“Bait,” “Nurse Betty,” “Duets,” and “But I’m a Cheerleader.”

Quick Flicks

!B! “Bait”!B! “Nurse Betty”!B! “Duets”!B! “But I’m a Cheerleader”!B! “Saving Grace”

“Bait” — As much as I enjoy the comic stylings of Jamie Foxx, this disappointing thriller-comedy hybrid is hard to swallow. It’s obvious the studio felt Foxx’s presence was more than enough to reel us in, so why bother with a good story, good dialogue or a good ol’ nasty villain? “The Green Mile’s” David Morse gives an irritable one-note performance as the Fed who’s after $40 billion in stolen gold. As the villain, Doug Hutchinson looks like a second-string John Malkovich clone in Clark Kent glasses. Foxx shines early on as ex-con Alvin Sanders, but once his character becomes the pawn in the Feds cat-and-mouse game, the movie never finds the right balance between humor and danger.

“Nurse Betty” — Although he’s trying his hand at comedy here, director Neil LaBute hasn’t lost his taste for the extreme. Renee Zellweger stars in this delightful yet disturbing tale of delusion and illusion. When small-town Kansas waitress Betty sees her philandering car-salesman hubby (Aaron Eckhart) murdered by two hitmen (Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock), she copes by trading reality for her favorite fantasy: She thinks she’s the ex-fiancé of the surgeon (Greg Kinnear) on her favorite soap. This is a fractured fairy tale in every sense; Betty heads to L.A. to find her true love — a fictional character. Riffing on “The Wizard of Oz,” “Nurse Betty” is a clever commentary on the artificiality of Hollywood, where believing one’s own press is a daily dive into man-made schizophrenia. Full of humor and scathing digs at the world of soaps, “Nurse Betty” also has plenty of moments that will make you squirm.

“Duets” — Speaking of squirming, let’s talk about this bad idea. Although Richmond was somehow spared a Sept. 15 opening of “Duets,” I sat through it and now feel compelled to share my pain. What were they thinking at Disney? Was this Gwyneth Paltrow’s Father’s Day gift to her dad, Bruce Paltrow, who directs this misguided musical search for the meaning of life?

Offering up a roundelay of six characters vying for the life-changing top prize at a karaoke sing-off, “Duets” plays like a bad rehash of “Love Boat” or “Fantasy Island.” While it’s interesting to see and hear that Gwyneth can sing, the Oscar-winning actress is upstaged by the far better Andre Braugher. Should this hit town before hitting video, avoid it like the plague.

“But I’m a Cheerleader” — From the opening, it’s obvious first-time director James Babbitt fashions himself after John Waters. But for all of his candy-colored scene design and off-mainstream subject matter, his movie is never as outrageous as he thinks it is.

All about the difficulties of growing up gay, this one-joke indie film is only mildly amusing. It would be even less entertaining without Clea Duvall’s performance as the bad girl lesbian and Natasha Lyonne’s as the cheerleader of the title who didn’t realize she was homosexual.


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