Review: 'A Good Year' Lightens Up Russell Crowe

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They let grown-ups into the movies in November, and that's why the stars are big.

We start with "Babel." The commercial alone might earn it an Oscar nomination. It's creating that much buzz. The movie is not as good as the commercial for one reason -- it's 200 times longer.

Ten minutes into "Babel," and you realize you have a great director in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. The film almost plays as a silent movie, the way the stories in Japan, Mexico and Morocco meld into the same story.

And the performances from nonactors, and from Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt, are extraordinary.

But an hour and 10 minutes into "Babel" you realize the director is a great director who is still looking for a great film. He takes his stories a giant step beyond believable. The Hollywood phrase is, "It takes you out of the movie."

You start questioning the characters. Instead of being part of the film, you become all too aware that you're watching one.

There may be Oscar buzz, but "Babel" isn't a towering achievement. Grade: B+

'Stranger Than Fiction'

You're used to it in the movies when you hear a narrator telling you what a character is up to. What's different about "Stranger Than Fiction" is the character is used to it, too.

Will Ferrell plays a character in a novel Emma Thompson can't seem to finish because she can't figure out how to finish him off.

Still, Ferrell pulls it off, and holds his own with a formidable cast. Grade: B+

'A Good Year'

Russell Crowe is about to inherit his uncle's south of France chateau. His first instinct: Take the money and run. But then, the movie would last 11 minutes, and a single copy of the book wouldn't have been sold.

We see Crowe fall into a pool. Yes, he does slapstick. The next thing you know, Will Ferrell will make a movie where he plays it straight. This is not going to be a blockbuster, but it's a really enjoyable, old-fashioned love story.

Of all the movies Crowe has done, he's never made a romantic comedy. It's directed by Ridley Scott. They did "Gladiator" together, and they'd never made a romantic comedy before.

I figured that's why they made this film. But it's not because of the challenge of trying something new.

It's because they wanted to get paid a lot of money to spend six months in the south of France. That's a good reason. Nice to see him not so angry. He's a terrific actor. Grade: B

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