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Movie reviews: Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Flash of Genius, Blindness, Appaloosa, How to Lose Friends & Alienate People
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua

» Opens today at theaters everywhere; rated PG for some mild thematic elements; 91 minutes.

Disney ends this kiddie movie with a brief public-service announcement to remind moviegoers that adopting a pet is a serious responsibility. It's the only shred of maturity in an excruciatingly cutesy-poo movie, centered on a pampered chihuahua, Chloe (voiced by Drew Barrymore), who ends up dognapped in Mexico. Chloe's rescuer, a defrocked police dog (voiced by Andy Garcia) who's a four-footed buddy-cop movie cliché, aims to get her home to Beverly Hills - while her caretaker, Rachel (Piper Perabo), rushes to Mexico City to find the pooch before Chloe's owner, Rachel's aunt (Jamie Lee Curtis), gets home. Director Raja Gosnell (who directed both live-action "Scooby-Doo" movies) overloads on the computer-animated animal action, including some idiotic comic relief from a rat-and-iguana con-artist team. The script's one original idea, a lost Aztec city populated solely by militant chihuahuas, comes too late to save this dog of a movie.

- Sean P. Means

Flash of Genius

» Opens today at theaters everywhere; rated PG-13 for brief strong language; 119 minutes.

Who knew that the story of the man who invented the intermittent windshield wiper could be so compelling? Producer John Abraham ("Air Force One," "Dawn of the Dead," "Children of Men") makes his directorial debut depicting the saga of Bob Kearns (Greg Kinnear), a professor who created the device now used in virtually every car in America. When he believes his idea has been stolen by Ford Motor Corp., he spends more than a decade of his life fighting back, with an edge-of-your-seat courtroom battle as the climax. Besides showing the surprising behind-the-scenes intrigue of corporate America and giving us flawed and complex heroes whom you still root for, the film asks difficult questions about how far someone should go to fight for what's right, and, ultimately, whether truth is more important than loyalty to the ones close to you.

- David Burger

Blindness

» Opens today at area theaters; rated R for violence including sexual assaults, language and sexuality/nudity; 120 minutes.

Nobel laureate José Saramago's novel of self-destructing civilization becomes a movie that self-destructs as you watch it unfold its arty nihilism. When an epidemic of blindness strikes a city, the government reacts with a massive quarantine - throwing dozens of people (including Danny Glover, Gael García Bernal and Alice Braga) into a deserted sanitarium to fend for themselves. The one person inside with an advantage is a woman (Julianne Moore) who has retained her sight even as her ophthalmologist husband (Mark Ruffalo) has lost his. Screenwriter Don McKellar (who plays a car thief) maintains Saramago's literary trick of not giving characters names, but what feels like universality on the page comes off as pretention on film. Alas, that's one of many pretentions that director Fernando Meirelles ("City of God," "The Constant Gardener") employs - such as scenes that are either dimly lit or oversaturated in light - in his dank and metaphor-pushing depiction of the world crumbling into panic.

- Sean P. Means

Appaloosa

» Opens today at area theaters; rated R for some violence and language; 114 minutes.

Though they've only acted together once, on opposite sides of the law in "A History of Violence," Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen appear in this Western as if they had been riding partners for ages. Harris' Virgil Cole and Mortensen's Everett Hitch are gunmen hired to be the law in a New Mexico Territory town, circa 1882, when an imperious rancher, Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons, his voice an eerie copy of Daniel Day-Lewis' in "There Will Be Blood"), kills the city marshal. Cole and Hitch are all business when it comes to killing - but that changes with the arrival of Ally French (Renee Zellweger), an insecure widow who takes a shine to Cole. Harris, who directs and co-wrote this adaptation of a Robert B. Parker novel, lets things unfold in an unhurried pace, then coils up with ferocious sequences of gunplay. Harris' easy byplay with Mortensen, his economical dialogue and his stately camerawork of the New Mexico landscape combine for a smart, dynamic Western.

- Sean P. Means

How to Lose Friends & Alienate People

» Opens today at area theaters; rated R for language, some graphic nudity and brief drug material; 110 minutes.

If Simon Pegg ("Shaun of the Dead") weren't British, his utterly loathsome character - Sidney Young, a new hire at an upscale entertainment-and-gossip magazine who grates on everyone around him as he ascends the social ladder - wouldn't work. If Pegg weren't puppy-dog adorable under all that attitude, you wouldn't want to spend two hours with him. Even so, it's a close call, because this adaptation of Toby Young's novel (inspired by his short stint at Vanity Fair) careens from lowbrow pratfalls to a sappy romantic plot involving Sidney and a no-nonsense co-worker (Kirsten Dunst). Director Robert B. Weide ("Curb Your Enthusiasm") mines some sly satire from the plight of a spoiled starlet ("Transformers' " Megan Fox), but squanders Jeff Bridges' brief turn as the magazine's frosty editor.

- Sean P. Means

movies@sltrib.com

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