Slate's Summary Judgment: 'Prime,' 'The Weatherman,' 'The Legend of Zorro'

Slate contributor Mark Jordan Legan offers his regular weekly roundup of what movie critics are saying about the weekend's releases: Prime, The Weatherman and The Legend of Zorro.

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NOAH ADAMS, host:

It's DAY TO DAY. I'm Noah Adams.

In a moment, we'll have more on today's indictments in the Valerie Plame CIA leak investigation.

But first, as we do every Friday, we turn to the online magazine Slate for its weekly digest of what movie critics are saying about the new films. Here is Mark Jordan Legan with Summary Judgment.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN reporting:

First up in wide release, we have the very dark comedy "The Weather Man." Nicolas Cage stars as a TV weatherman who seems to have it all together in front of the camera, but in reality his recent divorce has filled him with angst and self-doubt. Michael Caine and Hope Davis also star.

(Soundbite of "The Weather Man")

Mr. NICOLAS CAGE: (As David Spritz) Fast food: things that people would rather throw out than finish. It's easy, it tastes all right, but it doesn't really provide you any nourishment. I'm fast food.

LEGAN: Most of the nation's critics admire this quirky, big studio film, saying it has an indie vibe. A few complain of the melancholy, like the Philadelphia Inquirer, which warns, `"The Weather Man" is a gloomy, self-serious film.' But The Washington Post finds it `emotionally compelling.' And the Chicago Sun-Times says it's `a film of uncommon observations and touching insights.'

Next up in limited release is the romantic comedy "Prime." With a plot that sounds like a New Yorker cartoon, Uma Thurman falls in love with a much younger man who turns out to also be the son of her therapist, played by Meryl Streep.

(Soundbite of "Prime")

Ms. UMA THURMAN: (As Rafi Gardet) He hasn't much experience. He's only been with two other women.

Ms. MERYL STREEP: (As Lisa Metzger) What? He's had sex with two other women?

Ms. THURMAN: (As Rafi Gardet) Yes. I mean, can you believe that's it? Now I know why men go after younger women. There's something to it.

LEGAN: Most of the critics enjoy Streep and Thurman, but a few complain of the plot. `Brazenly preposterous!' moans Entertainment Weekly. But The Dallas Morning News cheers, `A film that is often a riot, with laughter growing out of identifiable human behavior.' And Rolling Stone smiles, `Hilarious and heartfelt.'

And we close with the wide-release sequel "The Legend of Zorro." This action-adventure reunites Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones with Martin Campbell, the director of the 1998 hit "The Mask of Zorro." This time out, Zorro is urged by his wife to lose the mask, hang up the cape, and lead a normal life.

(Soundbite of "The Legend of Zorro")

Ms. CATHERINE ZETA-JONES: (As Elena) ...certain enough.

Mr. ANTONIO BANDERAS: (As Zorro) I was right! Armeni's(ph) not who you think he is!

Ms. ZETA-JONES: (As Elena) You have no idea who I think he is.

Mr. BANDERAS: (As Zorro) Well, I think I know who you think he is.

Ms. ZETA-JONES: (As Elena) No, no, no, because you do not think! Now get out of here before somebody sees you.

Mr. BANDERAS: (As Zorro) Shhh!

LEGAN: The nation's critics are torn on this one. Some enjoy it as simple fun, while others complain it falls into the usual sequel traps. The Minneapolis Star Tribune shouts, `One of the rare films that aimed to thrill us while lampooning the adventure genre and hit both bull's-eyes simultaneously!' But Variety grumbled, `Bigger, louder and considerably less charming than its predecessor.' And the Chicago Sun-Times frowns, `"The Legend of Zorro" commits a lot of movie sins, but one is mortal: It turns Zeta-Jones' character into a nag.'

Hoo! Man, the famous swashbuckler is now housebound and henpecked. `Oh, big man with the cape! Take out the trash and stop with all the Z's around the house. You're ruining the resell value of our villa. I should have listened to my mother and married the Scarlet Pimpernel! Yes, dear. You know who else wanted to marry me? The Lone Ranger. But no, I married you.'

ADAMS: Mark Jordan Legan is a writer living in Los Angeles.

DAY TO DAY returns in a moment. I'm Noah Adams.

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