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The Other Woman and Brick Mansions skimp on fun

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THE OTHER WOMAN. Imagine, if you will: Some would-be marketing whiz gets a wild hair, has the Farrelly brothers (Dumb and Dumber, There's Something About Mary) mash-up Sex and the City with every cheating husband comedy every made, making double-sure not to spare the laxative and hair remover jokes in the second act. Then, in a final epiphany, he casts a former it-girl, a comedienne and a swimsuit model in the leads. The Other Woman plays a lot like the product of that supremely misguided, mostly imaginary process. I say mostly because I don't think the Farrelly brothers did or would have anything to do with this, and it's doubtful that one person, however strong-willed, could push a project like it through to fruition. While directed by Nick Cassavetes, this is a movie that smacks of creation and revision by committee, with most of the comedy coming as an afterthought.

Carly Whitten (Cameron Diaz) is a diamond-hard Manhattan corporate attorney who, after two decades (!) of casual flings, has finally settled into a monogamous relationship with Mark King (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), who seems to be her high-powered equal. He's handsome, wears good suits, drives an Aston Martin, lives in Connecticut. But oh yeah, he's also secretly married to the inexplicably dowdy Kate (Leslie Mann) who, like Carly, is oblivious to his pandemic philandering. Against all odds, the two women become friend/accomplices in a plot to uncover Mark's wrongdoing. In the process, they draw his latest conquest Amber (Kate Upton) into their web of intrigue and discover that he's been playing fast and loose not only with their hearts, but with the substantial sums his investors have been sinking into his questionable start-ups. This allows everyone to traipse around a variety of beautifully appointed homes and hotels in the Hamptons, the Bahamas and mid-town. Everything works out very well in the end, just not for Mark.

I can't claim to be an expert on the genre, but to anybody but a newborn this has to feel like a retread. The premise is too familiar, the jokes too telegraphed, the richesse too gratuitous for any of it to satisfy. Mann stands out occasionally with her hilarious, off-kilter reactions, but she seems out of place here, as the writing never rises to her level of comedy. And when the jokes finally arrive, it feels like somebody suddenly realized that the movie wasn't funny and then desperately forced in some bathroom humor. The Other Woman can't decide whether to be a straight-ahead comedy or to hang on to some trailing edge of emotional authenticity; it accomplishes neither. PG13. 109m.

BRICK MANSIONS. Crazy old coot Luc Besson (Leon the Professional, The Fifth Element), who refuses to stop rattling around in the belfry of the movie business, is at it again. This time out, he's responsible for the screenplay, such as it is (it's a remake of 2004's Banlieue 13, which Besson and Bibi Naceri co-wrote). The action takes place in Detroit, 2018. The city has continued its rapid decay, and the central housing project of the title has been surrounded by walls and military guard posts, leaving the residents without infrastructure or assistance. Inside, Lino (David Belle) wages a one-man drug war against Tremaine Alexander (RZA), using only his wits and his mad parkour skills.

Meanwhile, undercover narcotics detective Damien Collier (the late Paul Walker) has been climbing the ladder of Alexander's organization and finds himself with only the kingpin left on his to-do list. (Collier believes his father was murdered by Alexander in a raid some years before, so it's personal). When the mayor tasks Collier with infiltrating Brick Mansions, joining forces with Lino, taking down Alexander, and — oh yeah — disarming the neutron bomb he's somehow gotten his hands on, it seems like a perfect fit. Of course, he and Lino will have to learn to work together, despite Lino's lifelong distrust of cops (and tendency toward remorseless murder, which is somehow never addressed). And then they'll have to rescue Lino's kidnapped ex-girlfriend and uncover the mayor's real motives, etc.

As we walked out of the theater, my wife said, "It's kind of amazing how bad it was. It's like they did it on purpose." And she's right: Brick Mansions borders on Crank levels of cheek and camp, but I don't think it's intentional. There's no ironic winking here, just painfully misguided sincerity. The action scenes, apart from the opening chase, are dull and rushed at the same time, and the plot barely hangs together. It's a fun, mindless action movie, but with the fun removed. PG13. 89m.

Previews

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2. Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) takes his work home with him as he battles Electro (Jamie Foxx) and OsCorp in this sequel to the franchise re-boot. PG13. 143m.

LE WEEK-END. A British couple goes for a make-or-break second honeymoon in Paris. With Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan. R. 93m.

Continuing

BEARS. John C. Reilly narrates this documentary full of real-world beauty and drama for kids and adults alike. G. 78m.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER. The Avenger next door goes BAMF, this time battling the robo-armed Winter Soldier in a sequel that tops the first installment. PG13. 136m.

DIVERGENT. Veronica Roth's Myers-Briggs dystopia — in which extraordinary teens are targets of state oppression — gets the Hunger Games franchise marketing treatment. PG13. 139m.

DRAFT DAY. Compelling and entertaining sports biz drama about a manager (Kevin Costner) wheeling and dealing on the big day. PG13. 109m.

GOD'S NOT DEAD. A devout college student debates his philosophy classmates and professor to prove God exists. It's harder to convince us that Kevin Sorbo is a professor. PG. 113m.

GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL. Wes Anderson's Instagram-toned tale of hotel intrigue with concierge-Romeo Ralph Fiennes is his funniest and best written yet. PG13. 138m.

A HAUNTED HOUSE 2. Another Wayans horror spoof with Jaime Pressly and Gabriel Iglesias. R. 86m.

HEAVEN IS FOR REAL. Greg Kinnear plays the father of a boy who claims to have visited heaven in this safe and toothless family drama. PG. 99m.

OCULUS. Karen Gillian tries to prove her parents were killed by a haunted antique mirror and clear her brother's name. Should ruin rummage sales for everyone. R. 105m.

THE QUIET ONES. A professor (Jared Harris) and his students decide the best place to experiment with curing a haunted young woman is a creepy country estate. PG13. 98m.

RIO 2. Endangered macaws Blu and Jewel are back for franchise cash — ahem — and to find long-lost family in the Amazon. It's a mess, but a colorful one the kids seem to like. G. 101m.

TRANSCENDENCE. Scruffy genius Johnny Depp is uploaded for a digital afterlife. Its promising idea peters out, and the drama, love story and action never feel real. PG13. 119m.

— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

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John J. Bennett

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