Joel Siegel Movie Reviews

Now in theaters: What a Girl Wants, Phone Booth and A Man Apart.

What a Girl Wants — What a Girl Wants really does, as the director promises, put you in touch with your inner-9-year-old girl. And the happily-ever-after fairy tale delivers to just that audience — even though too much of it plays like a first draft of The Princess Diaries (a much better film).

Amanda Bynes and Colin Firth are excellent as the daughter and father who finally meet — she a typical American teenager, he a wealthy and titled Englishman running for Parliament.

The evil daughter of Firth's fiancée is a dirty trickster and she sets up a great line for Bynes: "Haven't you read Cinderella? You're the evil stepdaughter, I'm Cinderella, I win." She does.

But what brought me over was Firth's confession that his favorite '70's rock group was Little Feat. They were my favorite '70s rock group. I lived next door to Sam Clayton, their conga drummer, up in Laurel Canyon. Grade: C+

Phone Booth — Colin Farrell is held hostage by a sniper in a phone booth. If he hangs up, he dies.

Can you make an entire feature film in a phone booth? As an exercise, Joel Schumacher's direction is dazzling. The star is edgy and sharp as a paper cut. But the script reads like it was phoned in. Why doesn't Farrell use his cell phone? We're offered a lame excuse.

The reason the sniper targets Farrell is even lamer, destroying any dramatic tension. Imagine Hamlet's moral uncertainty caused not by the knowledge his uncle murdered his father, his mother may be an accomplice, and the kingdom of Denmark is at stake. Instead he's waiting in line at Burger King and can't make up his mind whether he wants a double-cheese Whopper or two regular Whoppers, no cheese. Then imagine yourself waiting in line behind him.

Originally slated for release last fall, Phone Booth was put on hold when the D.C.-area sniper attacks made headlines. If you do call ahead for tickets this weekend, you won't get a busy signal. Grade: C-

A Man Apart — Movie critics' rule No. 4: Beware of movies made before an actor becomes a star, dusted off the shelf and released after he becomes a star.

Vin Diesel made this before he starred in XXX (which I liked). Humorless, incoherent, impossible, and violent beyond reason, A Man Apart features Diesel plays a former gang-banger who joins the DEA and ends up busting the biggest Colombian drug lord single-handedly.

If I hadn't seen Traffic, this would still stink, but I wouldn't know how badly. Diesel runs on fumes in this one. Grade: D.