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Slate's Summary Judgment: 'Cars,' 'The Omen,' 'A Prairie Home Companion'


In most parts of the country now, it is hot enough to justify spending an afternoon cooling off in a movie theater, even if the movie is one you just kind of wanted to see.

Luckily, Mark Jordan Legan says a few of this week's new movies are worthy of more than a ticket to sit in air conditioning. Mark summarizes what the critics are saying for the online magazine Slate. Here is his summary judgment.


First up in wide release, we have the latest Robert Altman film, A Prairie Home Companion. Based on Garrison Keillor's long-running radio program, this folksy comedy focuses on a radio show being shut down by a new corporate owner.

Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Kline, Meryl Streep and Keillor himself head the all-star cast.

(Soundbite of movie "A Prairie Home Companion")

Unidentified Actor: (As Character) Every show is your last show. That's my philosophy.

Unidentified Actress: (As Character) Thank you, Plato. Kierkegaard.

LEGAN: The nation's critics pretty much enjoy this slice of homemade pie. Even though some, like USA Today call it meandering and strangely empty, many agree with Variety which clucks, Rib-ticklingly funny at times and genial as all get out. And the Atlanta Journal-Constitution cheers, A superb cast and a winning comedy.

Next up in wide release is the latest Pixar family comedy, Cars. From John Lassiter, the director of Toy Story and Toy Story 2, the latest computer animated adventure is about a hotshot racecar that rolls into a small desert town and learns a few things about love, life and oil filters.

Owen Wilson and Paul Newman lend some of the vocal talent.

(Soundbite of movie "Cars")

Mr. OWEN WILSON: (As Character) Where am I?

Unidentified Actor #2: (As Character) You're in Radiator Springs.

Unidentified Actor #3: (As Character) Just great.

Unidentified Actor #2: (As Character) Well, you think that's great, you should see the rest of the town.

LEGAN: The critics overall like it, yet hold Pixar to such a high standard, some reviews sound like this one from Newsweek: Inspires more admiration than elation. It dazzles even as it disappoints.

But Time magazine comes right out and calls Cars an instant classic. Rolling Stone purrs, A high octane delight for moviegoers of all ages. And the LA Times says, What's surprising about this supremely engaging film is the source of its curb appeal: it has heart.

And we close with the horror remake, The Omen, which had to open on Tuesday because, you know, the date was 6-6-06, which is close to 666, which everyone knows is the area code for Hades.

Anyhoo, Gregory Peck and Lee Remick play the worried parents of Satan's spawn in the 1976 smash hit. This time around, the parents are younger and hipper, Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles. Mia Farrow also stars.

(Soundbite of movie "The Omen")

Ms. JULIA STILES (Actress): (As Character) Damien? What's the matter? Those other kids didn't want to play with you?

Mr. SEAMUS DAVEY-FITZPATRICK: (As Damien) They're afraid.

LEGAN: Critics did not want to revisit the creepy kid, Damien. The Hollywood Reporter moans, Yet another remake displaying little reason for being. The Arizona Republic ponders, Who knew Armageddon could be this dull? And Rolling Stone growls, Not since Gus Van Sant's remake of Hitchcock's Psycho has a thriller been copied with so little point or impact.

Oh, well. The film still opened strong. In fact, it set the box office record for a Tuesday. Don't you just love it that they have stuff like that? My film made the most money on Tuesday.

Oh, yeah? That's nothing. Smokey and the Bandit still holds the record for the biggest opening on an unseasonably humid Thursday. So there.

BRAND: Mark Jordan Legan is a writer living in Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mark Jordan Legan