"Music of the Heart," "Three to Tango" and "House on Haunted Hill" 

Quick Flicks

!B! "Music of the Heart"
!B! "Three to Tango"
!B! "House On Haunted Hill"
!B! "Body Shots"

"Music of the Heart" - Horrormeister Wes Craven directs against type helming this calculatedly uplifting Meryl Streep vehicle. Sentimental in that tried-and-true "triumphant teacher" tradition, Streep and Craven's movie plays like the cinematic equivalent of a mood ring: Feeling cynical? Streep's determined fiddling in East Harlem will have you doing a slow, disbelieving burn. But if you're feeling good? Well, "Music of the Heart's" touching tale of perseverance and the importance of art and music in a child's development will have your heart singing.

Once again, Streep's chameleonlike talents have her playing the violin as if she had studied it all her life. Equally impressive is her uncanny ability to portray the most unlikely heroes. Angela Bassett also does a nice turn in the smaller role of Streep's supportive school principal and friend.

"Three to Tango" - Although its TV-star cast holds great promise, this light romantic comedy about a case of mistaken sexual identity is rarely funny. Oh, there are belly laughs, but they are few and far between. In fact, the down time between them is so great you'll start noticing just how outdated its gay-cliché premise is.

Matthew Perry ("Friends") plays an architect hired by Dylan McDermott ("The Practice"). Comic hijinks are supposed to ensue when McDermott wrongly assumes that Perry is gay and therefore a perfect choice to spy on his fiance Neve Campbell ("Party of Five"). But being straight, Perry finds himself falling for the sweet and bubbly Campbell.

The plot is predictable, and the actors are trying so hard to be funny or endearing that they end up almost irritating.

"House On Haunted Hill" - Yikes! Once again, Hollywood tries to resuscitate and update a cult hit with less than stellar results. While I enjoyed Academy Award-winning actor Geoffrey Rush's homage to Vincent Price, the rest of the cast — including the usually interesting Taye Diggs — gets left behind by the computer-generated spectacular effects.

Grudgingly, I must say that those scary effects do pop up on a regular basis, helping the audience to forget for a while the nonexistent character development and limited talent pool onscreen.

Now on Video

Roberto Begnini's masterwork "Life Is Beautiful" finally makes it to video store shelves this week. If you missed the movie — or its writer/director/star's effusive Oscar acceptance performances — here's your chance to see what all the raves are about. The clownlike Begnini weaves a heartfelt tale of one father's attempts to shield his young son from the horrors of Nazi occupation and then the Holocaust. Also out this week, "Notting Hill," the Julia Roberts-Hugh Grant romantic comedy that strives for something more thoughtful — a truthful look at what celebrity does to romance. Finally, one of my favorite documentaries of the year, "Trekkies." Without the slightest hint of condescension, the many splendored fans of "Star Trek" are brought to the screen for our entertainment. "Trekkies" celebrates the strange, the unique and the diversity of mankind. Oh, and Vulcan-kind.

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