Friday Movies: Superman and the Devil

Superman

Brandon Routh as Superman and Clark Kent in Warner Bros. Pictures' Superman Returns. Warner Bros. Pictures hide caption

itoggle caption Warner Bros. Pictures
The Devil Wears Prada

Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway in 20th Century Fox's The Devil Wears Prada. 20th Century Fox hide caption

itoggle caption 20th Century Fox

If need a break from the picnics and parades and pyrotechnics, and want to cool down in front of the silver screen, NPR's Bob Mondello has some tips for you.

Superman Returns — A new, younger man of steel, a newly sarcastic Lex Luthor, a new, much smarter director, a new sweetness and sincerity, even a new way of flying — more balletic, more stately, gorgeous to watch. So what's not to like? Well, a couple of things, though they probably won't bother the film's core demographic. This re-imagined super-story's a little long — actually, a lot long — at more than 2 1/2 hours. And for all the emotional resonance Bryan Singer's brought to the telling of the tale, it's not going to prompt many tears. It's certainly the best of the bunch that've come out since the first Supe in 1974 –- not, er, cartoonish like its predecessor sequels. But as Brandon Routh's superguy lamented, his inability to connect with Lois, I kept fantasizing a Saturday Night Live sketch about superhero group-therapy – Superman troubled by a home he can't go home to, Batman brooding over dead parents, Spiderman agonizing about a dead uncle, while Hulk and Wolverine turn green and flash claws respectively.

The Devil Wears Prada — And it wears a little thin. A snide comedy about the fashion industry that's routinely directed, routinely scripted, and aimed not at all at men, so what do I know? But at the screening I attended, the junior league wasn't laughing much either. Meryl Streep is deliciously dictatorial as a fashion editor who terrifies everyone, from her magazine's staff to the top designers the magazine profiles, and Anne Hathaway is groomed to look like a young Julia Roberts as the editor's fresh-faced, off-the-rack-wearing assistant. It's a Cinderella story, but the problem is that the filmmakers haven't given us any reason to root for their wet-behind-the-ears Cinderella except that everyone else is being mean to her. To get ahead in the workplace, for a wicked-stepmother type she doesn't remotely admire, she abandons her friends, blows off a date with her father, treats her boyfriend terribly, double-crosses a co-worker — and we're supposed to think she's an adorable sweetheart because she has a nice smile. Personally, I'm didn't buy either the character, or the movie, even with Streep stealing scenes so often she could be arrested for grand larceny.

Who Killed the Electric Car — If Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth has you all riled up, Chris Paine's documentary about the death of America's latest experiment with battery-driven cars should energize you further, even if it won't come as a particular shock. The film excoriates everyone from profit-driven oil and car companies, to lobby-driven government agencies, to a who-knows-what-driven public, as it lays out a persuasive case that connivance manipulated ignorance to bury a promising technology. The filmmaking isn't always snappy, but the message sure has crackle and pop. If it doesn't make you mad, you just aren't paying attention.

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