It's easy to see why some people would respond to Little Miss Sunshine (Fox) and its darkly funny, ultimately heartwarming story of a misfit family's road trip to a children's beauty pageant—all well-acted by an all-star ensemble including Greg Kinnear, Alan Arkin, Steve Carell, and Toni Collette. It's also easy to see why some people might find the movie's Weekend At Bernie's-level plot contrivances, smugly simplistic indie-film stereotypes, and unearned exultation to be absolute horseshit
To paraphrase Kent Brockman, The Simpsons: The Complete Ninth Season (Fox) starts to show the cracks in its hilarious façade. The first episode, a purposeless trip to New York that was taken off the air (mercilessly) after 9/11, gets things off to a bumpy start, and the season never quite recovers. There are plenty of bright spots, however, including the Tom Petty montage as Homer waits for his background check on a handgun, the Movementarian cult that seduces Springfield, and a "helper monkey" that boozes away its utility
Casting himself as a brilliant writer whose deep thoughts on, um, politics and leaders and stuff have world-changing ramifications turned out to be just one of writer-director-narcissist M. Night Shyamalan's countless miscalculations in making the horrifically muddled Lady In The Water (Warner Bros.), a dour puzzle box of a melodrama that persists in making wrong turns until it ends up in a different hemisphere than its intended destination
Reprising the traced-from-life animation of Waking Life, Richard Linklater's adaptation of Philip K. Dick's drugland fantasia A Scanner Darkly (Warner Bros.) seems like a perfect mesh of sensibilities. But the form and content don't always match up, and the stoned pacing works against Linklater for once. It's an interesting experiment well worth checking out, just not the promised knockout...
Male anxiety and hostility over female power is usually subtextual in movies and commercials, but the clanking dud My Super Ex-Girlfriend (Fox) makes it the text. The film's central question—if Superman were a woman, would any men want to be Lois Lane?—might have been funny and provocative, but as with Ivan Reitman's other gender-confused comedy, Junior, the jokes fall painfully flat
Underdog sports movies were second only to CGI animated films about talking animals as the year's most overplayed premise, but if you must choose one, Invincible (Disney) stands out for the vividness of its blue-collar Philadelphia setting and Mark Wahlberg's strong work as an average Joe who earns a spot with his beloved Eagles in open tryouts.