Box-office Bonanza

November 24, 1993|By Stephen Hunter

The secret ingredient of the Thanksgiving movie-marketing strategy is a drug. Fortunately it's not manufactured by a laboratory but by a turkey. It's tryptophan, the natural tranquilizer found in the big bird you will probably eat tomorrow. It will make you sleepy in the middle of the day. And you know you can't go to sleep in the middle of the day after a big Thanksgiving meal.

What to do?

Go to the movies!

That's why they release them on Wednesday, not Friday. Are these guys smart or what?

So forget artistic merit. The five films that open today should be judged entirely on the basis of how alert they will make you.

'GEORGE BALANCHINE'S THE NUTCRACKER'

The New York City Ballet's annual production of the Tchaikovsky chestnut, with former ballet student Macaulay Culkin in the title role, comes to the big screen. Directed by the late Emile Ardolino, best known for "Dirty Dancing," this "Nutcracker" never ventures from theatrical conventions. The camera functions entirely as a set of eyes in the head of a sophisticated balletomane in roughly Row 3, Seat A. An added bonus for local moviegoers: The New York City Ballet Orchestra was conducted by Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's David Zinman.

Rated: G. ***

See review on 4D. Clint Eastwood and Kevin Costner team up for this melancholy tale about a Texas Ranger on the trail of an escaped convict in November 1963. Despite the good guy-bad guy setup, crime and violence really aren't what "A Perfect World" is all about, though it's filled with them. It thinks it's about "character," although it doesn't show any. The true subject of the film is movie-star iconography, as directed by Mr. Eastwood.

Rated: PG-13. *

See review on 4D. Robin Williams gets himself up in dresses and aprons for the title role, as a father estranged from his family who disguises himself as an elderly Scotswoman and wins a job as his wife's housekeeper. Besides breaking up his wife's blossoming romance, he becomes his children's primary caretaker -- a role he'd previously ignored. Its flaw are conspicuous sentimentality and too many manipulative strokes. The fine Chris Columbus directs, Sally Field plays the wife.

Rated: PG-13. ***

See review on 4D. The much-postponed project from Castle Rock is about two brothers getting to know each other better while on one of those zany cross-country odysseys. After being shuttled back and forth between their divorced parents' homes, they decide to run away. The gimmick here is that the older boy convinces the younger one that he's a robot. Jacob Tierney plays 12-year-old Josh Whitney, and Noah Fleiss plays his 8-year-old brother, Sam.

Rated: PG-13. ***

See review on 7D. Unlike the dinosaurs in "Jurassic Park," these creatures are described as "amiable." It's actually an animated version of a child's classic book (by Hudson Talbott). The fourth Steven Spielberg-produced animated feature, "We're Back" shares the same faults as its three predecessors: There's simply no magic.

Rated: G. * 1/2

See review on 7D.

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