Short reviews of movies playing throughout the Tampa Bay area.

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DE-LOVELY (PG-13) This latest bio-pick on legendary American tunesmith Cole Porter reportedly focuses on the man's not-so-secret homosexuality (something that was strictly taboo in previous Porter pics) and takes a stylistic approach that sounds suspiciously like what Bob Fosse did in All That Jazz. A number of contemporary musicians are on hand too, including Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morissette, performing various Porter standards. Stars Kevin Kline, Ashley Judd and Jonathan Pryce. (Not Reviewed)

DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY (PG-13) Despite much talk of aiming low, debuting writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber finds a nice middle ground with material that would be offensive if it weren't funny; but most of it is funny. Corporate shark Ben Stiller's attempt to swallow Vince Vaughn's funky neighborhood gym is settled by a David vs. Goliath championship dodgeball match in Vegas. Stay through the credits for Stiller's final scene.

—Steve Warren

FAHRENHEIT 9/11 (R) Michael Moore's new movie is indisputably important, but not so much as a film as a phenomenon. Moore wears his agenda on his sleeve, and most of the points he drums home are already familiar to most of us, regardless of what our politics may be. Still, it's more than a little unnerving to see all those points rattled off in rapid succession, and with such iron-willed eloquence. Yes, we all know the 2000 election was a sham. Yes, we know Bush is a doofus (also lazy, hypocritical and quite possibly pretty mean-spirited). And yes, we know that the Bush clan is wallowing in bed with the Saudi royal family, and that, where our foreign policy is concerned, Arab oil money probably speaks louder than suicide bombers. Still, what is Moore really saying by all this, besides pleading with us to dump Bush posthaste? The movie is glib enough that we barely notice Moore talking out of both sides of his mouth (exactly what he accuses Bush of doing), and it might just be the most effective political advertisement of all time. Faults aside, Fahrenheit 9/11 is a big deal — more passionate and, in its way, more serious than anything Michael Moore has ever attempted, and a movie that deserves to be seen, pondered and carefully debated. 1/2

GARFIELD: THE MOVIE (PG) This kitty's story is better told through the comic strip that made him famous. Garfield (voiced by Bill Murray) must protect his domain after caretaker Jon Arbuckle (Breckin Meyer) brings home his new pal, Odie. After the new dog disappears, it is up to the orange cat to find him and get him home safely. Though the movie has surreal components based on its cartoon animation, too many pop culture references and an abundance of senseless jokes spoil the fantasy of the film. Also stars Jennifer Love Hewitt. 1/2

—Whitney Meers

GYPSY 83 (R) Director Todd Stephens' heartfelt but moderately edgy tale of coming of age, coming out, and just plain cumming follows two quirky young misfits as they make their way from their dull Midwestern hometown to the big city. The duo's road trip results in the obligatory payload of small pleasures, medium-size trauma, liberating and/or painful sexual encounters and, in the end, a sappy life-changing experience or two. Sara Rue is extremely watchable as a big-but-proud-of-it Goth gal obsessed with Stevie Nicks, but Kett Turton, as her younger, gay pal, often seems painfully aware that he's acting in a movie. The awkward delivery isn't helped by sections of clunky, unnatural dialogue and a script that doesn't take many chances. There are some very nice moments here, though, including an interlude featuring Karen Black as a deluded karaoke queen. (Held over at Sunrise Cinemas.)

HAROLD AND KUMAR GO TO WHITE CASTLE (R) If Martin Scorsese's After Hours had a baby with a Cheech and Chong movie, it might look a little like this raunchy, ill-mannered and wildly funny comedy from director Danny Leiner. The movie is a road trip of sorts that all takes place in the course of one very strange night, in which stoner roommates Harold and Kumar (John Cho and Kal Penn) embark on a quest to stuff themselves with White Castle burgers. Everything goes wrong, of course, and the more wrong things go, the more right the movie becomes. Every detour is an opportunity for another surreal gag, the jokes pile up faster than in a Naked Gun flick, and the decidedly non-PC humor targets Asians, Jews, Blacks and gays with equal relish. Despite the obvious Bill and Ted/American Pie youth-market/gross-out connections, the movie is smarter than it has any right to be, but in a way that sneaks up on you when you're not even looking. Best of all, much of it is genuinely funny — enough to almost make you forget that the director was also responsible for Dude, Where's My Car? Also stars Neil Patrick Harris, Paula Garces and Malin Akerman. Opens July 30 at local theaters. 1/2 HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN (PG) Even if Harry Potter hasn’t quite come of age in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, it sure looks like the franchise has. Director Alfonso Cuaron (Y Tu Mama Tambien) replaces the reliable but hardly inspirational Chris Columbus this time, giving the new installment a grittier, wittier, more palpably dangerous feel, both in its drama and its comedy. If there’s a real flaw here, it’s that the movie tends to meander a little too much, teasing us with nuggets of plot and sub-plot that don’t gel until the last half-hour of this 135-minute film. The new faces here — a veritable who’s who of the crème de la crème of British thespianism that includes David Thewlis, Michael Gambon and Gary Oldman — raise Azkaban to even greater heights. Also stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and Alan Rickman. HER MAJESTY (PG) The time is 1953, and a 13-year-old New Zealand girl named Elizabeth (Sally Andrews) finds that her dream is about to come true when Queen Elizabeth II schedules a stop at the youngster's tiny hometown. The inevitable complications ensue, including run-ins with nasty locals, but there are also wise and kindly friends, like Elizabeth's Maori pal (Vicky Haughton) to offer advice and possible solutions. The film's emotions are none too subtle, and its tone is too cute and sweet to be taken completely seriously, but director Mark J. Gordon tinkers with some worthwhile aspects of class and race issues, and the whole thing is rarely less than entertaining. Also stars Craig Elliott. Opens July 30 at local theaters. I, ROBOT (PG-13) Despite some strong, stylish moments where director Alex Proyas seems to be evoking the moody paranoia of sci-fi noirs such as Blade Runner, Minority Report and his own Dark City, this really isn't much more than your standard bubble-headed blockbuster. The script, co-written by glorified hack Akiva Goldsman (Batman & Robin, Lost in Space), throws out most of Isaac Asimov's best ideas in favor of a fairly standard action-thriller in which future cop Will Smith chases around trying to prove his conspiracy theory while everyone tells him he's crazy. Plot points are telegraphed, most of the characters are cardboard cutouts (particularly an extremely wooden Bridget Moynahan), and Smith's incessant wise-cracking and wannabe catch phrases stick out like a sore digit, breaking any semblance of mood the film might have had. The special effects are great, of course, but when all hell breaks loose during the movie's final 20 minutes — and then just goes on and on — even all the razzle dazzle becomes a bit boring. Also stars Bruce Greenwood and James Cromwell. 1/2

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