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July 04, 2008

Capsules by Michael Sragow or Chris Kaltenbach, unless noted. Full reviews are at

Get Smart: Steve Carell's knack for sneaking humanity into broad comedy is all wrong for Maxwell Smart, the blundering yet incredible, lucky agent for the super-secret government spy agency CONTROL. In a misguided equivalent to a comic-book "origin story," the movie portrays Smart's entrance into the world of field agents as a revenge of the nerds. (He even has a couple of lovable funky-geeky sidekicks.) He's now a former fatty and ace analyst who yearns to be as effective in harm's way as in the briefing room. Carell hasn't lost his comic timing, and at times his amiability wins you over. But the movie is a time-killer without a killer instinct. You never get the sense that the director, Peter Segal, knows where the funny is, whether in his star or in the story. Even if it lolls you into a pleasant mood, it evaporates from your mind the minute you leave the theater. (M.S.) PG-13 110 minutes C+

Hancock: Will Smith stars as a surly, feckless Los Angeles superhero who makes nice with humanity under the guidance of a big-hearted public-relations man (Jason Bateman). Smith and Bateman are cute together, and they trigger some theater-shaking belly laughs. Yet once their story line runs its course, the filmmakers resort to a twist that fills the movie with unearned sentiment and cheap suspense. (M.S.) PG-13 90 minutes. B-

The Incredible Hulk: Idealistic scientist Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) tries to find an antidote to the gamma-radiation poisoning that makes him transform into the Hulk in states of excitement or stress. This movie brings new meaning to the phrase "hit or miss" - when a legendary figure like the Hulk hits, the impact is startling, and even when he fans, he generates gale force. (M.S.) PG-13 114 minutes B

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) fights a Soviet super-agent for the Crystal Skull of Akator, an otherworldly artifact possessing mystical powers. Amid a string of hilarious and outlandish shocks, Harrison Ford makes Indy more engaging than ever. You also get Karen Allen and Shia LaBeouf. (M.S.) PG-13 120 minutes B+

Iron Man: Robert Downey Jr. stars as Tony Stark, a self-absorbed munitions tycoon who, after a political kidnapping, gains a novel slant on life that makes him a dynamite do-gooder. He creates new-millennial armor that turns him into a superhero and alters his relationship to two close associates: his right-hand gal Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and his business partner and surrogate father, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges). What gives the movie its sky-high lift is that it plays these changes for humor and pathos as well as thrills and suspense. (M.S.) PG-13 120 minutes A-

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl: Abigail Breslin plays a plucky young Cincinnati lass who maintains her honor and high spirits while her father (Chris O'Donnell) tries to find work in Chicago and her mother (Julia Ormond) turns their home into a boarding house. The story becomes a blunt cautionary tale of prejudice, with hobos standing in for all stigmatized or oppressed groups. The movie itself is a sort of hobo stew, full of ingredients that only fitfully cohere. (M.S.) G 101 minutes C

Kung Fu Panda : Reared to be a noodlemaker, a jovial panda named Po (Jack Black), the hero of this martial-arts cartoon, leaps into the chop-socky big leagues when he accidentally wins a competition to find the Dragon Warrior destined to defeat an evil snow leopard. The film hits its stride when Po goes one on one with Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), a red panda who is as fleet and sharp as Po is roly-poly and fuzzy. Overall it has a cuddly kapow. (M.S.) PG 88 minutes B

The Love Guru: A pop philosopher who yearns to seize Deepak Chopra's mantle as America's favorite spiritual guide, Guru Pitka (Mike Myers) has grown convinced that a shot on Oprah will make him top dog. He can earn that shot if he meets the public challenge of reuniting a depressed Toronto Maple Leafs star (Romany Malco) with his estranged wife (Meagan Good) during the NHL finals. And the team's beautiful owner (Jessica Alba) will pay him $2 million if he completes the task. It's such a crazy set-up you think it might just work. But Myers is so outsized all the rest of the characters can do is laugh at him or punch him or bow to his pseudo-genius. (M.S.) PG-13 88 minutes. C-

Sex and the City: The movie extends the series finale's soapier aspects into an agony-thon about Miranda's marriage, Samantha's efforts to stay faithful and Carrie's on-and-off romance with Mr. Big. At 2 1/2 hours, it's a case of pathetic excess, more like a single TV episode padded out than five episodes stitched together. (M.S.) R 135 minutes C-

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