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FEBRUARY 14, 2000: 

The Tigger Movie

To begin with the obvious: the most wonderful thing about Tiggers, of course, is that Tigger is the only one! The darn problem, though, is that our bouncerific friend gets it into his addled brain that he needs to find his family. And so he spends most of first-time director Jun Falkenstein's take on A.A. Milne's classic stories bouncing around the Hundred Acre Wood, searching high and low for something even the wee-est pipsqueak in the audience knows just doesn't exist. The frustration and love we all feel for Tigger is profound, however, and his antics keep the film, well, bouncing right along. Now, allowing that I'm no scholar of The Tao of Pooh, it still seems that the rest of the bunch -- Pooh, Kanga, Eeyore, and so on -- belong to a past, slower era. Disney must figure that only the frenetic Tigger and his short attention span can carry a movie these days. Fortunately, Falkenstein mostly stays true to Milne's style -- i.e., Tigger's musical numbers do not include a hip-hop song. And certainly there's always a place for Pooh and crew, as Tigger, inevitably, realizes who his true family is -- even though Winnie couldn't bounce if a pogo stick bit him on his big honey-filled arse.

-- Mark Bazer

The Big Tease

Imagine William Wallace with scissors and you get the gist of this screwy comedy from director Kevin Allen (Twin Town). Crawford MacKenzie (Craig Ferguson, a/k/a The Drew Carey Show's Mr. Wick) is a flamboyant Glasgow coiffeur whose dreams seem close to fulfillment when he's invited to Tinseltown for the World Freestyle Hair Championships. Small problem: when he arrives (with documentary crew in tow) he discovers that he was invited to watch, not participate. Undaunted, the plucky Scot wows Sean Connery's publicist, Candy Harper (Frances Fisher), with a hideous hair overhaul to get past Monique, the competition's bitchy organizer (Mary McCormack). The climactic competition is hilarious, each hairstyle more absurd than the last.

Unlike the massive 'dos, The Big Tease is as lightweight as they come. Although its take on the shallow idiocy of Hollywood is stinging, and Ferguson's portrayal of a swishy Caledonian with a deadly Connery impersonation is fabulous, Tease misses opportunities to explore the culture clash of a Scotsman in flaky LA. Then again, with his floral print silk shirts and fondness for South Pacific, Crawford MacKenzie is hardly the rugged highlander.

-- Mike Miliard

The Beach

After the multi-billion-dollar success of Titanic, Leonardo DiCaprio's career could hardly go anywhere but down. Nonetheless, he could have given himself a break by steering clear of this callow and overrated property. Alex Garland's inexplicably acclaimed novel The Beach is a twentysomething Club Med tour of Heart of Darkness by way of Lord of the Flies, and it gains nothing by director Danny Boyle's feeble attempts to jazz it up with Trainspotting-style flash and DiCaprio's glowering, stripling presence. Leonard's Richard is a jaded American pleasure seeker bored with drinking snake blood in Bangkok and despairing of ever doing anything that somebody else hasn't done already. A Scottish psycho named Daffy Duck (it's a tribute to Robert Carlyle that he makes the most of this role despite the generic name) offers him a map to a paradisal island off the coast, and before you can say Bali Hai Richard's off with Étienne (Guillaume Canet) and Françoise (Virginie Ledoyen), a giddy French couple who provide little sexual tension.

Both Boyle and DiCaprio seemed more at home in the sordid, sensory overkill of the mainland tourist traps. On the beach there's not much to do but take in the scenery and sample the native marijuana crop. It's lovely, but there are problems. The castaway society of spoiled Westerners that has lodged there is even more vacuous than Richard, and they share the place with Thai dope farmers with bad facial hair and AK-47s.

As a critique of Generation X amorality, vapid pop culture, and Western exploitativeness, The Beach comes off as unintentional self-parody, especially when it lapses into riffs from Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter. For DiCaprio and Boyle both, it's low tide.

-- Peter Keough

Snow Day

True, the year is young, but I hope it offers no movie worse than Snow Day. Some might object it's a kid's flick, but tell that to the dozen grade-school guinea pigs at the screening who walked out before the movie was half over. So maybe I can be excused for passing the time making random and irrelevant observations.

The premise is, as one tyke puts it, "Anything can happen on a snow day!" -- i.e., when school is cancelled because of a storm. For example, Mark Webber, a kid with little charm and talent and the hairiest feet I've ever seen, can play the romantic lead, squiring a pouty hottie who parades around in bikinis and puts Annette Funicello to shame. Or Chevy Chase can have his career debased by playing a meteorologist whose career is debased when he's forced to deliver the weather wearing a grass skirt. Speaking of careers: Chris Elliott's has apparently peaked with Cabin Boy; here, as the villainous Snowplowman, he sees all the best lines go to his sidekick, a squawking bird. And what is it about fart jokes? Provided here by the requisite fat boy who's the butt of everyone's humor, they get a laugh no matter how inane or gratuitous. Finally, though, the lesson for Hollywood is to declare February a Snow Month, when anything can happen, but not on the screen.

-- Peter Keough

Holy Smoke

Not to beat a metaphor to death, but since hitting a high note with The Piano, Jane Campion's career has gone off-key. Portrait of Lady was ill-conceived, and her new Holy Smoke is schizoid -- perhaps because the screenplay and tie-in novel were co-written with her sister Anna, and both have a disconcerting, she-said/she-said discrepancy. At times pedantic, and at better times evincing the offbeat whimsy of Campion's Sweetie days (some of the greatest rewards come from watching the edge of the frame, where you might see a kid with a banana skin on his head or a sheep used as an hors d'oeuvre tray), the film labors toward some harmony, or at least an engaging dissonance.

What a mess it would have been without Kate Winslet, secretly the best actress of her generation, as Ruth Barron, a young Australian woman of no fixed beliefs who finds that her vacation to India has become much more when she crosses eyes with a guru and eternity opens up. Her doggedly bourgeois mother, Miriam (a priceless Julie Hamilton), tricks her back to the Outback, where she undergoes deprogramming from American expert P.J. Waters (Harvey Keitel at his most truculent and disreputable and saddest).

The subsequent battle of the sects and sexes is less interesting than the actors' moments of inspiration and Campion's flights of fancy. Although the director has composed more-thoughtful fables about patriarchal oppression and its liberating overthrow, Holy Smoke endures because of its ephemera, its image of a nude Ruth, cunning and vulnerable in the desert dusk, or of a broken Waters, weeping in a red dress and one cowboy boot, chasing after the illusion of love. One of the most memorable moments comes when Ruth covertly signals for help -- perhaps Campion herself could use some to clarify her vision.

-- Peter Keough

Scream 3

No matter how many times you see that ghost-face mask, it always scares the bejesus out of you. This time around, the eeriest disguise since Jason's hockey mask hides a Hollywood killer who stalks the cast of Stab 3, the third film in a trilogy based on the Woodsboro murders (of Screams 1 & 2) in the hope of discovering where Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) -- the toughest, smartest horror heroine in recent history -- has been hiding since Scream 2. The key to effective horror is anticipation (that's why the phone makes such a good vehicle for fear; you never really know who's on the other end), and Scream 3 dives into the bloodbath a little too quickly, with the first cut made five minutes in. But director Wes Craven remains the master of the slasher flick, using the Stab 3 set's reproductions of the Woodsboro homes to revive creepy flashbacks of the first movie and providing the psychological fright that was the heart of Scream but was lacking in Scream 2. The Scream films don't take themselves or the movie industry too seriously, so in-jokes (most of them funny) abound and rewatching the first two Screams is recommended if you want to get half of the humor. Let's hope this really is the last in the series, because the screams are starting to die down.

-- Jumana Farouky

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