"Find Me Guilty"
Director: Sidney Lumet
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 52
In a Nutshell: I'm tempted to wonder how long the initial cut of this movie -- which stars Vin Diesel as a mobster representing himself in one of the longest real-life trials in American history -- must have been. What's on the screen now is a wildly over-long, unfocused mixture of drama, comedy, legal procedure and Mafia cliches. But every once in a while, there are indications of a better movie lurking off to the side. For example, every time Peter Dinklage -- playing a lawyer for another of the accused wiseguys -- is on the screen, "Find Me Guilty" moves up several notches and becomes quirky, involving and entertaining. Interestingly, the scenes where Dinklage and Diesel share the screen suggest that the "Pitch Black" star is capable of easy charm and minor wit. For the most part, though, Diesel's performance is acceptable but one-note -- he tells us early on that he's a gagster not a gangster, but it doesn't get much deep than that. The current cut is that worst of cinematic animals, a movie that feels too long and yet also feels like it's missing a lot.
"The Shaggy Dog"
Director: Brian Robbins
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 38
In a Nutshell: See, Tim Allen's character has to become a dog to become a better man. See, Tim Allen's character has to become a dog to become a better man. See, Tim Allen's character has to become a dog to become a better man. See, Tim Allen's character has to become a dog to become a better man. Sorry. I was just trying to properly simulate the experience of sitting through "The Shaggy Dog," a Disney movie that has a point to make and the confidence to keep making that point over and over and over and over. The movie relies entirely on Tim Allen's likeability much more than his comic chops. When he's getting in touch with his inner canine, Allen goes through all of the motions -- he scratches, pees while licking his legs and hisses at cats -- but never fully commits. Watching him, I was tempted to wonder what a gonzo comic actor, a Jim Carrey or even a Steve Carrel might have done with the same material. A hint shows up late in the movie when bad guy Robert Downey Jr. makes his own transformation and raises the ante on tics and goofy stunts. I'd have rather watched Downey in the lead, personally. Regardless, Allen is too genial to hate on. The movie itself is just a flat assemblage of cliches and shoddy special effects, but I rarely felt offended by its dialogue or message. I rarely laughed either.
Check Zap2it.com on March 10 for my full "Shaggy Dog" review and March 17 for my "Find Me Guilty" review.