Short reviews of movies playing throughout the Tampa Bay area.


AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS (PG) Yet another remake, although this one sounds more like a vehicle for its star, aging martial artist Jackie Chan. The perks here are class-act English actors Steve Coogan and Jim Broadbent, as well as a slew of exotic foreign locales. The down side is that the movie was directed by Frank Coraci, a sadist who has already ushered two Adam Sandler movies into the world. (Not Reviewed)

BON VOYAGE (PG-13) A grand Gallic farce that offers plenty of glossy amusements, despite being overstuffed with way too many characters doing way too many things. Bon Voyage is pure escapism set against a backdrop of impending war, with an ensemble of movie stars, politicians, scientists, spies, writers, criminals and just-plain Joe's scrambling about pre-WWII France in a plot that involves murder, romance, stolen secrets and more. None of it's meant to be taken too seriously, though, and there's ultimately little in this big, sprawling, handsome production that really sticks to the ribs. Stars Isabelle Adjani, Gerard Depardieu, Virginie Ledoyen and Peter Coyote.

THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK (PG-13) A sequel of sorts to Pitch Black, in which Vin Diesel's self-serving, intergalactic bad-ass Riddick returns to find himself pitted against the Negromongers, a group of death-worshiping religious warriors going from planet to planet demanding "Convert or Die." Director David Twohy (The Arrival) might be offering up some thinly veiled allusion to the ongoing Islamist problem (or maybe he's just riffing on the Borg), but the movie has New Testament connections too, with Diesel's character eventually being set up as some sort of reluctant Messianic figure. All of this is just window dressing, however, for the movie's incessant action scenes, fights, chases and explosions, not to mention the non-stop digital effects, and sets and costumes directly lifted from David Lynch's Dune. One gets the impression that much of the movie's connective tissue, its actual story, now lies on the cutting-room floor, leaving us with a slightly better-than-average popcorn movie stripped down for the summer. It's a no-brainer that the real show will be the longer director's cut that's sure to eventually emerge on DVD, so consider this an appetizer (at best). Also stars Colm Feore, Judi Dench, Thandie Newton and Alexa Davalos.

THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW (PG-13) Having built a career on destroying the world (by, among other things, aliens in Independence Day and giant lizards in Godzilla), Roland Emmerich is up to his old tricks again. This time, however, we've only got ourselves to blame, as global warming and an out-of-control greenhouse effect create a new Ice Age, making life very difficult for a courageous scientist (Dennis Quaid) and his dreamboat son (Jake Gyllenhaal), not to mention a couple billion bit players. The movie's first hour is a straightforward eco-disaster movie featuring scads of massively proportioned, apocalyptic imagery. The movie's second half prompts more than its share of unintentional laughter, though, with bland heroics, wooden dialogue and every cliche in the book taking center stage. Also stars Ian Holm, Emmy Rossum and Sela Ward.

DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY (PG-13) A little mom 'n' pop gym is about to be taken over by a huge, soulless franchise, so Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughan must play a game of dodgeball to decide the gym's fate. Don't ask. (Not Reviewed)

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. The human cast's acting is cartoonish and unconvincing, seeming purposefully dumbed down so Garfield can hoard the spotlight. Some of the jokes and situations are funny enough to induce a smile, but there are very few scenes that will have the audience roaring with laughter. Allusions to the strip permeate the film, and the star's portrayal is right on target: the fat, lazy cat hates Mondays and loves his lasagna, just as he always has. Also stars Jennifer Love Hewitt. 1/2

—Whitney Meers

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. These are problems that can be traced right back to the source material, however, and if you're in the camp that thinks of Rowlings as the James Joyce of fantasy, you're unlikely to be bothered by any of this. The new faces here — a veritable who's who of the creme de la creme 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.

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