heroes of the eager-to-please teen comedy, poor little rich boy Charlie Bartlett (Anton Yelchin) is too charming by half and not nearly quirky enough. Expelled from his ritzy private school, our blazered hero soon finds himself dispatched to a public school by his desperate single mother (Hope Davis). Some mild narrative edge—Charlie goes into business with the school meanie supplying the student body with prescription drugs—is soon lost when screenwriter Gustin Nash and director Jon Poll start raking industriously over the usual Troubled Youth talking points: over-medicated adolescents ill-served by crumbling high schools, a drug-happy medical establishment and malfunctioning parents. Davis is quietly intelligent as Charlie’s mom, who washes down her own meds with a cheeky Chardonnay, and Kat Dennings brings sexy wit to her role as Charlie’s sane gal pal. But as Dennings’ father and the school’s barely coping principal, Robert Downey Jr. seems muffled and barely present—which may be why he’s given a gun to wave around in the third act, before everything falls into wholesome place. Like its anodyne hero, Charlie Bartlett wants to make mischief, but it tries too hard to get a gold star. —Ella Taylor (Opens Friday)

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