Old Tricks and No Bite for 'Must Love Dogs'

Now in theaters: "Must Love Dogs," "Hustle & Flow," "Sky High" and "Stealth."

Must Love Dogs

Two minutes into "Must Love Dogs," it rolls over and plays dead.

My dictionary has two definitions for "dog." One: A domesticated mammal of the canine family. Two: The unredeemingly dreadful movies that Hollywood studios open in August.

The first kind of dog is the kind we must love. And I do. The second is this kind of movie. It begins with Diane Lane playing a preschool teacher who can't get a date on her own. Sure, you believe that.

Her first computer date waits for her at a cafe with a yellow rose. It turns out to be her dad. And this is a high point. "Must Love Dogs" is so contrived, so artificial -- and the dialogue is so overwritten and overwrought -- that not even some of the best actors in Hollywood can make you believe anything you see on the screen could ever happen to an actual human being.

Yes, everybody loves dogs, but that doesn't mean you have to spend $10 to see this one. Grade: D.

Hustle & Flow

"Hustle and Flow" was a winner at Sundance, and it's already a surprise summer hit, opening last weekend and grossing twice as much as it cost to make.

This is the story of a pimp from Memphis, Tenn., who turns his midlife crisis into the launching pad for a successful rap career. Hollywood usually treats subjects like this as raunchy comedy. But "Hustle & Flow" is serious, living, breathing drama. Anthony Anderson proves he's a fine actor and Terrence Howard, in the lead role, might earn an Oscar nomination. Grade: B+.

Sky High

This is a high school coming-of-age comedy at a high school where all the kids are kids of superheroes.

Will (Michael Angarano) is the son of Commander Stronghold (Kurt Russell) and Jetstream (Kelly Preston), the greatest superheroes alive. He hasn't inherited his folks' super powers. But he does have a girl who loves him, class clowns who mess with him and a bully who won't let him eat his lunch.

"Sky High" is a very funny, live-action "Incredibles" that's terrific fun for kids and their folks. Grade: B.

Stealth

Three Navy top guns are joined by … Hal, the computer from "2001: A Space Odyssey." Before the film is over, we destroy downtown Rangoon, there are two nuclear explosions and a pilot bails out over North Korea. But, hey, it's summer at the movies. It all happens at Mach 3, with special effects that left a room full of critics gasping for breath. Grade: B-.

'Penguins' March to Movie History

By this weekend, "March of the Penguins" will become the biggest-grossing nature documentary of all time, having already taken in nearly $11 million. It's also the biggest grossing documentary that's not R-rated.

In limited release so far this summer, "March of the Penguins" has been taking in more on a per-screen basis than some of Hollywood's biggest films. It's now open in 695 theaters, and it's the only film I'd recommend this weekend, even if the movie house air conditioning is on the fritz.

I reviewed it a month ago (Grade A-) and not only did it get stellar reviews, it's getting great word of beak.

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