The Chateau. Jesse Peretz. A moronic slacker (Paul Rudd) and his adopted black brother (Romany Malco) think their ship has come in when they inherit a French château from a great-uncle they didn't know even realized they existed. But the property turns out to be debt-ridden white elephant, and the servants, who have expected to be saved by rich Americans, are appalled to meet their inept rescuers. There are a number of potential avenues for humor within this setup, yet director Peretz, former bass player for the Lemonheads, seems content to concentrate on only one, which he drives into the ground -- the moron joke. That is, Rudd's character is a blundering nincompoop who thinks he can speak French but can't. The joke soon grows tired. And the film offers very little else to keep us going. At the center of this, the one point of interest is the appealing maid (Sylvie Testud), with whom both brothers become infatuated. She seems to be a refugee from another, probably better, film. Opens September 27 at the Tivoli. (AK)
Merci Pour le Chocolate. Claude Chabrol. Opens September 27 at the Plaza Frontenac. Reviewed this issue.
Secretary. Steven Shainberg. Opens September 27 at the Tivoli. Reviewed this issue.
Sweet Home Alabama. Andy Tennant. Reese Witherspoon plays Melanie Carmichael, an up-and-coming New York fashion designer with the perfect life. She possesses a perfectly appointed apartment, works with a cadre of hipsters NBC would love to cast in their own Thursday-night series next fall and is engaged to Andrew (Patrick Dempsey), the son of New York City's mayor. But Melanie never quite ended her first marriage to childhood sweetheart and soulmate Jake (Josh Lucas), a chicken-fried hunk with a heart of glass who won't sign the divorce papers, despite the fact he now considers his would-be ex little more than a "hoity-toity Yankee bitch." You know where this thing's headed -- something about the promotional tagline, "Sometimes what you're looking for is right where you left it," gives it away, dunno what -- which means the ride to the inevitable destination had better be enjoyable. But it can't be in a film populated by yahoo stereotypes, which leaves Witherspoon to heave the movie on her small shoulders and carry it home. The load is light, but even she can't withstand the burden. Opens September 27 at multiple locations. (RW)
The Tuxedo. Kevin Donovan. Something funny's going on inside the penguin suit, something magical and crazy, and Jackie Chan's going to find out how far it can get him. Chan plays chauffeur Jimmy Tong, who puts on his boss's tuxedo, a one-button classic wool crepe with narrow notched satin lapels, and discovers its power. Ever the do-gooder, Chan, joined by a rookie partner (Jennifer Love Hewitt), goes on a crime fighting spree, dressed to the nines. Opens September 27 at multiple locations. NR
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. Yoshiaki Kawajiri. This is no more a sequel to the 1985 horror/fantasy anime than James Bond movies are sequels to one another, but this adaptation of the third book in Japanese sci-fi author Hideyuki Kikuchi's series of 22 novels doesn't require any previous knowledge of the character to take your breath away. D is simply the name the main character goes by; it's implied that it stands for either "Dunpeal," meaning human/vampire hybrid, or Dracula, from whom it is hinted he was descended. Imagine Wesley Snipes' Blade character dressed as a musketeer and portrayed by a young Clint Eastwood. One other thing: He has a talking hand (which won't shut up, to the film's detriment) that can suck up spells and poison vapors. Because he accepts that vampires are evil, yet is shunned by most humans for being different, D makes a living as a professional vampire hunter, a racket that's rapidly becoming competitive. He has been recruited to rescue the daughter of a wealthy human aristocrat who has been abducted (or so it seems) by a vampire named Meier Link. D's secondary orders are to kill the girl and bring her back dead if she has been turned into a vampire by the time he gets to her. Despite some moments of awkward, jarring humor, Bloodlust is a visual feast and weaves a rich fantasy world that makes one long for an English translation of the original books. Opens September 27 at the Tivoli. (LYT)