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Movie reviews by The Associated Press

July 20, 2006
(Page 2 of 3)

The difference between this animated movie and most others is a little thing called story. "Monster House" actually has one, and doesn't just trot out cheeky characters spewing gratuitous pop culture references. And unlike most horror movies, it really is scary - definitely too much so for little kids, but it should startle adults, as well. Using the same motion-capture animation method that appeared in "The Polar Express" (to much more engaging effect) first-time filmmaker Gil Kenan tells the story of three kids who realize that the neighborhood house where a crotchety old man lives isn't just creaky and spooky. It's a snarling, gnashing monster that devours anything or anyone that dares come near it - toys, bikes, dogs, even people. The movie taps accurately into fears and folklore that everyone will recognize from childhood. Steve Buscemi, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Kevin James and Kathleen Turner are among the vocal cast. PG for scary images and sequences, thematic elements, some crude humor and brief language. 91 minutes.

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"My Super Ex-Girlfriend" 1 1/2 stars

One of the freshest movie premises of the summer is utterly wasted here, along with one of the best casting choices, Uma Thurman as a superhero using her powers to exact payback on the man who jilted her. This comedy is so unfunny, it's as if director Ivan Reitman and company had their senses of humor tranquilized from guzzling kryptonite lattes. First-time screenwriter Don Payne, a veteran writer for "The Simpsons," hit on a potentially delightful premise but executes it blandly as the movie lumbers through dreary sight gags and drearier patter. With his aw-shucks plainness, co-star Luke Wilson is a weak and boring counterpart to Thurman, who injects far more spirit into the character and dialogue than the script contains. She's both endearingly compulsive and boisterously psychotic. Anna Faris, Eddie Izzard, Rainn Wilson and Wanda Sykes co-star. PG-13 for sexual content, crude humor, language and brief nudity. 96 minutes.

"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" 2 stars

Yo ho, yo ho ... yeah, that's about all you get. It is physically impossible to think of any pirate puns after sitting through this sequel and having all traces of energy and enthusiasm sucked out. Even more cartoonish than the original film from 2003 - a difficult feat to achieve - the latest installment in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise often feels as if it should star the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote. And those moments are the funniest, liveliest parts. The rest is just bloated - and, like its predecessor, numbingly overlong. Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley are back, as are director Gore Verbinski and writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio. The plot this time focuses on our heroes' misadventures as they search for Davy Jones' famous hidden chest. In theory, the special effects are the allure, but they feel redundant. And the thrilling unpredictability of watching Depp do his kinda-gay, kinda-drunk Keith Richards shtick as Captain Jack Sparrow is completely gone. Like everything else about this film, we've seen it before. PG-13 for intense sequences of adventure violence, including frightening images. 153 minutes.

"Superman Returns" 3 1/2 stars

"Superman Returns" is everything you'd want it to be. It's reverential of the source material, yet a unique film all its own. It's steeped in decadent art-deco mood and details, yet completely current. It's joyous with the possibility of discovery, yet deeply moving in its melancholy. It should satisfy purists and attract new converts. But most important for a summer blockbuster, it's just outright thrilling. Director Bryan Singer has constructed a visual marvel. And yet, there's something softer, sweeter, warmer about this "Superman" than its predecessors, both in its tone and its performances. Sort of a sequel to 1980's "Superman II," the new film takes a little while to get going, but begins with the Man of Steel (Brandon Routh) returning to Metropolis after a five-year absence. Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) is now the mother of a young son with her fianc (James Marsden). And Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) is out of prison with plans to create his own continent. PG-13 for some intense action violence. 157 minutes.

"You, Me and Dupree" 1 1/2 stars

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