SCOOBY DOO 2: MONSTERS UNLEASHED (PG) This sequel to last year's big screen Doo isn't much more than you might expect, but it does beat the original on several counts. The CGI effects are more interesting and better integrated with the live action, beginning with the computer generated title pooch, who doesn't look nearly as grotesque this time around. Even more importantly, Scooby Doo 2 gets the crucial mix of scares to laughs down pat, with an array of monsters that, while spooky, rarely come off as too intense for the movie's core audience of 6- to 8-year-olds. Beyond that, it's business as usual, with Matthew Lillard giving us more of his spot-on Shaggy routine, Freddie Prinze Jr. looking right at home sporting Freddie's ascot, Sara Michelle Gellar busting out some prime Buffy moves, and a thoroughly un-mysterious mystery for the gang to solve. For the grownups, there are some wonderfully tacky '70s fashions to snicker at, a few semi-clever throwaway gags involving dot-coms and the like, and the indelible image of Scooby in an enormous Afro-wig and purple thigh-high go-go boots. There are also no less than two major product placement plugs for Burger King within the movie's first 15 minutes. Also stars Seth Green and Peter Boyle.
SECRET WINDOW (PG-13) As with so many recent Johnny Depp projects, it often seems like Depp is pretty much the whole show in Secret Window. The plot itself is nothing special — a distraught writer (Depp) is menaced by an ominous redneck (John Turturro) who accuses him of plagiarism — but the movie is filled with pleasantly eccentric touches that you wouldn't expect with routine thriller material like this. Chief among those pleasant eccentricities is Depp himself, who spends much of the movie in a ratty bathrobe and perennially mussed, fright-wig hair, ranting and mumbling to himself. Likewise, there's a lushly mysterious musical score by Philip Glass that makes us feel that there's more going on here than there really is. Unfortunately with Secret Window, what you see is what you get. The film is based on a very minor short story by Stephen King, and even Depp's performance can't save what boils down to a thinly derivative version of Cape Fear meets Psycho. Maybe Robert Mitchum in Turturro's role would have helped. Also stars Maria Bello and Timothy Hutton.
SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE (PG-13) Diane Keaton delivers a memorable performance, both touching and very funny, as a middle-aged woman who finds herself all shook up in love for the first time in ages. Jack Nicholson is also in fine form as the aging playboy playing romantic head games with our heroine, and Frances McDormand and Amanda Peet work wonders with small roles as Keaton's sister and daughter, respectively. Other than some very engaging performances, however, there's not all that much going on in Something's Gotta Give, a romantic comedy that breezes along on a handful of cute jokes and the sort of star power that transcends a so-so script. It's all appealing enough until a disastrously predictable last act appears, demonstrating nothing less than the fact that the movie has simply run out of ideas. Also stars Keanu Reeves.
STARSKY AND HUTCH (PG-13) The jokes are hit-or-miss and the action is routine in this shizoid and scattershot adaptation of the late '70s television series about buddy cops. Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson display more of that easygoing chemistry that made Zoolander so enjoyable, but that's about all Starsky and Hutch has going for it. The movie can't decide if it wants to be a spoof, an homage or some sort of quirky but more-or-less serious crime caper, and it's not particular adept at any of those. Even the whole '70s nostalgia thing feels disappointingly bland and joyless here. Also stars Vince Vaughn, Snoop Dogg, Fred Williamson and Jason Bateman.
TAKING LIVES (R) Nothing sets Taking Lives apart from countless other crime thrillers (except Academy Award-winner Angelina Jolie's bare breasts). Jolie plays the foxy, fearless Illeana Scott, a top FBI profiler hired to track down a serial, chameleon-like killer who steals the identities of his victims. The movie takes a twist when Jolie's character finds herself the victim of deception. Certain aspects of the story are confusing and irrelevant, which is sort of a hallmark of this genre, as is the predictable ending and the inhospitable local police team threatened by a talented, methodological agent helping to solve a case. As holes gape in the plot, the movie's appeal fades. Director D.J. Caruso (The Salton Sea) doesn't seem to realize it takes more than a luscious set of lips to make a good movie. Also stars Ethan Hawke and Keifer Sutherland. 1/2—Whitney Meers/Cooper Cruz