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RECENT RELEASES

THE BENCHWARMERS (PG-13) You know you're in trouble when Rob Schneider turns out to be the straight man in the movie you're watching. And that's only the beginning of the problems with Benchwarmers. Adam Sandler was the "brains" behind this project, donning a producer's cap and convincing several of his old SNL buddies to crawl out from under their respective rocks and come together for a predictable fusion of Revenge of the Nerds, Bad News Bears and every movie made over the past few decades featuring one or more former SNL players. The story involves geeky grown-ups Schneider, David Spade (sporting a really dumb Beatles do) and Jon Heder (basically reprising his Napoleon Dynamite shtick) clobbering teams of small children in baseball (although the kids are supposedly bullies, so there's a message here, sorta). Jon Lovitz gets in a few funny bits as the team's billionaire patron, but the bulk of the movie amounts to a string of fart jokes, gay jokes, booger-eating and product placements for Pizza Hut. The movie is mainly notable for a raunch factor that renders its PG-13 rating very nearly meaningless and what well may be the worst closing credit outtakes ever. Also stars Craig Kilborn, Tim Meadows (looking even more superfluous than he did on SNL) and Molly Sims. 2 stars

THE BREAK-UP (PG-13) A must for pop culture fetishists, if only because its romantic leads, Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughan, reportedly turned into a real-life couple while on the set. The Break-Up also features a premise with promise — modern world economics necessitate Aniston and Vaughan living together in their jointly owned condo even after their relationship implodes. Rumors of some partial nudity from Aniston probably won't hurt ticket sales either. Also stars Joey Lauren Adams and Jason Bateman. (Not Reviewed)

CARS (G) As animated opuses go, this one doesn't quite scale the heights of the Toy Story movies, Monsters, Inc., The Incredibles or Nemo, but — and of course you knew this was coming — even the least of Pixar's efforts is better than 99 percent of the competition. The story here — of an ambitious, self-centered racecar who learns to slow down and smell the diesel — hits all the right emotional notes, but feels a bit scattered and long-winded in the telling, and there are lengthy stretches where not much of anything seems to be happening. The animation is up to Pixar's exalted standards and then some, but the film's style doesn't leap out at you like the company's other efforts, and the anthropomorphic autos, while readymade for marketing tie-ins, seem a touch or two less endearing and enduring than what we've come to expect from the guys who gave us Toy Story. Pound for pound, there's still some solid family entertainment to be had in Cars, but the movie's nearly two-hour running time may have you checking your watch more than once. Features the voices of Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy and Cheech Marin. 3 stars

CLICK (PG-13) Another cosmic comedy from the creators of Bruce Almighty, that movie where Jim Carey acquired divine power. Some similar magic is worked here with Adam Sandler, who gets his hands on a remote control that can manipulate the fabric of reality itself. Why wade through those arguments with your significant other, goes the movie's big joke, when you can fast forward straight to the make-up sex? A few major life lessons are certain to be in store at one point or another. Also stars Kate Beckinsale and Christopher Walken. (Not Reviewed)

THE DA VINCI CODE (PG-13) For all the controversy and high-profile protests, the worst sin of The Da Vinci Code turns out to be that it's just not worth all the fuss. The real story here is that there's not much of a story. In a nutshell, the movie is boring. The Da Vinci Code is Ron Howard's hugely hyped big screen adaptation of Dan Brown's bestseller about an ancient conspiracy to keep the world from discovering that Jesus was married and had a child whose descendants walk among us today. The movie is ostensibly a thriller, with various characters engaged in a life-or-death struggle to either expose or sustain the cover-up. But there's not much here that's particularly thrilling. Howard's drab and relentlessly talky adaptation moves in fits and starts, bombarding us with exposition when it should be developing characters or manufacturing a bit of suspense. The film never really achieves any significant forward momentum because it's constantly stopping in its tracks to explain itself (often in conjunction with some very clumsy flashbacks). There's just not much to sink your teeth into here, and even a few grisly murders, a self-flagellating monk/assassin, and an engaging performance by Ian McKellen (who turns up at the mid-point of this long, two-and-a-half hour affair) can't turn things around. Stars Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen and Jean Reno. 2 stars

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