Slate's Summary Judgment: 'Rent,' 'The Ice Harvest,' 'Yours, Mine & Ours'

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Slate contributor Mark Jordan Legan offers a roundup of what movie critics are saying about the weekend's new film releases: Rent, The Ice Harvest and Yours, Mine & Ours.


This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.

Many of us are heading to the movies this holiday weekend and if you're looking for advice on what to see and what to skip, the online magazine Slate offers a weekly digest of what critics are saying about the new movie releases. Here with Slate's Summary Judgment is writer Mark Jordan Legan.


First up in wide release, we have the gritty comedy "Ice Harvest" from Harold Ramis, the director of "Groundhog Day" and "Caddyshack." John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton star as two guys who steal millions from the mob but get stuck in town because of a terrible ice storm. Guys, if you're running from the mob put chains on the tires, buy some rock salt and get out of Dodge.

(Soundbite of "Ice Harvest")

Mr. BILLY BOB THORNTON: Well, if you want to take the money and if you think you can do a better job of guarding $2 million...

Mr. JOHN CUSACK: No, no, no. It should be you. It should be you. It's just we didn't discuss that.

Mr. THORNTON: Are we through discussing it or is there more to say on this subject?

LEGAN: The nation's critics were split on this one. The Dallas Morning News shouts, `Good dirty fun,' and the Philadelphia Inquirer says, `As an antidote to the sugary confections of the season, its hung-over cynicism works wonders. But many agree with the New York Daily News that calls it a heist movie that mistakes bad taste for laughs.

Next up in wide release, we have the film version of "Rent," the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical. Set in 1989, it focuses on a group of young Bohemians struggling to survive on the Lower East Side of New York. Taye Diggs and Rosario Dawson head the ensemble cast. I guess that proves you can be a starving artist and yet still look fabulous.

(Soundbite of "Rent")

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Let today be you, tomorrow for me, today be you, tomorrow for me.

LEGAN: Much like the play itself, the film has its fans and its detractors. The Hollywood Reporter raves, `One of the best film musicals in years, exuberant, sexy and life-affirming.' The Toronto Globe and Mail says, `The music and direction feel generic but the cast deserves credit for squeezing every possible drop of emotion out of the material.' But the Minneapolis Star Tribune warns, `Whatever qualities powered "Rent" to its numerous theater awards and long run on stage are missing from this charmless floperetta.'

And finally, we close with the wide release family comedy "Yours, Mine and Ours," a remake of the 1968 Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda romp. This time around Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo star as the heads of a large blended family. Think of it as the Brady bunch for the Humvee crowd.

(Soundbite of "Yours, Mine and Ours")

Mr. DENNIS QUAID: So then I asked her to marry me.

Ms. RENE RUSSO: And I said yes.

Unidentified Girl: Oh, it was spontaneous and so romantic.

(Soundbite of family chaos)

LEGAN: Maybe the critics' Thanksgiving turkey was dry, maybe it's the movie itself, but they really hated "Yours, Mine and Ours." The San Francisco Chronicle sniffs, `Everything in the film is totally predictable.' The Atlanta Journal-Constitution growls, `Stale and charmless,' and The Arizona Daily Star grumbles, `Eighteen kids, two parents, one sassy nanny and a pot-belly pig and not a single laugh among them.' Wait a minute. Lose the parents and the kids, and then you got a movie. Coming this Christmas, it's `The Sassy Nanny and the Pot-Belly Pig.' Pot-belly, clean up your room; it's a pig-sty. Oh, that's right. I forgot. You are a pig.

(Soundbite of oinking)

LEGAN: No, I haven't seen your truffles.

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

DAY TO DAY returns in a moment. I'm Madeleine Brand.

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