Slate's Summary Judgment: 'The Hills Have Eyes,' 'Failure to Launch,' 'The Shaggy Dog' Slate contributor Mark Jordan Legan summarizes what critics are saying about this weekend's movie releases: the horror film re-make The Hills Have Eyes and two comedies, Failure to Launch and The Shaggy Dog.
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Slate's Summary Judgment: 'The Hills Have Eyes,' 'Failure to Launch,' 'The Shaggy Dog'

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Slate's Summary Judgment: 'The Hills Have Eyes,' 'Failure to Launch,' 'The Shaggy Dog'

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Slate's Summary Judgment: 'The Hills Have Eyes,' 'Failure to Launch,' 'The Shaggy Dog'

Slate's Summary Judgment: 'The Hills Have Eyes,' 'Failure to Launch,' 'The Shaggy Dog'

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Slate contributor Mark Jordan Legan summarizes what critics are saying about this weekend's movie releases: the horror film re-make The Hills Have Eyes and two comedies, Failure to Launch and The Shaggy Dog.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

It's Friday. That means it's new-movie day. Each week we present a digest of what the critics are saying about the new releases, as compiled by the online magazine Slate. Here is Mark Jordan Legan with Summary Judgment.

Mr. MARK JORDAN LEGAN (Writer): Starting things off, we have the wide release romantic comedy Failure to Launch. Matthew McConaughey stars as a grown man who refuses to leave home until his parents set him up with a professional motivator, played by Sarah Jessica Parker.

(Soundbite of movie "Failure to Launch")

Ms. SARAH JESSICA PARKER (Actor): We had a wonderful first meeting. I see incredible potential here.

Unidentified Male: So all systems are go?

Ms. PARKER: Based on the initial personality assessment, I think that I can have your son moved out of this house and living on his own by June 15.

Unidentified Male: Hallelujah.

Mr. LEGAN: Most of the nation's critics want this film to move out immediately. The Washington Post liked it, calling it Sarah Jessica Parker's best movie role and that Failure to Launch is so swift and sure, you can say it achieves liftoff. But USA Today groans, The premise is misbegotten, the chemistry non-existent, and the dialogue leaden. And many agree with the LA Weekly, which warns, Even by the low standards of high-concept Hollywood rom-coms (that's studio-speak for romantic comedies), this charmless, prophetically titled stinker stands apart.

Next up is the family comedy The Shaggy Dog, a remake of the fondly remembered 1959 Fred McMurray Disney film. This time, Tim Allen plays the family man who transforms into the family dog. Kristin Davis and Robert Downey, Jr. also star.

(Soundbite of movie "The Shaggy Dog")

Mr. TIM ALLEN: (Actor) C'mon, kids. Try to see past the fur and the tail, the snot and the drool.

Ms. KRISTIN DAVIS: (Actor) How cute.

Mr. ALLEN: Honey, you recognize me? Honey?

Ms. DAVIS: Do you guys think your dad is going to come through or should we go ahead and order in?

Unidentified Children: Let's order in.

Mr. LEGAN: The critics were split down the middle: Shaggy Dog lovers and Shaggy Dog haters. The Seattle Post Intelligencer snarls, The movie is just this side of terrible. It misses all the fun and charm of the original. But Entertainment Weekly pants that Tim Allen is so energetic in his approximation of a bearded collie that his slobbery charm carries the picture. And the New York Times simply says, Good dog. Mr. Allen makes the most of his chances for subtle physical comedy.

And we close with the wide release gore-fest, The Hills Have Eyes. A new take on the Wes Craven 1977 cult classic, a vacationing family in an RV becomes stranded in the barren desert, and not only are they not alone; they become the prey. The film is from the director of the French horror film High Tension.

(Soundbite of The Hills Have Eyes)

Critics are split, but even those who praise it warn viewers of the vicious nature of the remake. The Hollywood Reporter screams that Hills Have Eyes is brutally horrific, and that's a compliment. The New York Times shouts, Snobs may balk, purists will be appalled, but this new and exceedingly nasty version is awfully good at what it does. But many of the detractions agree with the Miami Herald, which whimpers, Torturing the audience is not the same thing as scaring them, and I'm not sure the director can tell the difference.

Hey, they think being stalked in the desert by bloodthirsty irradiated mutants is a bad vacation? Try two weeks with your family in Laughlin.

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

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