Slate's Summary Judgment: 'Sky High,' 'Must Love Dogs,' 'Stealth'

Adolescent superheroes, dog lovers and an intelligent airplane are vying for your movie dollar this weekend — but are any of them worthy? Slate contributor Mark Jordan Legan looks at what film critics are saying about this week's movie releases, including Sky High, Must love Dogs and Stealth.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And finally today, we have our weekly digest of critics' views on the latest major movies. Here's writer Mark Jordan Legan with Slate's Summary Judgment.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN reporting:

What better way to beat the summer heat than to escape into an air-conditioned movie theater, sit back, relax and then listen to people answer their cell phones?

Well, first up in wide release is a movie that's so thunderous, its action will drown out even the loudest cell phone. It is "Stealth." That's right. This high-tech thriller is about a group of hot young fighter pilots who must stop a dangerous warplane with a mind of its own. Jessica Biel and Jamie Foxx star.

(Soundbite of "Stealth")

Unidentified Man #1: Return to the ship, well, I'll personally shoot you down.

Unidentified Man #2: My mandate is to survive.

LEGAN: The nation's critics all wanted to use the ejector seat on this one. The Arizona Republic snarls, `Absolutely consistent; it's just as wildly improbable at the end as in the beginning.' The Hollywood Reporter warns of `a thin story, cardboard characters and snicker-inducing dialogue.' And The Atlanta Journal-Constitution sees a silver lining, sort of: `Move over, Michael Bay; "The Island" is no longer the loudest, dumbest movie of the summer.' Whoo-hoo, Michael Bay. High-five!

Next up is the romantic comedy "Must Love Dogs." Diane Lane stars as a divorced teacher whose friends force her into the 21st-century dating scene. John Cusack and Elizabeth Perkins also star.

(Soundbite of "Must Love Dogs")

Unidentified Woman #1: At least listen to the tips. Your sister has gone to a lot of trouble here.

Ms. DIANE LANE: (As Sarah) OK.

Unidentified Woman #2: One, maintain eye contact, but be sure it isn't too intense; you aren't a hawk eyeing its prey.

Ms. LANE: (As Sarah) Oh, it's good that you told me that, 'cause I might have done my hawk thing.

LEGAN: The critics are torn here. Some find it as adorable as a puppy, and others can only shout, `Bad dog!' Rolling Stone says "Must Love Dogs" is `full of wonderfully appealing performances,' and Newsday cheers, `It manages to rework genre conventions with an exuberant wit and an authentic feel for the madness of the mating game.' However, many agree with The New York Times' complaint that this film is `an Internet dating comedy so weightless that it makes a trifle like "You've Got Mail" look like Chekhov.' OK, great, just what the famous deceased Russian writer one day dreamed of, to be mentioned in a pan of a Diane Lane comedy. Rest in peace, Anton.

And finally, also in wide release, is the Disney family comedy "Sky High." Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston play superheroes who send their seemingly normal son to a special high school just for kids with superpowers.

(Soundbite of "Sky High")

Ms. KELLY PRESTON: (As Josie/Jetstream) Honey, I know you're disappointed. So am I. You think I didn't want to see my son fly?

Mr. KURT RUSSELL: (As Steve/The Commander) Or have super strength?

Ms. PRESTON: (As Josie/Jetstream) Or fly? But we can't change who he is, not without dropping him in a vat of toxic waste. Steve!

Mr. RUSSELL: (As Steve/The Commander) Oh. Oh, no. Where would we even find a vat of...

Ms. PRESTON: (As Josie/Jetstream) Steve!

Mr. RUSSELL: (As Steve/The Commander) I just--I'm thinking!

LEGAN: The critics really enjoy "Sky High." `Smartly written and sprightly played,' crows Variety. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel finds it `an amiable and satisfying romp.' And The Charlotte Observer shouts, `A clever blend of the high school comedy and superhero genre.'

I'm sure we can all relate to the idea of our parents as superheroes. I certainly knew the awesome power of my mom's alter ego, Guilt Woman, and my father's commanding Captain Sarcasm. `Oh, yeah, I loved my Father's Day gift. Thanks.' Whew. Stronger than kryptonite.

BRAND: It's hard to believe, but Mark Jordan Legan is just a mere mortal. He's a writer living in Los Angeles.

DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News with contributions from slate.com. I'm Madeleine Brand.

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