Summary Judgment

Love Thy Enema


Simpatico (Fine Line Features). Despite good raw material—Nick Nolte, Jeff Bridges, Sharon Stone, Albert Finney, and a script adapted from a Sam Shepherd play—this horseracing movie flops with the critics. It’s a “stumbling adaptation” that is “hobbled by unwieldy visual ideas, discordant filmmaking impulses, and performances so overblown and undercoordinated, the five principals might have been acting on five different soundstages” (Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly). It “proves there’s no such thing as an unreleasable film. Unwatchable, yes; incoherent, absolutely; but playing at multiplexes all the same” (Joe Morgenstern, the Wall Street Journal). One critic defends it: “The surprise of this offbeat, gawky movie … is that it works at all” (Stephen Holden, the New York Times). (Find out more about Jeff Bridges at his Web site, which includes interviews, news, and photos he took on the sets of his past films.) 

Gun Shy (Buena Vista Pictures). A real groaner starring Liam Neeson as a stressed-out cop with bowel trouble and Sandra Bullock as the perky nurse who gives him an enema and then steals his heart. This “misshapen clunker” (Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly) “contains more hackneyed dialogue and misfired jokes per minute than would seem possible” (Jack Mathews, the New York Daily News). Elvis Mitchell, one of the New York Times’ recently hired film critics, gives a glowing review that’s probably making his new editors scratch their heads—he calls it “one of the most subtle and inspired comedies you’ll see this year.” (Click here to watch the trailer and here to read David Edelstein’s review in Slate.) 

Scream 3 (Miramax Films). The end of Wes Craven’s Scream trilogy gets fair reviews. This is the only entry in the series not written by Kevin Williamson, and “you feel the loss … the psycho-with-a-knife postmodernism is messy and slipshod” (Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly). What saves the film is an injection of new talent. Neve Campbell and Courtney Cox Arquette, etc., are still in there, but Parker Posey steals the show playing a scrappy actress in a low-budget film called Stab 3: “Dizzy and nakedly—hilariously—ambitious, she’s so flighty she seems to be levitating” (Elvis Mitchell, the New York Times). (Visit one of the many Scream fan sites.)


Slab Rat, by Ted Heller (Scribner). The scathing roman à clef set in the publishing world makes a comeback, and not since Bright Lights, Big City has one been so well received. Heller, the son of Catch-22 author Joseph Heller, did time at Details, Premiere, and Vanity Fair, and the book is a thinly veiled version of life inside Condé Nast (publisher of Vogue, The New Yorker, etc.). Most agree that it’s an “uncommonly smart, funny and dead-on first novel” (Jonathan Yardley, the Washington Post) that outlines the shallowness and the indignities of life at the bottom rung of the glossy magazine ladder. The only sour note comes from Publishers Weekly, which snubs it as “a reasonably entertaining (if unoriginal) first attempt with special appeal for publishing types.” (Click here to read David Plotz’s take on the life of a “Condé Nasty” in Slate.)

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius: Based on a True Story, by Dave Eggers (Simon & Schuster). Given the title, you’d think critics would be dying to take this whippersnapper (editor of McSweeney’s and the now-defunct Might) down a notch. Quite the contrary. The memoir recounts how, after losing both parents to cancer in the span of five months, then-21-year-old Eggers took custody of his 8-year-old brother and moved to California. The New York Times’ Michiko Kakutani writes what might be the most gushing review of her career: “a virtuosic piece of writing, a big, daring, manic-depressive stew of a book that noisily announces the debut of a talented—yes, staggeringly talented new writer,” adding that the author “demonstrates in this book that he can pretty much write about anything.” Other reviewers agree: “[L]iterary gamesmanship and self-consciousness are trained on life’s most unendurable experience, used to examine a memory too scorching to stare at. … This is not irony obscuring sincerity. It is, finally, irony in the service of sincerity” (James Poniewozik, Time). (Click here to read the online version of Eggers’ literary magazine McSweeney’s.)