"What Lies Beneath," "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps," "Thomas and the Magic Railroad" and "Croupier" 

Quick Flicks

!B! "What Lies Beneath"!B! "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps" !B! "Thomas and the Magic Railroad"!B! "Croupier"

"What Lies Beneath" — A slick mix of Hitchcockian paranoia and star power, this Michelle Pfeiffer-Harrison Ford thriller has enough chills to keep you entertained. But once the lights come up, you'll find yourself second-guessing the silliness of the plot and laughing at the overabundance of red herrings.

Pfeiffer is a frustrated stay-at-home wife who starts hearing and seeing ghosts. Geneticist hubby Ford isn't exactly concerned since he's just weeks away from a career-defining conference. First, she believes she sees her new neighbor kill his wife a la "Rear Window." But when she accuses him at a faculty party, everyone's a little worried about her sanity when the wife enters the room. But she soon uncovers the identity of the woman haunting her and why. Pfeiffer and Ford make the most of the ho-hum script and up the movie's entertainment quotient by at least a factor of 10.

"Nutty Professor II: The Klumps" — No mincing words here. I adored Eddie Murphy's sweet turn as the girth-challenged Sherman Klump in "The Nutty Professor." Now he's back with a sequel. Rated a liberal PG-13 — and I mean liberal — "NP2: The Klumps" overflows with raunchy, racy lowest-common-denominator humor dealing with adult sexual matters and bodily functions.

Once again sweet, plump Sherman (Murphy) must battle his alter ego, Buddy Love (also Murphy), who not only wants to steal the profitable youth serum Sherman's created, but steal fiancée Janet Jackson as well. Their conflict plays out against the various sexual, gastrointestinal and eating disorders of the entire Klump clan (all played by Murphy).

Watching Murphy portray eight distinct characters is extremely entertaining, if only the script could have matched his extraordinary talent. Raunchy, racy and yes, very funny, you'll laugh in spite of yourself.

"Thomas and the Magic Railroad" — It's not often that Hollywood attempts to make a movie specifically targeting the 3-to-7-year-old set, so I really wanted this to be worthwhile. Sadly, this live-action/animated tale, based on the popular "Thomas the Tank Engine" storybooks and popular "Shining Time Station," TV show derails before it gets out of the station.

The animation is pathetic, the acting (featuring the likes of Alec Baldwin and Peter Fonda) is dreadful and the songs are worse than any of the nonsense the Smurfs used to warble. While the wee ones will enjoy seeing their engine buddy on the big screen, the novelty wears off quickly.

"Croupier" — I love this movie. Definitely one of my top 10 "Best of 2000" contenders. If you're in the mood for a cool crime caper, this Mike Hodges tale about a down-and-out writer-wannabe should not be overlooked.

Clive Owens is terrific as Jack Manfred, the aspiring writer who turns to dealing cards in a London casino as a way to make ends meet. But quicker than you can say, "Hit me," ol' Jack is facing all sorts of personal temptations and tests.

A hip bit of Brit neo-noir from the man who gave us the cult fave "Get Carter" decades ago, "Croupier" is as close to a sure bet as you'll find.


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