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MAY 15, 2000: 

AGNES BROWNE. Angelica Huston directs and stars as the unsinkable Agnes Browne, a working-class widow in Dublin in the late 1960s. Adapted from Irish comedian Brendan O'Carroll's mediocre novel The Mammy, this American-produced, Irish-cast film alternates between cloying and clichéd as it weaves from the grocery stand gossip of Agnes and her mostly female cohorts, to the trials and triumphs of her seven growing children, and the budding romance she shares with a mysterious French baker (Arno Chevrier). To be sure, there are some funny lines and tender moments, particularly between Huston and her quippy sister-in-law, Marion; but the remainder of this painfully silly spin on hard luck stands in for Irish wit about as artfully as the leprechaun might for its national identity. Which is to say, it's more laughable than amusing. -- Mari Wadsworth


THE FLINTSTONES: VIVA ROCK VEGAS. A comedy with but two jokes, The Flintstones is an inverted paean to despair, the "stone age" standing in for the stoniness of the human heart, the pre-historic era signifying the eternal absence of an earlier innocence. The film tells of how Wilma and Fred, amidst the dinosaurs of desperation, find each other and attempt, in a mime of love, to create a bulwark against the pain of existence and the hollowness of life. At the theater where I saw this film, young children sat in an unselfconsciously stony silence, not laughing, sometimes stirring restlessly in their seats, having hoped for an experience, having found only the meaningless glory of special effects. -- James DiGiovanna


I DREAMED OF AFRICA. "This is a true story," this film begins. Not the ubiquitous "based on a true story," mind you, but "true." How disappointing, then, to experience nearly two hours of simpering Kim Basinger and vapid Vincent Pérez's wooden acting, following the devastating car accident that's the catalyst for a truly epic Italy-to-Africa adventure. I Dreamed of Africa's sincere script is hopelessly marred by poor editing, unimaginative photography, and a cattle ranch set that looks like the manicured backdrop for a safari-themed J. Crew catalog (fragile hurricane lamps, expensive hardwood furniture, and vast, lush lawns in a place where the leading lady boasts, in her alternately mud-splattered and sun dappled Banana Republic wardrobe, "This is the first rain we've had in six months!") More disappointing still is the preponderance of flat, panoramic helicopter shots forever looking down, like God above, on the African savanna where herd after fleeing herd of camels, elephants, antelope and giraffe cavort for our pleasure (or in panic from thudding chopper blades?). Despite apparently noble intentions, the unforgettable life of Kuki Gallmann unfortunately (even incredibly) makes for a pretty forgettable film. Too bad, as the real-life Gallmann's personal risks and losses are matched only, as the film denotes, by her enduring legacy as one of Africa's most ardent conservationists. -- Mari Wadsworth


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