ARCHIVED REVIEWS (Do-Dz)
Dog of Flanders, a
Dogma
Domestic Disturbance
Donnie Darko
Don't Say a Word
Double Jeopardy
Double Take
Down to Earth
Down to You
Dr. Dolittle 2
Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch...
Dr. T & the Women
Dragonfly
Drive Me Crazy
Driven
Drowning Mona
Drumline
Dude, Where's My Car?
Dudley Do-Right
Duets
Dungeons & Dragons

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Archived Video Reviews (Do - Dz)
 

A DOG OF FLANDERS - C-
Starring: Jack Warden, Jeremy James Kissner, Jesse James, Jon Voight, Cheryl Ladd, Steven Hartley, Bruce McGill
Directed by:
Kevin Brodie
Drama, 101
min (PG) (Warner Bros., 1999)

About as appealing as a plate of soggy vegetables, this drab family film is the type of picture that is supposed to be good for the kids, but will no doubt leave them dissatisfied and malnourished, hungry for the more commercialized hooks of, say, a Pokemon or Inspector Gadget. Based on an 1872 classic children's tearjerker by Marie Louise de la Ramee, A Dog of Flanders is stuffed with good intentions, but it is hampered by meandering melodrama, a preachy tone and an episodic structure. The film tells the story of Nello, a young orphan living in 19th-century Belgium with his kind grandfather (Jack Warden) and beloved dog whose dreams of becoming an artist are hampered by his position in life. Directed and co-written by Kevin Brodie, A Dog of Flanders aspires to teach children great messages about the importance of dreams, not judging a book by its cover, and so forth, but it tries so hard that it comes across as more of a lesson than a film. A more appropriate title: A Dog of Blanders. (top) (back)

DOGMA - B
Starring:
Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Linda Fiorentino, Chris Rock, Alan Rickman, Salma Hayek, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, George Carlin
Directed by:
Kevin Smith
Comedy, 128
min (18A) (Lions Gate, 1999)

Writer-director Kevin Smith's controversial follow-up to the savvy Chasing Amy is like Clerks crossed with a theological discussion - The Bible by way of Animal House, if you will. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, who both appeared in Chasing Amy, play Loki and Bartleby, two fallen angels who have found a loophole that will allow them to return to heaven. Problem is, such an act will likely destroy the universe, so it's up to an abortion clinic worker (Linda Fiorentino), a black apostle (Chris Rock), a stripper (Salma Hayek), and Smith's usual duo, Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith), to save the world. For a film with toilets-full of violence and profanity - not to mention a horrible creature actually composed of feces - Dogma is surprisingly pro-religion. As a result, the frat-boy humour never seems overwhelmingly juvenile, the performances are potent (Alanis Morissette is well-used as God) and Dogma makes for an enjoyable religious romp. (top) (back)

DOMESTIC DISTURBANCE -
C-
Starring: John Travolta, Vince Vaughn, Teri Polo, Matt O'Leary, Steve Buscemi, Susan Floyd, Holmes Osborne
Directed by: Harold Becker
Suspense, 90
min (14A) (Paramount, 2001)

It has been almost a decade since the early-'90s glut of Confidant-from-Hell thrillers (The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Single White Female, Unlawful Entry…), but Domestic Disturbance, a.k.a. Stepfather-from-Hell, proves that the genre hasn't gotten any better with age. John Travolta, nicely believable as a working class boatbuilder, plays the father of a 12-year-old (Matt O'Leary) who hasn't adjusted well to his divorce or the recent marriage between his mother (Meet the Parents' Teri Polo) and a Gatsby-like figure new to the community (Vince Vaughn). When Steve Buscemi shows up as a lowlife, you know things are going to get nasty, and before long the boy sees his stepfather commit a murder. Too bad only Travolta's character believes the boy for any more than a second. Throughout Domestic Disturbance, Vaughn glares with that hooded eyes, Psycho-menacing act of his, but in order for a film like this to work, it needs to shake the sense of trust instilled in an audience and, unfortunately, nothing here is rooted in reality. When a film can't even come up with detectives that have any brain activity (the morons here search a furnace and car only moments after a murder and don't find a clue), how can it possibly provide thrills? (top) (back)

DONNIE DARKO - B
Starring:
Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, Mary McDonnell, Patrick Swayze, Holmes Osborne, Maggie Gyllenhaal
Directed by:
Richard Kelly
Drama, 122
min (14A) (Newmarket, 2001)

Though not as dazzling as Ghost World, writer-director Richard Kelly's slow but rewarding Donnie Darko offers a haunting slice of teenage alienation just as involving as the earlier picture. Jake Gyllenhaal (the bubble boy in Bubble Boy) plays Donnie, a schizophrenic teenager whose suburban existence is rocked by visions of a demonic, man-size rabbit, possible occurrences of time travel and a freak accident in which a jet engine falls directly on his bed (thankfully, he was out sleepwalking at the time). Needless to say, Donnie is finding it difficult to cope and, after a rocky start, Kelly throws viewers directly into the boy's dark and tortured mind, capping it all off with a comic book fantasy explanation at once frustrating and spooky. On the downside, Kelly's attempts at social satire fall flat (the film is set in the materialistic late '80s) and some of the star cameos (Drew Barrymore, Noah Wyle) are distractions, but Gyllenhaal is charismatically sullen and there are strong supporting turns by a grave Jena Malone as Donnie's girlfriend, Mary McDonnell as his mother, Maggie Gyllenhaal (Jake's sister) as his older sibling, and Patrick Swayze (yes, that Patrick Swayze) as a Tony Robbins-like peddler of simplistic moral answers. (top) (back)

DON'T SAY A WORD - C+
Starring:
Michael Douglas, Famke Janssen, Brittany Murphy, Sean Bean, Jennifer Esposito, Oliver Platt, Guy Torry, Skye McCole Bartusiak
Directed by: Gary Fleder
Suspense, 113
min (14A) (20th Century Fox, 2001)

It's always entertaining to watch Michael Douglas unravel and this fast-paced but impersonal thriller offers one solid reason for his character, a wealthy Manhattan psychiatrist, to go off the deep end, namely the kidnapping of his 8-year-old daughter (Skye McCole Bartusiak). A criminal gang is threatening to kill the kid in 8 hours if Douglas' character can't get a mysterious 8-digit number from the troubled and confused mind of his latest patient (Brittany Murphy, who also went loony in Girl, Interrupted). Of course, this scenario isn't plausible for a second, but Douglas invests even the silliest scenes with authoritative paternal will and Murphy, though diminished by her character's lack of depth, is appropriately grimy and distressed. Less successful are the attempts by Kiss the Girls director Gary Fleder to tie together all of the film's dangling story lines and characters, with Sean Bean's criminal mastermind, Famke Janssen's broken-legged wife, Oliver Platt's suspicious shrink and Jennifer Esposito's faintly related detective all vying for extra screen time. As a result, this moderately engaging thriller comes across as a little scatterbrained itself, never really connecting with reality or allowing the pieces of the puzzle to fit snuggly together. (top) (back)

DOUBLE JEOPARDY - C
Starring:
Ashley Judd, Tommy Lee Jones, Bruce Greenwood, Annabeth Gish, Roma Maffia, Davenia McFadden
Directed by:
Bruce Beresford
Suspense, 105
min (14A) (Paramount, 1999)

Ashley Judd is defeated by a half-baked script and Tommy Lee Jones is only showing up for a paycheck with this estrogen-heavy retread of The Fugitive. Directed with a singular lack of sizzle by Bruce Beresford, who usually specializes in laid-back dramas like Driving Miss Daisy and A Good Man in Africa, Double Jeopardy casts Judd as Libby, a wealthy mother who, following a night she can't remember, is convicted of murdering her husband (Bruce Greenwood). While in prison, Libby learns that her hubby isn't dead and she's soon tracking him down in order to regain custody of her young son. Apparently, there's an American law called double jeopardy that prevents a person from being charged with the same crime twice and Libby plans on taking full advantage of this when it comes to extracting revenge. Marked by a heavy reliance on coincidence, Double Jeopardy is laboriously conceived and Beresford fails to draw any sense of tension or suspense out of the simplistic, ho-hum screenplay. (top) (back)

DOUBLE TAKE - D+
Starring:
Eddie Griffin, Orlando Jones, Edward Herrmann, Gary Grubbs, Shawn Elliot, Daniel Roebuck, Garcelle Beauvais, Brent Briscoe
Directed by:
George Gallo
Comedy, 88
min (PG) (Touchstone, 2001)


Complexity is the key for drama, but when it comes to comedy, sometimes a far better choice is to just keep everything as simple as possible. That is obviously something that was never considered when it came to Double Take, a strained Trading Places-inspired comedy that makes the drastic mistake of cluttering up its swapped identities story with laboured plot twists, an excess of shady supporting characters and a general disregard for its own limitations. The Replacements' Orlando Jones plays Daryl Chase, a Wall Street banker who is forced to change identities with a wisecracking street hustler (Eddie Griffin) when he becomes involved in a murder and massive conspiracy. Throughout the film, Jones hints that he may be able to do much better work elsewhere, but Griffin, seemingly schooled in the wild antics of Martin Lawrence and Chris Tucker, comes across like an irritating pest. Certainly not helping matters is the film's script, a crass vehicle that repeatedly mistakes annoyance for humour.
(top) (back)


DOWN TO EARTH - C-
Starring:
Chris Rock, Regina King, Mark Addy, Eugene Levy, Chazz Palminteri, Frankie Faison, Greg Germann, Jennifer Coolidge
Directed by:
Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz
Comedy, 89
min (PG) (Paramount, 2001)

Comedian-turned-actor Chris Rock comes close to hitting rock bottom with this listless and poorly conceived reincarnation comedy directed by American Pie's Chris and Paul Weitz. A remake of 1978's great Warren Beatty picture Heaven Can Wait (which in turn was a revamp of 1941's Here Comes Mr. Jordan), Down to Earth casts Rock (who cowrote the script) as Lance, a recently deceased amateur comic who gets a second chance at life in the body of an elderly white millionaire. The laughs are supposed to spring from the fact that this white man is suddenly enjoying black culture, but to himself, and us, Lance still looks like Rock. Because of this, the audience has to constantly remind itself that all the other characters only see the millionaire and this extra effort deflates a lot of the comedy. Even more awkward is the film's central romance between "Lance" and a community activist (Regina King). Their color-blind love story is so skimpy, sentimental and rushed that is strains all sense of credibility. (top) (back)

DOWN TO YOU - D+
Starring:
Freddie Prinze Jr., Julia Stiles, Selma Blair, Shawn Hatosy, Zak Orth, Rosario Dawson, Ashton Kutcher, Henry Winkler, Frank Wood
Directed by:
Kris Isacsson
Comedy, 89
min (14A) (Miramax, 2000)

After her whip-smart performance in 10 Things I Hate About You, you'd think Julia Stiles would have had better things to do than star in a gooey, charmless romantic comedy with the poster boy of dull teen flicks, Freddie Prinze Jr. Here Stiles plays a naïve college artist who falls for a budding chef (Prinze) and the rest of the film is consumed with the ups and downs of their relationship (think When Harry Met Sally: The Early Years). It's hard to say which is most excruciating about Down to You: the pat dreck that first-time writer-director Kris Isacsson tries to pass off as dialogue, the banal into-the-camera confessions, or the utterly unbelievable supporting characters. Actually, I would have to go with the latter choice considering how the bulk of Prinze's friends are college students who begin to live life as a big happy party after they become successful porn stars. That's right - porn stars. Who says there aren't role models out there for kids these days? (top) (back)

DR. DOLITTLE 2 - B-
Starring:
Eddie Murphy, Kristin Wilson, Raven Symone, with the voices of Norm McDonald, Steve Zahn, Lisa Kudrow, Michael Rapaport
Directed by:
Steve Carr
Comedy, 87 min
(PG) (20th Century Fox, 2001)


A movie like Dr. Dolittle 2 may preach a hug-a-tree message and be loaded with by-the-numbers family conflict but, when you get right down to it, the film is really about only one thing: talking animals. Because of this, it is nice to report that the animals in Dr. Dolittle 2 not only talk, but that they do so convincingly, humorously and with the assistance of a wide range of wisely cast star voices that put the felines and canines in Cats & Dogs to shame. Aside from Norm McDonald, returning as the dog narrator from 1998's Dr. Dolittle, this hard-to-hate sequel features the likes of wacky Steve Zahn and Lisa Kudrow as a couple of endangered bears, Andy Dick as a weasel, Joey Lauren Adams as a squirrel and Isaac Hayes and Michael Rapaport as the Godbeaver and his raccoon henchman, all of whom hit just the right vocal marks. Oh yeah, the film also features Eddie Murphy as the title quack, a vet with the abilities to understand animal speech, but now that Dolittle has come to accept this "gift," the actor really has little to do besides act as the straight man (if you want to see Murphy do his thing, watch Shrek). Dr. Dolittle 2 certainly isn't revolutionary and it has its share of flaws but, as throwaway entertainment for kids, you could do a lot worse.
(top) (back)


DR. SEUSS' HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS - C+
Starring:
Jim Carrey, Molly Shannon, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Mindy Sterling, Taylor Momsen, Clint Howard
Directed by:
Ron Howard
Comedy, 105 min (PG) (Universal, 2000)


If ever there was an actor born to embody the Grinch, the green Scroogian miser of Dr. Seuss' classic children's book (1957), it is rubber-faced Jim Carrey. Throughout this live-action adaptation of the story, Carrey may be hidden beneath layers of plastic and fur, but the Oscar-winning makeup is all just an extension of the actor's explosive and imaginative performance. As creative as Carrey's work is, however, it is still not enough to save How the Grinch Stole Christmas, an overly loud, overly stuffed and overly busy children's flick that not only lacks the engaging simplicity of the animated version (1966), but flattens out the original's spirit by tampering with its anti-consumerism spirit and padding everything with a tedious back story. It turns out that the Grinch originally lived among the Whos, but that he fled to the mountain when he wasn't accepted as a child, spending his days up above Whoville hating everything around him. Unfortunately, director Ron Howard isn't able to draw much fun out of the film's visuals, all of which dark when they should be bursting with colour, and - aside from the Grinch - he never establishes any characters or places that seem like anything more than fake Hollywood bric-a-brac. (top) (back)

DR. T & THE WOMEN - B-
Starring: Richard Gere, Helen Hunt, Farrah Fawcett, Shelley Long, Laura Dern, Kate Hudson, Tara Reid, Liv Tyler, Andy Richter
Directed by:
Robert Altman
Comedy, 132 min
(PG) (Artisan, 2000)

After taking the good-natured route with Cookie's Fortune, director Robert Altman's bark gets a little more bite with this satirical look at upper-class male-female relationships. Dr. T & the Women casts Richard Gere as the title doc, a Dallas gynecologist whose entire life gets twisted, teased and tormented by the women around him, be it his wife (Farrah Fawcett) who has recently regressed to a child-like state, his alcoholic step-sister (Laura Dern), his soon-to-be-married daughter (Kate Hudson), her jealous and moody sister (Tara Reid), the golf pro (Helen Hunt) who wants to add Dr. T to her scorecard, or the gaggle of women who frequent his office. Considering how important a role they play in the film, Altman is a little too harsh on his female characters, with many of them coming across as attention-starved children, and the bizarre ending defies explanation. That said, Dr. T & the Women is never less than amusing, thanks primarily to the well-chosen cast (Gere, in particular, is at his suave, slightly smug best). (top) (back)

DRAGONFLY - C-
Starring:
Kevin Costner, Kathy Bates, Joe Morton, Ron Rifkin, Susanna Thompson, Linda Hunt, Matt Craven, Jake Thomas, Jacob Vargas
Directed by:
Tom Shadyac
Drama, 105 min
(PG) (Universal, 2002)

Someone needs to remind Kevin Costner that what made him a movie star in the first place were smart thrillers (No Way Out, The Untouchables) and pleasing sports pictures (Bull Durham, Tin Cup, Field of Dreams), not the mopey men of suffering he seems to specializing in lately. As in Message in a Bottle (1999) and The Postman (1997), Costner gives a pained and lethargic performance in Dragonfly, a stiff spiritual drama in which he plays Joe Darrow, an emergency doctor who, after losing his pregnant wife (Susanna Thompson) in an accident in Venezuela, starts believing that she is trying to contact him from beyond, using sick kids, squiggly crosses, birds and dragonflies as messengers. Directed by Tom Shadyac, who obviously didn't learn much about pacing or tone from the spitball that was Patch Adams (1998), Dragonfly has obviously been stylized as a Sixth Sense/Ghost hybrid, but it lacks the deserving surprises and chills of the former, the romantic yearning of the later. Occasionally, Kathy Bates pops in (playing Joe's lesbian neighbor) and gooses a blank Costner into waking up but, all too often, this is a one-man show and, unfortunately, that one man does little to redeem the drab and unconvincing material
. (top)

DRIVE ME CRAZY - C-
Starring: Melissa Joan Hart, Adrian Grenier, Stephen Collins, Susan May Pratt, Mark Webber, Kris Park, Gabriel Carpenter, Ali Larter
Directed by:
John Schultz
Comedy, 91
min (PG) (20th Century Fox, 1999)

It takes a certain kind of movie to make She's All That look like a model of character development and innovation and, unfortunately, Drive Me Crazy (a.k.a. He's All That) is such a picture. Perky Melissa Joan Hart (TV's Sabrina, the Teenage Witch) plays a popular high school student who, suddenly faced without a date for the big dance, begrudgingly decides to fashion her slacker neighbour (Adrian Grenier) into a dream guy. There's no surprise where this is headed and director John Schultz makes no attempts at raising the film from the sub-John Hughes dreck that it is, failing to establish a noteworthy sense of comic timing or develop any believable characters. As a result, Hart's Sabrina charms seem so muted they barely exist and Grenier is stuck trying to stomach the film's biggest absurdity (Why would a willing outsider allow someone to strip him of his own identity?). Besides, what kind of film slams manufactured pop music one minute and then pops out the Britney Spears tunes the next? (top) (back)

DRIVEN - C
Starring:
Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds, Kip Pardue, Gina Gershon, Til Schweiger, Estella Warren, Robert Sean Leonard, Stacy Edwards
Directed by:
Renny Harlin
Action, 117 min (PG) (Warner Bros., 2001)

After all of his mush-mouthed performances in the last two decades, it is easy to forget that Sylvester Stallone actually wrote the screenplay for the Oscar-winning Rocky (1976). Unfortunately, numb-skull action films seem to have taken their toll on Stallone, who returns behind the keyboard for the first time since Rambo III (1988) with this thick-headed racing film that veers wildly off course whenever it leaves the track. The best thing about Driven, without question, is the time spent behind the wheel, with director Renny Harlin (he propelled Stallone through Cliffhanger) capturing all of the action on the track with a kinetic vision so thrilling and zippy in its smash-'em-up rush that it demands attention. Unfortunately, however, the film follows more than just racecars and this is where the film stalls and burns. Stallone plays a retired former racing great who, goaded by his old friend (Burt Reynolds), returns to the sport to help mentor a promising but inconsistent racing stud (Remember the Titans' Kip Pardue). It's saying something when Stallone gives one of the most accomplished performances in the film. It says even more when one notes that the dialogue and storyline consist of little more than a bunch of bombastic inanities. (top) (back)

DROWNING MONA - C-
Starring:
Danny DeVito, Bette Midler, Neve Campbell, Jamie Lee Curtis, Casey Affleck, William Fichtner, Marcus Thomas, Will Ferrell
Directed by:
Nick Gomez
Comedy, 96 min
(14A) (Destination, 2000)


A talented cast is hijacked and locked up in this strained picture that tries really hard – and I mean really hard – to be a frantic black comedy along the lines of Ruthless People (which also starred Better Midler and Danny DeVito). Midler plays Mona Dearly, a detestable, vile woman and recent murder victim. It’s up to one lone cop (DeVito) to figure out who is to blame, but since everyone in the town hates Mona, that may be easier said than done. With the exception of DeVito, who is always at his least interesting when he’s playing a nice guy, the entire cast camps it up with ugly hair and stereotypical personalities, never realizing that without contrast, all of the characters merge into one over-caffeinated blur. A lot of effort was put into trying to make this picture work, but it was all for a lost cause. (top) (back)

DRUMLINE - B
Starring:
Nick Cannon, Orlando Jones, Zoe Saldana, Candace Carey, Jason Weaver, GQ, Earl C. Poitier, J. Anthony Brown
Directed by: Charles Stone III
Drama, 118 min (PG) (20th Century Fox, 2002)


It's hardly a novel conceit: cocky and talented newcomer must overcome his egocentric instincts and discover that the team is oftentimes stronger than the individual. With Drumline, however, director Charles Stone III (he of the "Whassup!" beer ads) infuses a familiar story arc with enough energy and enthusiasm that it is easy to get worked up into its infectious beat. Nickelodeon staple Nick Cannon lays the confidence on a little thick here as Devon Miles, a naturally talented drummer with too much attitude but just enough skills to earn a scholarship to a university in Atlanta where the appeal of the marching band is just as important - if not more so - than the sporting events that feature them. The thought of a marching band competition doesn't sound as exciting as, say, the typical sports flick or action picture in which arrogant athletes, soldiers or flyboys strut their stuff, but the relatively novel arena helps Drumline avoid cloying overfamiliarity and, most importantly, Stone draws the viewer directly into the core of the beats and bangs, drawing considerable enthusiasm and awe out of the exact precision of the drums, the showmanship of the flashing white gloves and the palatable excitement of the participants. Stone's vision is bang on. (top) (back)

DUDE, WHERE'S MY CAR? -
D
Starring:
Ashton Kutcher, Seann William Scott, Jennifer Garner, Marla Sokoloff, Hal Sparks, Kristy Swanson, David Herman, Andy Dick
Directed by:
Danny Leiner
Comedy, 83 min (PG) (20th Century Fox, 2000)

Dude, what were they thinking? That's the reoccurring thought that keeps running through one's head while watching this insipid and witless teenage comedy that makes Wayne's World and the Bill & Ted movies look like comic masterpieces. Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott are the two dudes in this dud, playing a couple of stoners who wake up one morning with angry twin girlfriends, a missing vehicle, a fridge full of pudding, and a series of weirdos (bubble-wrapped geeks, a transvestite stripper, "gay" foreigners…) on their tale. It sounds amateurish and tedious and believe me, it is, what with the film trying to pass off racist caricatures, the word "dude" and outlandish subplots as gut-busting jokes. Thankfully, Kutcher retains some of the dim-bulb charm he displays on TV's That '70s Show, but Scott (Road Trip) isn't nearly as lucky. By the end of the first scene, he has already been established as the most irritating character to hit the screen since Star Wars' Jar Jar Binks. (top) (back)

DUDLEY DO-RIGHT -
D
Starring:
Brendan Fraser, Alfred Molina, Sarah Jessica Parker, Eric Idle, Robert Proskey, Jack Kehler, Alex Rocco, Brant Van Hoffman
Directed by:
Hugh Wilson
Comedy, 83 min (PG) (Universal, 1999)

Having found box office success with 1997's dim George of the Jungle, Brendan Fraser takes the lead role in Dudley Do-Right, another live-action adaptation of a Jay Ward cartoon character from the 1960s. Unfortunately, the results here are far more flat and irritating than they were in George, with director Hugh Wilson (who also worked with Fraser on Blast From the Past) never providing a reason for why these one-note characters should be made flesh-and-blood, instead making them seem even more insufferable than ever, with Fraser at a loss as the bumbling Canadian Mountie, Sarah Jessica Parker trying to get by on her blond roots as Dudley's love interest and Alfred Molina being particularly awful as Dudley's nemesis, Snidely Whiplash. The gag-heavy screenplay and predictable pratfalls that mark Dudley Do-Right are entirely predictable, but the same cannot be said for the joylessness with which the film has been realized. Even at a meager 83 minutes, the film feels about 60 minutes too long. (top) (back)

DUETS - C-
Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Huey Lewis, Andre Braugher, Paul Giamatti, Maria Bello, Scott Speedman, Angie Dickinson
Directed by:
Bruce Paltrow
Comedy, 112 min (14A) (Hollywood Pictures, 2000)

Considering her sparkling performances in Shakespeare in Love, The Talented Mr. Ripley and Bounce, there's only one obvious reason for why Gwyneth Paltrow would agree to star in Duets, a leaden ensemble piece set in the world of karaoke: the chance to work with her director father, Bruce. Despite the family connection, however, Daddy does few favours for his little girl, surrounding her with a pointless and achingly predictable story involving a karaoke hustler (stone-faced Huey Lewis), his long-lost daughter (Paltrow), a businessman on the edge (Paul Giamatti), an ex-con with a smooth voice (Andre Braugher), a cheated-on cab driver (Scott Speedman) and a showbiz hopeful (Maria Bello) who is not above fulfilling sexual wishes to get what she wants. But while Duets does offer game performances from Braugher and Giamatti, not to mention the opportunity to enjoy Ms. Palrow's tender singing voice, the film is as thin as a piece of sheet music and hits more wrong notes than a pianist wearing boxing gloves. (top) (back)

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS - D+
Starring: Jeremy Irons, Thora Birch, Justin Whalin, Marlon Wayans, Zoe McLellan, Bruce Payne, Kristin Wilson, Tom Baker, Lee Arenberg
Directed by:
Courtney Solomon
Action, 108 min (PG) (New Line, 2000)

The dragons in this labored film version of the medieval-style role playing game may have massive teeth, but when it comes to chewing scenery, they have nothing on Jeremy Irons, an Oscar-winner for Reversal of Fortune who gives a painfully over-the-top performance here as an evil warlock. Unfortunately, Irons seems to think he is doing Shakespeare when all he is really doing is adding unnecessary bellowing to a tepid fantasy marked by Xena-level special effects, an often-incoherent screenplay and erratic performances. Justin Whalin is remarkably bland as the film's peasant hero, Scary Movie's Marlon Wayans is embarrassing as the comic relief and Thora Birch, erasing all our pleasant memories of her in American Beauty, is as wooden as an oak tree as the Queen Amidala-like empress. Brought to the screen by first-time director Courtney Solomon, Dungeons & Dragons is of interest only to die-hard fans of the 28-year-old game, many of who will no doubt agree that this movie is an all-out drag. (top) (back)
All reviews by Mike Boon.  

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