Get Smart, The Love Guru aim for laughs

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THE VISITOR (PG-13) In some ways, writer-director Thomas McCarthy's The Visitor seems like an attempt to re-tell the story of his debut feature, The Station Agent, albeit with a more conventional narrative focus and a plainly drawn political message that plays a little too neatly into contemporary passions. As in The Station Agent, The Visitor features a painfully self-aware loner — sullen, repressed, college professor Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) — whose self-imposed isolation is finally eroded by the good counsel of an earthy ethnic more in tune with the vibrations of mother earth. Walter's redeemer is Tarek (Haaz Sleiman), an Arab percussionist found squatting in his apartment, and the two men are soon hanging out like best buds, sharing falafels and sitting in on the drum circles in Washington Square Park. McCarthy is too good a filmmaker to allow this to feel like a typical Hollywood odd-couple bonding scenario, but the movie does become a little too reductive, often eschewing the thornier dynamics and more nuanced approach of The Station Agent for an oversimplified infatuation with the Exotic Other. The politics are a bit black and white, and the movie isn't exactly shy about manipulating our emotions, but The Visitor is often very good when discreetly demonstrating its finer points, particularly how seemingly dissimilar peoples are sometimes more alike than not. The film's real success, however, can be attributed to Jenkins (the balding, pockmarked character actor best known as the ghost-dad from HBO's Six Feet Under), whose beautifully underplayed performance exudes an authenticity that transcends the various clichés with which the film flirts. Also stars Haaz Sleiman, Danai Jekesai Gurira, Hiam Abbass, Richard Kind and Marian Seldes. 3 stars

YOU DON'T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN (PG-13) Adam Sandler stars as a super-tough Israeli secret agent gone undercover as a NYC hair stylist. Don't expect subtlety here — the director is the guy responsible for Benchwarmers and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. And if that weren't scary enough, the movie also features Rob Schneider. (Not Reviewed)

[email protected] (PG) A singing group composed of senior citizens (average age: 80) belting out oddball renditions of rock 'n roll classics, the Massachusetts-based chorus [email protected] are the subjects of a new documentary called, appropriately enough, [email protected]. There's nothing fancy here — filmmaker Stephen Walker basically just alternates between documenting the chorus during an eight-week rehearsal period and showing us interview snippets with individual members — but the old coots are generally colorful enough to hold our interest, and it all culminates in a big, sold-out performance that provides the requisite emotional pay-off. Among the standouts are James Brown's "I Feel Good," The Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated" and a smoothly effective take on Bowie's "Golden Years." There's certainly some fun to be had here but not without a degree of the gawking-at-the-geezers factor attached, whether it's watching the seniors trying to relate to the atonal dissonance of a Sonic Youth "song" or observing a couple of octogenarians trying to figure out which side of a CD faces up when you put it in the player. Walker's intrusive, slightly condescending interview style doesn't help much, either, but all is forgiven when he finally shuts up and allows the old folks to speak for themselves. Stars Jim Arementi, Bob Cilman, Joe Benoit, Helen Boston, Louise Canady and Eileen Hall. 3 stars

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