Critics’ Roundup – 2/24/2012

Jonathan Crow
Movie Talk
February 24, 2012

Heading to the movies this weekend? Before you use gas, pay for parking, and buy a $40 tub of popcorn, take a look at what the critics think of this week's new releases. After all, judging movies is what these men and women are paid to do.

Wanderlust

Jennifer Aniston isn't known for starring in wonderful films. Is "Wanderlust" an exception to the unfortunate rule? Well, kind of. Reviews are mixed on the fish out of water comedy co-starring Paul Rudd and Aniston's real life boyfriend, Justin Theroux.

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gives the flick some props. "'Wanderlust' makes escapism an irresistible proposition," he writes. The New York Post's Lou Lumenick calls the film "a raunchy, often hilarious satire," but notes that it "lacks any real bite." Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle writes, "Occasionally the gags feel effortful or flat, but for the most part they're funny, with a surprising percentage in the laugh-out-loud category."

But not everybody is slapping their knees. Mary Pols of TIME argues that "the film's pacing slows where it should build." Pols calls it "a comedy that looks way better than it actually is set amidst the dreck of late winter releases." And USA Today's Claudia Puig writes that while the comedy has its moments, "it wanders aimlessly and runs some weak gags into the ground."

Act of Valor

This week's other big release (that was screened for critics, unlike "Gone") is "Act of Valor," an action film starring real active duty members of the Navy SEALs. Unfortunately, while the film's stars are real heroes, the film's script is anything but.

Mark Jenkins of the Washington Post writes, "The exercises are genuine, and so is the hardware. But the script undermines the sense of authenticity at every turn." Jake Coyle of the Associated Press calls "Act of Valor" "more like a high-quality recruitment video" than a movie.

Roger Ebert gives the movie modest praise. It "contains hard-hitting combat footage, relentless and effective." "It was once intended as a recruitment film," Ebert writes, "and that's how it plays."

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