At The Movies: 'Coraline,' 'Pink Panther II'

Slate.com's Mark Jordan Legan has summary judgment on three new films: Coraline is an animated film about a young girl who finds a portal into an alternative version of her own life. Pink Panther 2 rejoins Inspector Jacques Clouseau as he tries to foil the plans of a bad guy who steals historic artifacts. And He's Just Not That Into You is a comedy about surviving romance gone awry.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is Day to Day. I'm Madeleine Brand. Quite a few movie choices this weekend, and here with a roundup of the critics' reviews is Mark Jordan Legan with Slate's Summary Judgment.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN: Winter can be tough, and for those of you who didn't hear, the groundhog did see his shadow last week. So, you know what that means. Yep, six more weeks of mediocre movies. Nah. In fact, here's a stop-motion animated family film that is getting great buzz. It's from Henry Selick, the director of "Nightmare Before Christmas" and "James and the Giant Peach." Dakota Fanning voices the lead girl, Coraline, who finds a single door in her house that leads to a strange alternate universe. Hey, I know that door. It was called Grandma's room.

(Soundbite of movie "Coraline")

Ms. DAKOTA FANNING: (As Coraline Jones) You are not my mother. My mother doesn't have bu-bu-bu...

Ms. TERI HATCHER: (As Other Mother) Buttons?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. HATCHER: (As Other Mother) Do you like them? I'm your other mother, silly. Now, go tell your other father that supper's ready.

LEGAN: The critics applaud "Coraline," but many warn that some of the fantasy world may be too intense for smaller kids. The Los Angeles Times raves, "a remarkable feed of imagination with a genuinely sinister edge;" but the Miami Herald warns, "essentially, a horror movie for kids, but it is also gentle and funny and whimsical."

And for those die-hard Peter Sellers fans, I guess your boycotts and picket lines failed, because Steve Martin is back as Inspector Clouseau in the sequel to the worldwide hit from 2006. Yes, it's "Pink Panther 2," and in this one, Clouseau stumbles his way through Rome, trying to solve a stolen artifacts case.

(Soundbite of movie "The Pink Panther 2")

Mr. STEVE MARTIN: (As Inspector Jacques Clouseau) And now, there's a crime scene waiting. Oh, excuse me, el scene-o de crime-o(ph).

Mr. ANDY GARCIA: (As Vicenzo): That is not Italian, and I do speak English.

LEGAN: The nation's critics wish to revoke this franchise's lai-sahnce(ph). Even though Variety chuckles, "serves up enough goofy pranks and fractured word play to keep the series purring along," the majority agree with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which snarls, "a forgettable waste of time."

Speaking of a forgettable waste of time, some would consider dating to fall under that category, and the new romantic comedy, "He's Just Not That Into You," opens today in wide release. A group of young professionals navigate the social scene of Baltimore - yes, you heard me, Baltimore - as they try to find the perfect soul mate. Everyone from Jennifer Aniston to Scarlett Johansson to Drew Barrymore star.

(Soundbite of movie "He's Just Not That Into You")

Ms. DREW BARRYMORE: (As Mary) And I miss the days where you had one phone number and one answering machine, and that one answering machine housed one cassette tape, and that one cassette tape either had a message from the guy or it didn't. And now, you just have to go around checking all these different portals just to get rejected by seven different technologies. It's exhausting.

LEGAN: Like many of my dates, the critics say, eh. The San Francisco Chronicle smiles, "never soars, but it never flags; it remains brisk, engaging and pleasant throughout;" the Boston Globe calls it, "good comfort food;" but the Wall Street Journal finds "He's Just Not That Into You" "predictable and repetitive."

And for those of you who scoffed at Baltimore - ah, wait a minute, I scoffed at Baltimore - well, anyway, Baltimore is a very beautiful, romantic city. Don't forget, this is the place where Edgar Allan Poe died filthy and delirious in the gutter. Hey, maybe get Jennifer Aniston to date Edgar Allan Poe! Then, you got yourself a movie.

BRAND: Mark Jordan Legan is a writer living 2700 miles away from Baltimore.

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