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"Chill Factor," "A Dog of Flanders," "Outside Providence" 

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"Chill Factor""A Dog of Flanders""Outside Providence"




"Chill Factor" If you were wondering about the truth of the so-called "Oscar curse," look no further than the career of Cuba Gooding Jr. A dynamic actor who bolted onto the screen in "Jerry Maguire," taking home a Best Supporting Actor statuette, he's now doing abysmally stupid action-adventures like this.

Owing more than a passing nod to "Speed," the story revolves around a deadly chemical weapon that stays inert when kept below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Through a series of deadly mistakes and hard-to-believe twists, the chemical winds up in the hands of Montana fisherman Skeet Ulrich. Not knowing what else to do, Ulrich commandeers the refrigerated truck of ice cream delivery man Gooding Jr. The chase is on; the clock is ticking; and the ice is melting. Whooeee!

Ulrich plays straight man to Gooding's comic-relief delivery man, who turns out to be not exactly the man he appears to be. The movie's major flaw? Waiting so long to introduce us to the hapless heroes. The result of delaying their arrival is that the villain (Colin Firth) becomes the dominant character. Ulrich is far too passive; Gooding way, way over-the-top. Firth, who jettisons both his Brit accent and acting style here, appears to be the only one having much fun — on screen or in the audience.



"A Dog of Flanders" Confession time, dear readers: I am a sucker for shaggy dog stories. Really. And, as such, I have seen almost every incarnation of this story penned by Ouida in 1872. Sadly, I must admit that Ouida's tale of a boy and his dog has been done far better than in this latest version.

Director and co-screenwriter Kevin Brodie crafts rich performances from his varied cast (Jon Voight, Cheryl Ladd, Jack Warden) and imbues the picture with a painter's eye for composition. But he gives the heart of the story short shrift — this "Dog of Flanders" needs more bite. And more dog. Lots more dog.

Despite its flaws, the movie remains a cut above the usual, nonchallenging children's fare. The sad, spiritual nature of Ouida's timeless classic about love and sacrifice also manages to remain intact.



"Outside Providence" Certainly not the follow-up to The Farrelly Brothers' irreverent comic smash "There's Something About Mary," "Outside Providence" does have a Farrelly bro provenance. It's based on an early, semiautobiographical novel by Peter Farrelly. (He also wrote the screenplay.) Far more serious in nature than "Mary," "Providence" is basically a coming-of-age tale about a blue-collar Rhode Island lad whose father is at his wit's end with him.

Shawn Hatosy plays the kid, a classic '70s "stoner" who spends his time smoking dope and hanging with his buddies. Motherless, he's being raised by his tough old man, a bulked-up Alec Baldwin. After he crashes into a parked police car; Daddy pulls some strings and ships him off to a snooty prep school for his senior year. At odds immediately with the other well-disciplined and well-heeled students, Shawn slowly sees the light. Especially after falling for the campus dream queen ("Varsity Blues'" Amy Smart). Not as bad as it could have been, but not nearly as good as it should have been, "Outside Providence" is entertaining if not enlightening.

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