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Smart People, Dumb Movie 

Plus: Harold and Kumar's second outing kills the buzz

EXPELLED, NO INTELLIGENCE ALLOWED.Documentary on academic professionals blacklisted for their theories disagreeing with Darwinism. Rated PG. 97 m. At the Broadway.

IRON MAN.Action/adventure flick based on Marvel's iconic, comic book super hero. Rated PG-13. 126 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, the Minor and Fortuna.

MADE OF HONOR.Man realizes his love for his best friend when she becomes engaged to another. Rated PG-13. 101 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

QUEEN AND DEEP PURPLE CONCERT.Legendary rock bands in concert on the big screen. Plays May 2 at Fortuna.

Reviews

HAROLD AND KUMAR ESCAPE FROM GUANTANAMO BAY.Can a stupid stoner comedy also be trenchant social satire? Harold and Kumar Go To White Castlewas a patchwork mix of lowbrow humor and potshots at racial and ethnic stereotypes that relied heavily on the amiable camaraderie of its two lead actors. It was more daring than funny. This slackly paced sequel tries hard to up the ante, but doesn't deliver the goods. In most ways it's weaker than it's predecessor.

The film begins as Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) plan to fly to Amsterdam to chase after Harold's unrequited crush Maria, who he barely knows. (In real life this is known as stalker behavior.)

Stoner that he is, Kumar smuggles a smokeless bong on board. Predictably, it's mistaken for a bomb, and they're mistaken by the hysterical passengers for terrorists and are summarily shipped to prison in Guantanamo Bay by a fanatical Homeland Security officer (Rob Corddry), who literally wipes his butt with the 5th Amendment. It's an early indicator of the obvious level of satire this film aims for.

I'm of the opinion that almost anything can be a subject for humor, but the bits inside Guantanamo were cringe-inducing, and not funny in the least. It seems the filmmakers were aware of this since Harold and Kumar make their escape almost immediately.

Unfortunately, the bulk of the rest of the film is a tired retread of gags from the first one: We again encounter the grotesque redneck with the sexy blond wife, the love montage with Kumar's bag of pot, and the appearance of a tripped-out Neil Patrick Harris playing himself (this time atop a unicorn). The Neil Patrick Harris scenes do have a crazy unpredictability that the rest of the film lacks, and its fun to see him put on his squeaky clean Doogie Hauser image. He did that in the original film too, though.

The similarities to the first film also include a propensity for gross-out bathroom humor in almost every other scene. Co-creators Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg obviously need some toilet training.

Cho and Penn make an appealingly goofy buddy team, so it's a shame they're saddled with such a lame script. This is the kind of movie where the heroes get in trouble, look at each other and scream. Over and over again. The key to great comedy is pacing, and this one has no momentum or rhythm. The combination of ham-handed wit and poorly staged physical comedy doesn't do the would-be political satire any favors either.

If only the whole film were as funny as the last 15 minutes. Still on the run, Harold and Kumar toke out with an uncannily convincing George W. Bush (James Adomian), who, hiding from Dick Cheney, explains nonchalantly why his war on drugs is not hypocritical. It's hysterical and funny, and shows what his movie might have been if it was just a little bit smarter.

Scenes like that are all too rare though. A funny lowbrow comedy boldly tackling issues of terrorism and race might be possible, but this ramshackle offering is not that film. The title is the boldest thing about it. Cheech and Chong did this kind of thing better several decades ago, and didn't have as many socio-political pretensions either. At Mill Creek, the Minor and the Broadway.

SMART PEOPLE.*Smart People*strives to be a quirky humanistic family comedy/drama √° la The Squid and the Whaleor The Royal Tenenbaums. But it never hits the right tone.

Lawrence Wetherhold (Dennis Quaid), a burned-out, pompous English professor who still hasn't gotten over the death of his wife several years before, is unpublished and generally miserable. His life is changed when his deadbeat adopted brother Chuck (Thomas Haden Church) arrives for another handout. Through a contrived sequence of events, Lawrence becomes injured, has to rely on Chuck to drive him around and becomes involved with a doctor (Sarah Jessica Parker) who had a student crush on him a decade before. In the process he tries to finally get over the death of his wife and start a new life.

This could be an affecting story, if not for the fact that the contrivance of the plot gets in the way of the unfolding emotional drama at every turn.

It doesn't help that the actors are mostly hitting one note: Dennis Quaid doesn't quite nail the combination of pomposity and emotional fragility the role suggests, and Ellen Page's Vanessa is pretty much Juno with a Republican makeover (and her ingratiating smirk is fast becoming just another annoying acting tic). Thomas Haden Church is reliably droll, but even he can't save his character from cliché. The great Christine Lahti is wasted too (blink and you'll miss her).

The relationship between Quaid and Parker is particularly tepid. It's hard to see what she sees in him, and her character is sketchy and reactive.

Even little details of the film ring false. Lawrence's son James sells his first poem to the New Yorkeras an undergrad. Lawrence's dense unsaleable book on postmodern theory suddenly gets the attention of a major publisher who think it could be tarted up into a controversial bestseller. Only in movieland would these things happen, and it beggars credibility.

Director Noam Murro, whose background is in television commercials, seems to think that mopey soft rock songs playing over every scene will telegraph emotions that the script fails to invoke. It's a good indicator of how false and manipulative the film is, and how little he trusts the material itself.

All of this could be overlooked if the story resonated on some emotional level. But it doesn't. Quips are substituted for character and pathos for drama. Smart Peopleis not as smart as it thinks it is, but more importantly the emotional epiphanies it strives for seem contrived and untrue. At the Broadway.

Continuing

21.Group of brilliant students and unorthodox math prof take on big casinos and win their way into racy Vegas lifestyles. Rated PG-13. At The Movies and Fortuna.

88 MINUTES.College prof moonlighting as FBI agent receives death threat stating he's got only 88 minutes to live. Rated R. 107 m. At The Movies.

10,000 B.C.Cavemen on epic battle quest. Rated PG-13. 109 m. At The Movies.

BABY MAMA.Infertile business woman hires working-class woman as unlikely surrogate. Rated PG-13. 99 m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

DECEPTION.Businessman meets womanizing lawyer in mysterious sex club, then becomes suspect in woman's disappearance. Rated R. 108 m. At the Broadway.

FORBIDDEN KINGDOM.American teen is transported back in kung fu time when he finds weapon of ancient warrior in pawn shop. Rated PG-13. 113 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL.Loser musician goes on vacation to escape his TV star ex only to find her and her new rocker beau staying in the same hotel. Rated R. 111 m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

HORTON HEARS A WHO.Mocked do-gooding elephant attempts to rescue a microscopic civilization. Rated G. 87 m. At The Movies.

LEATHERHEADS.A ragtag team in early (1920s) professional football league is saved by golden-boy war hero. Rated PG-13. 114 m. At The Movies.

MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY.Pettigrew, a former London governess, is swept into American high society when she pursues a career in entertainment. Rated PG-13. 92 m. At the Minor.

NIM'S ISLAND.Author's literary creation inspires young girl's fantasy island; author and girl unite to conquer Nim's Island. Rated PG. 94 m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

PROM NIGHT.Tragedy revisits Donna when prom night turns deadly, and she knows the one man to blame. Rated PG-13. At The Movies and Fortuna.

RUN, FAT BOY, RUN.Man tries to win back woman he ran from at the altar by trying to run a marathon. Rated PG-13. 110 m. At The Movies.

SHINE A LIGHT.Martin Scorsese's documentary on The Rolling Stones. Rated PG-13. 122 m. At the Broadway.

STREET KINGS.Veteran LAPD vice detective seeks to clear his name by finding his partner's killer. Rated R. 109 m. At The Movies.

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