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Friday Movies

Dante and Randal are at it again in Kevin Smith's Clerks II. The Weinstein Company hide caption

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The Weinstein Company

Chowder (voiced by Sam Lerner) in Gil Kenan's directorial debut, Monster House. Columbia Pictures hide caption

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Columbia Pictures

NPR film critic Bob Mondello is in Buenos Aires, where he says the big opening this week is Piratas del Caribe: El Cofre de la Muerta. But he's keeping his eye on the U.S. box office, too, and he shares his thoughts on a couple of movies that open across the country today.

Clerks II: More profanity, color, and stars — all to only slightly diluted effect 12 years later. Kevin Smith's a smoother filmmaker these days, so the film has a more polished look. Still, it's the working-slacker ethos that makes the picture fun. An opening bit gets rid of both the black and white look and the Quick-Stop supermarket — it goes up in flames — after which Dante and Randal (and Jay & Silent Bob, et al.) move on to a fast food dairy emporium called Mooby's. There's a bit more plot: Brian O'Halloran's Dante is planning to get married and leave New Jersey for Florida, leaving behind not just Jeff Anderson's Randal, but also the new boss (Rosario Dawson), who allows him to paint her toenails when the rest of the staff isn't looking. He'll also be leaving 19-year-old geek Elias (a very funny Trevor Fehrman) who is ill-informed about sex in ways that take some of the grossness out of the raunchier plot twists (one of which involves a donkey). There's something to offend most people over, say... well, puberty really — but plenty to delight rebellious teenagers of all ages.

Monster House: The plot idea comes from Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg, so it hardly matters that first-time director Gil Kenan and relatively inexperienced screenwriters put this extremely clever piece of motion-capture animation through its paces. The story involves 13-year-olds DJ and Chowder, who rescue Jenny when she's about to be eaten by the titular house after DJ accidentally causes its ornery owner to suffer cardiac arrest. The house has a 50-foot carpet tongue, window eyes, and a useful uvula in its parlor, and turns out to be haunted in ways that give the tale a remarkable, surprisingly emotional back-story. The film is probably too scary for small children and it's anyone's guess whether older kids will go, but if they do, there's plenty to amuse them — jests, scares and much sniping at adults. Also stereotypes exploited for humor and exploded for a bit of pathos. I caught the film in a conventional screening, but it will also be released in 3-D and has been designed to maximize the effectiveness of that device with tree limbs, chandeliers, tongue-like carpets and pretty much everything on screen popping at the audience from great depths whenever possible. For all that, the story's what counts, and it's serious fun.

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