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Charlottes Web, Eragon

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CHARLOTTE'S WEB
Breathe easy: Gary Winick's new, live-action Charlotte's Web pic does not screw up one of the seminal works of American children's literature. In fact, the film manages to modernize this classic tale without losing the gravity and essential dignity of animals grappling with mortality. Winick skillfully undercuts the seriousness of the subject matter (Wilbur, the porcine protagonist, is essentially on death row for the entirety of the film) with contemporary sarcasm and a liberal dose of potty humor. While Dakota Fanning does well by Fern, the film's pig-loving heroine, John Cleese, with his clipped British delivery, is the real scene-stealer as elitist sheep Samuel. Then there's Steve Buscemi as scheming Templeton the rat and the always-hilarious Thomas Haden Church as an addled crow—both perfectly-pitched comic relief. The only true weak spot in this basically charming adaptation is Wilbur. The cardinal sin in children's movies is crossing the line from cute to cloying, and Dominic Scott Kay's high-pitched, overly precocious whine is more saccharine than sweet. Still, with such stellar source material, this Charlotte's Web won't disgrace your childhood memories—or your child. (Jessica Grose) (Countywide)

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS
See "No Trivial Pursuit" (Countywide)

WONDROUS OBLIVION
See "The Outsiders"(Edwards University, Irvine)

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ERAGON
In a time of darkness, under the evil reign of John Malkovich—who sits upon a throne in a different soundstage from all the other cast—a hero shall rise. But lo, there will be little rejoicing, for this farmer turned dragon-rider named Eragon is but a pretty boy (newcomer Ed Speleers), somehow in possession of the only soap and clean clothes in all the land. And then shall cometh a big blue CGI dragon, voiced by Rachel Weisz and far lamer—physically and stylistically—than Sean Connery's beast from 1996's Dragonheart. Wuss dragon shall be the sole focus of all in Stefen Fangmeier's lame fantasy world, as its mighty pixels emote more effectively than Djimon Hounsou in a bad wig or King Malkovich's army of evil balding fat men. As Eragon tries to save his home from the power-mad king, much wailing and gnashing of teeth ensue, especially in the scenes when singer Joss Stone plays a fortune-telling gypsy, and even more so when songbirds Avril Lavigne and Jem foist themselves unto the soundtrack. (Luke Y. Thompson) (Countywide)

 
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