Summary Judgment

Babbling Brooks


The Muse (October Films). Albert Brooks’ new film–which he directed, co-wrote, and stars in–is “good but not great Brooks” (Roger Ebert, the Chicago Sun-Times). The plot: A screenwriter (Brooks) has lost his edge, and he enlists the aid of a muse (Sharon Stone) to inspire him. However, Hollywood being Hollywood, this muse requires a suite at the Four Seasons and gifts from Tiffany’s to keep her going. Janet Maslin (the New York Times) positively glows for the film, calling it a “mordantly hilarious cri de coeur.” But most critics aren’t so enchanted: Although “there are lots of punchy lines,” the “one-joke movie doesn’t have all that much to say” (Susan Wloszczyna, USA Today). (Click here for David Edelstein’s review in Slate, and here to find out more about Brooks.)

DudleyDo-Right (Universal Pictures). Indifferent reviews for the second live-action version of a Jay Ward cartoon to star Brendan Fraser (the first being George of the Jungle). It’s a “genial” film with “lots of broad slapstick humor that kids like and adults wince at” (Ebert, the Chicago Sun-Times). A few critics are outright irritated–it “disappoints in every way possible,” says Kenneth Turan (the Los Angeles Times)–but most are just mildly annoyed. Maslin, however, gives the film a surprisingly upbeat review, admiring its “appealing try-anything spirit” and noting that it “works well as family entertainment” (the New York Times). (Click here to visit the film’s official site.)

TheAstronaut’s Wife (New Line Cinema). The final entry in a week of blah movies is one Universal wouldn’t preview for critics, presumably to postpone the bad reviews for a few days. Now that it’s in theaters, the pans are pouring in for this “ridiculously derivative” movie (Maslin, the New York Times) about an astronaut (Johnny Depp) who returns to Earth after a strange, and possibly alien, encounter in space. His wife (Charlize Theron) is now pregnant–and sporting the same hairdo Mia Farrow wore in Rosemary’s Baby–and must determine what has happened to hubby and what to do about it. “Instead of a movie about aliens, The Astronaut’s Wife seems like a movie made by aliens” (Andy Selier, USA Today). (Click here to find out more about Theron.)


Headlong: A Novel, by Michael Frayn (Metropolitan Books). Strong notices for the British novelist and playwright’s latest, a story that “engagingly combines a comedy of manners with elements of farce and art-historical detective story” (Matt Seaton, the New York Times). The main character, a philosophy professor, stumbles on what he believes to be a lost Bruegel painting and becomes obsessed with both obtaining it and determining whether it is genuine. Along the way the reader gets a “fascinating tour through the intellectual thickets of Bruegel scholarship” that manages to be “as entertaining as it is intelligent, as stimulating as it is funny” (Michiko Kakutani, the New York Times). Publishers Weekly finds all the art history tiresome, as it has the side effect of “entirely halting [Frayn’s] promising frolicsome narrative.” (Click here to read the first chapter.)

Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything, by James Gleick (Pantheon). Gleick, whose two previous books were nominated for National Book Awards, gets positive but passionless reviews for his rumination on the speed of contemporary life. Although Faster is full of interesting details of how the brain perceives time and how technology both steals and adds minutes to our lives, several critics note that Gleick never makes a definitive conclusion about the data he has collected. “[W]hy is it that whenever humans are given the choice, we opt for faster? Mr. Gleick fights shy of this big question. That is disappointing, if only because we have such high expectations from this author” (Jim Holt, the Wall Street Journal). It’s “as if Gleick couldn’t quite make the short leap from being merely a superb reporter to an astute social thinker” (Henry Kisor, the Chicago Sun-Times). (Click here to find out more about the author.)