"Songcatcher"; "Rush Hour 2"; "Princess Diaries"; 

Quick Flicks

!B! "Songcatcher"!B! "Rush Hour 2"!B! "Princess Diaries"

"Songcatcher" — This backwoods drama attempts to show the conflict between sophistication and simple values, between enlightenment and superstition. But while aiming to tell a real story about real people, "Songcatcher" resurrects the same stereotypes its heroine eventually discards. Turned down again for tenure, Dr. Lily Penleric (Janet McTeer) heads to Appalachia to vacation with her sister. Once in the mountains, she decides to record and transcribe all the old tunes she hears. But the project ends up bringing her own prejudices into focus as she confronts mountain life and the assumptions she's made about that culture. Writer/director Maggie Greenwald gets the rhythms of the music perfectly, but can't make her characters feel real. It all looks nice, filmed in warm pastoral tones, but the story plays like a giant cliche. If you're intrigued by the movie's musical heritage, you might want to skip the film and just buy the soundtrack.

"Rush Hour 2" — If you loved the first on-screen union of martial-arts master Jackie Chan and motor-mouth comic Chris Tucker, you'll be doubly delighted with this second pairing. Not much has changed, and the premise remains the odd-couple comic pairing of these two opposites. However, fans of the action side of this culturally diverse equation will be happy with the revved-up action scenes. Chan is still fleet-footed and fast-fisted Hong Kong Detective Lee; Tucker remains nervy, loudmouthed L.A. Officer James Carter. This time,the two start their riotous caper in Hong Kong, then travel to the United States to capture the bad dudes. Although "RH2" delivers its share of laughs, it offers nothing new. Which suits Chan & Tucker fans just fine. After all, who watches "Laurel & Hardy" flicks for the plots?

"Princess Diaries" — Were it not for Julie Andrews' unflappable class, this sugarcoated Disney preteen remake of "Pretty Woman" would be hard to swallow. Once upon a time, Disney ruled the world of family entertainment, but lame attempts like this slapped-together comedy only highlight how far the mighty mouse factory has fallen. Spinning off the tulle-wrapped dreams of young girls and princesses, the movie gives us geeky Mia (Anne Hathaway), who's just trying to make it through the 10th grade with her psyche unscathed. Things take a dramatic turn when Granny (Andrews) turns up and tells Mia the truth about her royal heritage. Quicker than you can say "My Fair Lady," Andrews has Hathaway in Royalty Training 101. But director Garry Marshall and screenwriter Gina Wendkos overlook any charming or clever comic turns for the obvious and predictable. Leaving us with a bland fairy tale only girls aged 8 - 12 could embrace.


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