'Playlist,' 'Chihuahua' Or Alienation?

Slate.com's film expert takes us through the reviews of the latest releases. This week: Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, the story of young love in Manhattan, the comedy Beverly Hills Chihuahua starring the voice of Drew Barrymore and How To Lose Friends & Alienate People, the story of a disillusioned intellectual obsessed with celebrity and fame.

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The fall movie season is underway. Here's the ever colorful Mark Jordan Legan to review what the critics think this weekend. It's Slate's summary judgment.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN: British actor Simon Pegg who you might remember from "Shaun Of The Dead" or "Hot Fuzz" now stars in "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People" loosely based on the memoir by Toby Young. Pegg plays an abrasive journalist who doesn't care about burning bridges or snubbing celebrities as long as it makes for good copy.

(Soundbite of movie "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People")

Mr. SIMON PEGG: (As Sidney Young) That hamster thing that you play in the film...

Unidentified Man: It's a chipmunk.

Mr. PEGG: (As Sidney Young) Whatever. Is that gay?

Unidentified Man: It's a chipmunk.

Mr. PEGG: (As Sidney Young) I know.

Unidentified Man: Yeah.

Mr. PEGG: (As Sidney Young) But is it a gay chipmunk?

Unidentified Man: It's a kids' cartoon. I don't think chipmunks can be gay.

Mr. PEGG: (As Sidney Young) So it's straight?

Unidentified Man: Yeah, absolutely.

Mr. PEGG: (As Sidney Young) OK, got that. Now, are you a gay?

LEGAN: This film seems to have lost and alienated most of the critics. U.S.A. Today groused 'its muddled in slapstick and crude humor' and the Hollywood reporter warns "Pegg is likeably smart and obnoxious, but he's swimming upstream and in feature that substitutes slapstick for scathing wit." For those of you who remember Martin Scorsese's 80' comedy, "After Hours," well, here's a sort of - kind of teen version of it with "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist." Michael Cera and Kat Dennings play two mismatched people who nevertheless bond over musical taste and go off on an all night quest to find a legendary band's secret show in New York City.

(Soundbite of movie ""Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist")

Ms. KATE DENNINGS: (as Norah) Can I just ask, what did you see in her? I could floss with that girl.

Mr. MICHAEL CERA: (As Nick) Is this your friend that we're talking about?

Ms. DENNINGS: (as Norah) OK. Forget it. I can't do this.

Mr. CERA: (As Nick) Do what?

Ms. DENNINGS: (as Norah) Just make a U-turn. Take me back to (unintelligible), all right? I'll find my own way.

Mr. CERA: (As Nick) Perfect.

Ms. DENNINGS: (as Norah) I refuse to be the goodie bag at your pity party, Nick?

LEGAN: Overall, the nation's critics dig Nick and Norah. The Wall Street journal shouts 'a bright little screwball comedy.' And the Los Angeles Times cheers 'a nice blend of broad goofiness and sophistication with two appealing leads who bring it to life.' If any of you have in your DVD collection "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" and Beverly Hills Cop 1, 2, 3," well I'm sure you're going to go see "Beverly Hills Chihuahua." Take the kids, take your BFF, even take your dog whisperer to see this family comedy about a spoiled snooty Chihuahua who gets lost in the rough streets of Mexico. Drew Barrymore voices Chloe, the pampered pooch.

(Soundbite of movie (Beverly Hills Chihuahua")

Ms. ALI HILLIS: (As Angela) Rachel, it doesn't look so bad.

Ms. PIPER PERABO: (As Rachel) You don't know the half of it.

Ms. HILLIS: (As Angela) They all look so cute in their little outfit.

Ms. PERABO: (As Rachel) You don't have to address her. She's so picky.

Ms. HILLIS: (As Angela) Rache, we're talking about a Chihuahua.

Ms. PERABO: (As Rachel) It's not just any Chihuahua, Angela. She's a bossy, arrogant, manipulative Beverly Hills Chihuahua.

Ms. HILLIS: (As Angela) Oh, I need to cool off.

LEGAN: Seattle Post Intelligence chuckles 'very sleek and small children will enjoy it.' Variety thinks "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" will please the young pups' and the The Onion offers 'paste for little minds with short attention spans. The last one doesn't even pertain to kids just most of the world. Wow! That's a huge demographic to be chasing. At least "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" got made. There are plenty of other city-friendly talking animal movies that'll never see the light of day. Pittsburg Parakeet fell apart over creative differences and too much time wasted staring in the mirror. Jacksonville Gerbil shut down after its lead was found in his trailer hyper wild-eyed and his fluffy little chick stuffed with drugs. Aah, showbiz.

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

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