Starring: The voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and Don Rickles
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin
Starring: Sarah Habel, Shannon Eagen, Ellen Page, Marcia Gay Harden
‘The Invention of Lying’
Starring: Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Jeffrey Tambor, Rob Lowe, Tina Fey
Bottom line: Something for everyone this week
Three new comedies and the re-release of two animated classics hit theaters simultaneously this Friday, and incredibly, all are worth seeing.
Four recommendable movies opening on the same day is akin to having Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn visible at once. Movie fans must take advantage of this rare occurrence.
Return of ‘Toy Story’
“Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2” return to theaters this weekend as a 3-D double feature, for a limited two-week run. The 3D format adds nothing to either movie. The re-release is Disney’s egregious attempt to milk the 3-D trend and to promote next summer’s “Toy Story 3.” If your code of cinematic ethics is rigid, go ahead and become indignant.
But don’t forget: These are classic animated films, with or without 3-D. “Toy Story” was the first computer-generated animated feature back in 1995, and it still looks great. And “Toy Story 2” might be Pixar’s best movie yet. Even though we parents have seen them on DVD dozens of times, they’re worthy of a family outing to the cinema.
I am more surprised than anyone to report that “Zombieland” is the best of this week’s new releases. Long after Zombies have decimated the U.S., four survivors known only by their hometowns band together for a cross-country trek to an amusement park thought to be safe.
Neurotic Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) describes himself as a very scared young man who has survived by creating a strict list of rules to live by. Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) drives a black Escalade adorned with a snowplow and a hand-painted number 3, and revels in killin’ zombies. This odd couple teams with two con artist sisters (Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin) to form a bizarre family unit.
Trailers present “Zombieland” as silly and over-the-top. But mixed into the comically excessive gore and the ridiculousness are some of the wittiest jokes in the history of horror. “Zombieland” doesn’t quite equal the classic “Shaun of the Dead,” but it comes very close.
All four leads work remarkably well together, especially Harrelson and Eisenberg. “Zombieland” also features two of the funniest cameos in recent memory.
One final reason to support “Zombieland”: Much of the movie was filmed in Georgia. It’s an example of those tax incentives that are luring productions to our beloved state.
Competing with “Zombieland” is “Whip It,” an entirely different sort of comedy. High school misfit Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page) discovers her identity and her Grrrl power when she joins a roller derby team. Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut features a great cast and a playful, tomboy attitude.
Sources close to this reviewer say it gives us exactly what the trailers lead us to expect. If it looks like your cup of tea, check it out.
‘The Invention of Lying’
The big disappointment of the week is “The Invention of Lying.” Disappointing not because it is very bad, but because it could have been much better.
Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais) lives in a world in which it has never occurred to anyone to speak anything other than the whole truth. Not only does no one lie, no one holds anything back, either.
This leads to a few hilarious moments. When Mark goes on a blind date with Anna (Jennifer Garner), Anna opens the door and reveals not only that she’s disappointed with Mark’s looks but that she had been, uh, pleasuring herself before he arrived. She goes upstairs and it becomes very quiet while Mark waits downstairs, leaving us to wonder what Anna is doing.
But we veer away from the farcical set-up when Mark tells his dying mother how wonderful the afterlife is. Before we know it the entire world is treating Mark like a modern-day Moses with a direct line to the “Man in the Sky.” We quickly go from a premise reminiscent of a Jim Carrey movie to grappling with theological issues in a way that seems unnecessarily provocative.
Gervais, Garner and a great supporting cast deliver some hilarious satire early in the film, but this one confounds as much as it entertains.
Jeff Marker is a media studies professor at Gainesville State College.