- Associated Press - Thursday, December 16, 2010

Capsule reviews of films opening this week:

“How Do You Know” _ How do you know when a film is horrible? Here, it’s pretty obvious. Nothing about this would-be romantic comedy ever gels _ neither the romance nor the comedy and, worst of all, not the characters. Individually likable ordinarily, Reese Witherspoon and Paul Rudd make zero sense together here as a couple. Similarly, the dueling story lines that comprise the script feel slammed together, so the film as a whole never finds a groove _ which only accentuates the fact that it’s overlong. Most shockingly of all, “How Do You Know” comes from someone who should know better: writer-director James L. Brooks, who’s repeatedly proven himself more than capable of finding just the right tone or the perfectly poignant turn of phrase in films like “Broadcast News,” “As Good As It Gets” and his multiple Oscar-winner “Terms of Endearment.” Here, everything feels off, as if the lightness required of the genre eluded him. Witherspoon stars as a professional softball player who’s just been cut from the U.S. team. She’s torn between Rudd, who plays a corporate executive under federal investigation for financial crimes he didn’t commit, and Wilson as an endearingly cocky pitcher for the Washington Nationals (a bit of casting that isn’t believable for one second). Meanwhile, Jack Nicholson goes to waste in a handful of scenes as Rudd’s father and boss. PG-13 for sexual content and some language. 116 minutes. One star out of four.

_ Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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“Rabbit Hole” _ This is suffocatingly sad, as you can imagine any film would be that deals with the death of a young child. The challenge is to find a way to get people to want to see it, and then want to sit through it, without being filled with abject dread _ or at least the feeling that they’re slogging through eat-your-vegetables cinema. John Cameron Mitchell accomplishes that with graceful performances from his stars, Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart, which are filled with subtle moments as well as recognizable human frailties and flaws. (Kidman does some of her best work in a while here.) Everyone deals with grief differently. There is no right answer, especially when it comes to coping with the unthinkable loss of a 4-year-old son. “Rabbit Hole” gets that notion and conveys it vividly, yet also offers some welcome glimmers of humor and even hope. David Lindsay-Abaire adapted the screenplay from his own Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Mitchell, who previously directed the subversive and sexually daring “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and “Shortbus,” would seem an unusual choice for such traditionally dramatic material. While Mitchell has expanded the scenery a bit, you still can never shake the sensation that you’re watching a play on film. PG-13 for mature thematic material, some drug use and language. 92 minutes. Three stars out of four.

_ Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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“Tron: Legacy” _ Hugely high-tech and forward-thinking in its day, “Tron” now looks cheesy and quaint in retrospect, with its blocky graphics and simplistic blips and bleeps. The original film from 1982 was all about the possibility of technology and the human imagination, and the adventures that could result from marrying the two, but only now are the computer-generated effects available to render this digital world in its fullest potential. Hence, we have a sequel, which is in 3-D (of course) but is actually best viewed in IMAX 3-D. The whole point of the story and the aesthetics are that they’re meant to convey an immersive experience. We’re supposed to feel just as trapped inside this challenging and dangerous electronic realm as the film’s characters. And at over two hours, we are indeed trapped _ there is no justifiable reason for such a lengthy running time. While director Joseph Kosinski’s feature film debut is thrilling and cool-looking for about the first half, its races, games and visuals eventually grow repetitive, which only draws attention to how flimsy and preposterous the script is from Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. “Tron: Legacy” is a mishmash of pop culture references and movie rip-offs, Eastern philosophy and various religions, and one insanely cute, strategically placed Boston terrier. And with the return of Jeff Bridges, there’s plenty of Dude-ishness for you fans of “The Big Lebowski.” PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and brief mild language. In 3-D and IMAX 3-D. 125 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

_ Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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“Yogi Bear” _ Inspired by Art Carney’s Ed Norton from “The Honeymooners” and originally voiced by Daws Butler, Yogi Bear has always had an intelligence that surpasses that of your typical clawed mammalia. He has finally gotten his own movie _ in 3-D, no less _ and so it comes with little surprise but still some disappointment that “Yogi Bear” is a bland pic-a-nic, indeed. There he is, in trademark green tie and white collar and voiced by Dan Aykroyd, with the bow-tied Boo Boo (Justin Timberlake) at his side. Of course, this being the highly advanced 21st century, simple animation won’t do, so we must suffer through the mediocre, lifeless computer-generated animation of this treasured twosome. They’re in an otherwise live-action film with Tom Cavanagh (“Ed”) as Park Ranger Smith and Anna Farris as Rachel Johnson, a documentary filmmaker visiting Jellystone Park, most likely trying to beat Ken Burns to the punch. A fight ensues to save Jellystone from greedy politicians (Andrew Daly and Nate Corddry) and the whole ordeal is over in little more than an hour and a quarter. Directed by effects veteran Eric Brevig, it’s blessedly brief, and Aykroyd and Timberlake supply good voice work. But Yogi deserves better jokes and more wildness in which to roam free. Can’t a bear get some lunch around here? PG for some mild rude humor. 80 minutes. Two stars out of four.

_ Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer