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Movie reviews by The Associated Press

July 20, 2006

"Cars" 2 1/2 stars (out of four)

Stop us if you think you've heard this one: A young hotshot on his way to Los Angeles causes a crash and gets stuck in a small town. Before he can leave, he must spend several days doing community service, only to find out that he likes the simple life. The main difference here is that the characters are ... well, they're cars, hence the title. Owen Wilson takes the Fox role as a stud rookie race car who gets trapped in the forgotten town of Radiator Springs along Route 66. What sets "Cars" apart is that it's yet another stunningly beautiful Pixar production. G. 114 minutes.

"Clerks II" 2 1/2 stars

Kevin Smith checks back in with the slackers from "Clerks" to find out what they're up to a dozen years later. You'll be shocked to learn that Dante (Brian O'Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) are still doing the exact same thing: standing around all day at their menial jobs, finding ways to avoid work, and talking. And talking and talking. They're just doing it in color instead of black and white. But in revisiting the characters that made him an indie darling and a cult favorite, writer-director Smith finds himself back at the top of his game, especially after his most recent offerings, the self-indulgent "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" (2001) and the soft-hearted "Jersey Girl" (2004). It goes disastrously awry in the third act - almost irreparably so - but before that, when the insults are flowing and the graphic banter is crackling, the film frequently achieves a rhythm that's hilariously infectious. R for pervasive sexual and crude content including aberrant sexuality, strong language and some drug material. 98 minutes.

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"Click" 2 stars

As an overworked family man who's given a remote control that magically allows him to take command of his messy home and office life, Adam Sandler spends much of the movie engaging in mean-spirited, Three Stooges-like mayhem. But as tiresomely sub-moronic as the first half of the movie often is, Sandler and director Frank Coraci manage to craft genuine pathos toward the end out of a character who comes to regret taking the easy way out as the remote leaves his life in ruins. Christopher Walken's a hoot as the salesman who provides the remote. Kate Beckinsale co-stars. PG-13 for language, crude and sex-related humor, and some drug references. 107 minutes.

"The Devil Wears Prada" 2 1/2 stars

Lauren Weisberger's best-selling novel of the same name, inspired by her own experiences working as an assistant for Vogue magazine editor Anna Wintour, was chock full of juicy little details about the fashion world, but it was so coarsely written it was agonizing to finish. The Wintour figure was two-dimensional; arbitrarily demanding and cruel, she never showed a glimmer of humanity. Thankfully, the film fleshes her out, and Meryl Streep brilliantly brings her to life. She steals the entire film away from young Anne Hathaway - who has the benefit of youth and Patricia Fields as her costume designer and who is, theoretically, the star. PG-13 for some sexuality. 109 minutes.

"Lady in the Water" 2 stars

Originating as a bedtime story M. Night Shyamalan made up for his kids, this tale carries much of the dark, broody atmosphere that's a signature in the writer-director's films, including "The Sixth Sense" and "Signs." The premise - a mystical water nymph living under the swimming pool of a drab apartment complex - is intriguing, yet the mythology Shyamalan builds around his main characters is forced, pretentious and outright silly at times. Strong performances from Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard and a plucky supporting cast of amiable weirdos make the fantasy occasionally palatable - but just barely. Shyamalan's make-believe world is just too fatuous and corny. Giamatti plays a grieving apartment manager who enlists his tenants to help send little miss water nymph (Howard) back to her realm, the gang battling goofily named creatures trying to prevent her homecoming. PG-13 for some frightening sequences. 109 minutes.

"Monster House" 3 stars

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