Thanksgiving Movie Reviews

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Based on Roald Dahl's book of the same name, Fantastic Mr. Fox is made with puppets, miniature props, old-fashioned stop-motion animation -- and wild imagination and skill by Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums). Anderson, who directed, co-wrote and co-produced, has given us one of the best movies of the year -- and one that, along with Pixar's Up, certainly tops the crowded animation field. But the animation alone is not what makes this film such a winner -- it also has a terrific story -- as Mr. Fox tries to put his wild days behind him and become a responsible husband and father. But will he be able to pass up the temptation of one final risky adventure? Of course not -- and you'll be glad he didn't as we are introduced to a wide-range of colorful supporting characters along the way.

The great voice cast includes Oscar winners George Clooney (in the title role) and Meryl Streep (as Mrs. Fox) -- along with Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Michael Gambon, Willem Dafoe and Owen Wilson. It's a must-see, and a lot of fun for the older kids on up. There's a lot to feast on in this witty and wonderful Thanksgiving treat. [Rated PG; opens wide today]

Grade: A

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

Not a remake of 1992's Bad Lieutenant (starring Harvey Kietel), but rather a re-telling of a story of a good cop gone bad. This time around, Nicolas Cage stars as Terrence McDonagh, a New Orleans police sergeant, who starts out as a good cop, receiving a medal and a promotion to lieutenant for heroism during Hurricane Katrina. During his heroic act, McDonagh injures his back and later becomes addicted to prescription pain medication -- and street drugs. This addiction leads him into the dark world of police corruption -- in what should be viewed as serious drama. Unfortunately, in the hands of director Werner Herzog (Rescue Dawn), the film takes on too much bizarreness for its own good and becomes quite laughable at times.

Cage sure has had a strange career path. After his Oscar-winning turn in Leaving Las Vegas, his film choices and bad acting in movies such as Knowing have left many film-goers scratching their heads. Many critics are applauding Cage's performance here -- and there are moments where I too was impressed. You could actually feel his character's physical and emotional pain with each contorted move he makes on the screen. But Cage also overacts in too many scenes -- and the results are completely over the top. Adding to my dissatisfaction of the film was my bad luck in viewing an early screener with an incorrect aspect ratio. At least that was the excuse given for why my audience saw the boom mic move overhead in scene after scene. It was truly distracting -- and laughable.

All the negatives aside, there is still a compelling story here. I just wish Herzog toned down the bizarreness a bit -- and reigned in Cage. Look out for the great comic actress Jennifer Coolidge (Best in Show) in a dramatic role as the drunk wife of McDonagh's father. She certainly proves she has great acting range. And that's more than I can say for Cage. Also stars Eva Mendes and Val Kilmer. [Rated R; opens today]

Grade: B-


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