Summary Judgment

This Gal’s Friday

Jamie Lee Curtis is goofily brilliant in the remade body-swap hit.

Freaky Friday(Walt Disney Pictures). The real coup of this body-swap remake—which, according to the New York Daily News’ Jami Bernard, “often resembles a top-of-the-line sitcom“—is the “lively, flirty, exhilaratingly goofy” performance of Jamie Lee Curtis. “Still a gifted comedienne after years in commercial purgatory,” Curtis shows off her gift for “splayed physical comedy”: “She may be playing a woman who is inhabited by her daughter,” raves New York’s Peter Rainer, but “what comes through is an actress who, for perhaps the first time onscreen, is wholly herself.” A.O. Scott goes so far as to cry “Oscar” for Curtis, who “does all the necessary slouching, grimacing and gesticulating” with a “verve and conviction that is downright breathtaking.” Roger Ebert just hopes they’re planning to release the DVD with dirty parts edited in: “I’d like to see what would happen with an R-rated version,” he admits. (Buy tickets to Freaky Friday.)

Le Divorce (Fox Searchlight). The Onion’s Scott Tobias finds this Merchant Ivory adaptation of Diane Johnson’s novel too faithful to its source material. It’s difficult to locate the supposedly “delightful comedy of manners” among Americans in Paris because the filmmakers cram in “the full complement of characters and subplots.” The ensemble cast—which includes Naomi Watts and Kate Hudson—is so large, “you almost expect Arnold Schwarzenegger to pop up in the mix,” writes the Christian Science Monitor’s David Sterritt. The Chicago Tribune’s Mark Caro bemoans the clunky tonal shifts: One minute we’re watching a “bloody suicide attempt“; the next, a Hermes bag flies above the Paris skyline. The Dallas Observer finds the film’s observations about the “new world order” overly reductive: “What we learn from their interactions is that Americans are cheap and stupid, while the French are greedy and stupid.” (Buy tickets to Le Divorce.)

Movie still

S.W.A.T. (Sony). Critics find this police procedural—in which Colin Farrell stars—fairly, well, procedural. Elvis Mitchell, for one, is somewhat befuddled as to why anyone wanted to remake the original ‘70s TV series: Despite its great “wah wah crackle” theme song, “it’s not as if anyone had any huge loyalty to the psycho-of-the-week drama of the show.” “One more competent but routine, midlevel ($70 million) late-summer action movie filled with the usual explosions, shootouts and male bonding,” sighs the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s William Arnold; what distinguishes S.W.A.T. is a “hissable monster” of a French villain whom the heroes refer to as a “frog.” But the Washington Post’s Michael O’Sullivan enjoys the simple pleasures: A “good-looking” cast, a “loud” soundtrack, a “stupid” plot, and LL Cool J shouting ” ‘Tell Daddy how you want it’ while shoving an automatic weapon into a Frenchman’s face.” (Read David Edelstein’s Slate review.) (Buy tickets to S.W.A.T.)

The Real Roseanne Show (ABC). This reality series chronicles “what must be one of the oddest of showbiz odysseys“: The making of Roseanne Barr’s cooking show Domestic Goddess. The director, a seasoned documentary filmmaker, emphasizes “oddity over awkwardness,” writes Newsday’sDiane Werts, and as strange as Roseanne appears—she uses a “kabbalistic face reader” to choose an executive producer—”the circle gathered around her is an even more motley group.” Her son and son-in-law, who serve as producers, do little more than “order pizza and engage in mock sword fights.” Her first husband is handyman and his wife is her personal assistant. But the Washington Post’s Tom Shales, who thinks the show has a “faintly nauseating familiarity” (think The Osbournes), gets annoyed every time Barr “squawks, screams and swears” or “carps,” “crabs,” and “curses.” He also thinks Domestic Goddesshas Gigli written all over it.”

Melanie Griffith

Melanie Griffith in Chicago (Ambassador Theater). For her stage debut as Roxie Hart (Renée Zellweger’s role in the film), Griffith receives abundant criticism that bizarrely amounts to praise. “Remember that legendary verdict on Fred Astaire’s first screen test? ‘Can’t sing. Can’t act. Can dance a little,’ ” writes the New York Post’s Clive Barnes. “Griffith can’t even dance a little.” Nearly every critic concurs, from the Financial Times’ Brendan Lemon—who calls Griffith’s dancing anemic —to the New York Times’ Ben Brantley, who finds that Mrs. Antonio Banderas’ “baby-doll voice has only a casual relationship with melody.” Griffith is the least skilled Roxie that Barnes ever seen, but she succeeds by “charisma” alone. The Newark Star Ledger’s Michael Sommers agrees: Griffith displays that “inner spark that makes a star a star.” And Brantley thinks Griffith offers “a powerful and instinctive empathy for the part … a scary, seductive aura of corrupted innocence. Or is it innocent corruption?”

TV still

The O.C. (Fox). “Teenagers between 12 and 50 will love” this show, which attempts to re-create the success of Beverly Hills, 90210, and takes place nearby. (“O.C.” stands for Orange County.) On “the 90210 scale,” this series, from Charlie’s Angels director McG, “is better written and better-acted by a cast that just might be, incredibly enough, even better looking,” claps USA Today’s Robert Bianco. In the show, the poor teen protagonist is taken in by a moneyed public defender, and the New York Times’ Alessandra Stanley finds echoes of My Man Godfrey, noting that today, the “wealthy beach communities in Southern California are as close as we get to the silly rich of the 1930’s comedies— amusingly despicable.” It’s just an “enjoyable trash wallow,” shrugs the Dallas Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Robert Philpot, but one with a lesson, adds the Santa Cruz Sentinel’s Jerry Graham: “Rich people can be as miserable as poor people. But they sure have better houses.”

Book cover

Girl Walks Into a Bar: A Memoir, by Strawberry Saroyan (Random House). This memoir—“about the fantasy world of New York magazines”—plays up the idea that being an editor is less a job than a lifestyle choice, writes Salon’s Suzy Hansen, and Saroyan deftly evokes a Didion-esque malaise about twentysomething life in Manhattan. But post-media burnout, Saroyan “still seems preoccupied with things that are frivolous,” so the memoir fills Hansen with an “utter despair.” The Providence Journal’s Kristin Latina dismisses Saroyan’s “fantasies about what ‘type’ of girl she wants to be” as immature, and the Los Angeles Times’ Michael Harris recognizes that those who found “a faith, a mate and a vocation early in life and are happy with those choices” won’t identify. But he thinks Saroyan will connect with young women “who strive to make their lives rather than have their lives handed to them, who value freedom at any cost.” (Buy Girl Walks Into a Bar.)