Horton Hears a Who
dirs. Jimmy Hayward, Steve Martino
Opens Fri March 14
Kids like ANYTHING. As proof I offer "green apple bubble gum tape." In fact, most kids would happily eat dog crap if you sprinkled a tablespoon of sugar on it. That's not to say, however, that Horton Hears a Who!—the latest animated feature from Blue Sky Studios (Ice Age)—is sugar-sprinkled dog crap. It's more like green apple bubble gum tape... after a good chewing.
Based on the classic Dr. Seuss book, Horton tells the story of an elephant who discovers a microscopic world of people living on a speck of dust (which should prove, beyond a doubt, that Seuss was a fan of the kiiiiiind bud). Since no one else believes him, Horton must protect the speck and its denizens, while the mayor of the speck must convince his citizens that their god is an elephant voiced by Jim Carrey.
While it's pretty enough, the film's biggest problem lies with the script—which isn't very funny, doesn't rhyme, and drags at a decidedly un-kid-like pace. There's also a weird Christian-y vibe at the end, where the character representing rational thought is the "villain"... so... here's your piece of sugar-sprinkled GOD crap, kids! Eat it up. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY
United Artists 90th
Fri March 14-Thurs May 22
As studios go, United Artists—and its parent company, MGM—have seen better days. When Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer began as Goldwyn Pictures in 1917, its famous logo—a roaring lion, accompanied by the slogan Ars Gratia Artis, or "Art for art's sake"—summed up all that was grand about old-school Hollywood. Since then, the studio, despite partnering with United Artists in 1981, has lost its luster: Now a subsidiary of Sony, MGM/UA is most famous for producing syndicated television shows and continually resurrecting James Bond.
But there's no denying United Artists' catalog, a list of beloved and influential classics. To celebrate United Artists' 90th anniversary, they're trotting out 10 of those classics to play at the Laurelhurst, one each week, starting Friday with 1961's West Side Story (gang warfare can too be solved with dance-offs!), and ending May 16, when 1967's In the Heat of the Night begins its run. In between: Stanley Kramer's 1961 Nazi war crime drama Judgment at Nuremburg (March 21); 1962's original The Manchurian Candidate (March 28); 1963's adventure classic The Great Escape (April 4); Sergio Leone's brilliant 1966 western The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (April 11); 1960's The Magnificent Seven (April 18); 1980's Raging Bull (April 25); 1959's Billy Wilder/Marilyn Monroe comedy Some Like It Hot (May 2); and another Wilder film, 1960's The Apartment (May 9).
So there you go. There are your next 10 weekends, pretty much planned out for you. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Praying with Lior
dir. Ilana Trachtman
Opens Sat March 15
Here's a documentary about a kid with Down syndrome celebrating his bar mitzvah. Interested? Yeah, I thought not. Look, Lior's a sweetheart, and sure, it's touching and all that the little guy is able to overcome his obstacles. But if you're voluntarily subjecting yourself to a movie as sentimental and manipulative as this, it indicates a waste of valuable energy that would be better spent reading Tuesdays with Morrie, or knitting sweaters with baby lambs on them, or looking at Anne Geddes photographs.
So would it surprise you if I told you that I actually shed a tear at the end of Praying with Lior, when the kid reads from the Torah at his bar mitzvah ceremony? It surprised the fuck out of me, that's for sure. Maybe it was because the preceding 80 minutes had introduced me to his loving, generous family. Maybe because the film is interlaced with ghostly home video footage of Lior's rabbi mother, who died from cancer when he was six. Maybe because the film is told calmly and unassumingly by director Ilana Trachtman, who doesn't needlessly linger on heavy emotional notes and never steps over her fly-on-the wall bounds.
Or maybe it's because I was drunk. Otherwise, I'd never fall for this kind of maudlin hokum. Right? NED LANNAMANN