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This is Day to Day from NPR News. I'm Alex Cohen.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And I'm Madeleine Brand. Two comedies and a biopic about the early death of Biggie Smalls are in the movie theaters this weekend. And to tell us whether they get any love from the critics, here's Mark Jordan Legan with Slate's Summary Judgment.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN: Christopher Wallace rose from the rough streets of Brooklyn to become Biggie Smalls, aka Notorious B.I.G., one of the most influential rap artists of all time. The biopic "Notorious" stars newcomer Jamal Woolard as the hip-hop legend. Angela Bassett and Derek Luke also star.

(Soundbite of movie "Notorious")

Mr. DEREK LUKE: (As Sean "Puffy" Combs) Yo, he got sex appeal like LL?

Mr. CHARLES MALIK WHITFIELD: (As Wayne Barrow) A little bigger than that.

Mr. LUKE: (As Sean "Puffy" Combs) What, like Heavy D?

Mr. WHITFIELD: (As Wayne Barrow) Yeah, a little darker than that.

Mr. LUKE: (As Sean "Puffy" Combs) Yo, he look like Wesley Snipes.

Mr. WHITFIELD: (As Wayne Barrow) He ain't Wesley.

Mr. LUKE: (As Sean "Puffy" Combs) The West Coast, they got Snoop, they got Dre. The East Coast, they just waiting for somebody to fill that void.

Mr. JAMAL WOOLARD: (As Christopher "Biggie" Wallace) Puff, maybe in the right hands, I could be one of the greatest.

(Soundbite of song "A Dream")

THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G.: (Rapping) It was all a dream...

LEGAN: Overall, the critics are pretty impressed with "Notorious." Even though the Seattle Post Intelligencer dismisses it as "mediocre," Newsweek says, "The film managed to stun, unsettle and move me," and Variety shouts "'Notorious' is a rock solid biopic with a foolproof rise-and-fall storyline and a warmly nuanced performance by Jamal Woolard."

Speaking of someone big, Kevin James is a talented and rather husky actor starring in the comedy "Paul Blart: Mall Cop." Yes, James plays a security guard at a New Jersey mall, who must rise to the occasion when thieves plan a huge heist.

(Soundbite of movie "Paul Blart: Mall Cop")

Mr. KEVIN JAMES: (As Paul Blart) If you remember one thing from today, it's this: The mind is the only weapon that doesn't need a holster.

Mr. KEIR O'DONNELL: (As Veck Sims): Right, awesome. How long do we get for lunch?

Mr. JAMES: (As Paul Blart) Half an hour...

LEGAN: The nation's critics apparently don't care much about angering the mall-cop demographic because they'd pretty much said Blart to "Paul Blart: Mall Cop." The Philadelphia Inquirer sort of likes it, "completely forgetful, frequently funny and weirdly satisfying;" but the Washington Post sighs, "a mediocre, unmemorable comedy;" and The Onion warns, "dreary and joke-light."

And for those of you still looking for a "Marley and Me" cute pooch fix, well, here is the family comedy "Hotel for Dogs." And it's about - oh, come on - a hotel for dogs.

(Soundbite of movie "Hotel for Dogs")

Mr. JAKE T, AUSTIN: (As Bruce) Do they belong to anyone?

(Soundbite of dog barking)

Ms. EMMA ROBERTS: (As Andi) If they did, would they be here?

Mr. AUSTIN: (As Bruce) Rather here than the pound.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. AUSTIN: (As Bruce) Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Ms. ROBERTS: (As Andi) Oh, yeah, why don't we just wander the streets and rescue every stray we see?

LEGAN: The critics don't know whether to scold or pet this puppy. The LA Weekly sniffs, "a slobbery wet kiss of a family movie;" the Chicago Tribune shrugs, "not bad, not good, a little less pushy and grating than the usual;" but the Chicago Sun Times pants, "a sweet, innocent family movie." Look, lately the critics have panned "Four Christmases" and "Marley and Me" and they were both huge money makers. So, don't be surprised if "Hotel for Dogs" ends up making big bucks. But then look out for the lame spinoffs probably already in the works: "Day Spa for Cats," "Country Club for Hamsters" and the edgy, controversial, PG-13-rated "Crack House for Cockatiels."

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

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