Now Playing Box Office

November 14, 2008

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

*** 1/2 ( 3 1/2 STARS)

$63.1

million

$63.1 million

1 week

Rated: G

Running time: 89 minutes

What it's about: Alex the dancing lion (Ben Stiller) and his fellow expatriates on the island of Madagascar head back to New York on Air Penguin but crash-land in another part of Africa.

Our take: This uproarious cartoon suggests what would happen if Comedy Central and Animal Planet co-produced Roots III. Menageries of characters trace loony curlicues in and around the narrative.

Role Models

** 1/2 ( 2 1/2 STARS)

$19.2

million

$19.2 million

1 week

Rated: R

Running time: 99 minutes

What it's about: Paul Rudd (above) and Seann William Scott play energy-drink salesmen who become mentors in the Sturdy Wings program for maladjusted kids.

Our take: Rudd and Scott, Jane Lynch, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Bobb'e J. Thompson give the movie plenty of pungent moments before it dissolves into a sea of goo.

High School Musical 3: Senior Year

** ( 2 STARS)

$9.2

million

$75.6 million

3 weeks

Rated: G

Running time: 113 minutes

What it's about: High school sweethearts Troy (Zac Efron) and Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens, above) struggle with the idea of being separated as college approaches.

Our take: It contains high-energy singing and dancing, and it's refreshing to see a high school movie that eschews gross-out gags and elevates romantic courtship rites.

Changeling

** ( 2 STARS)

$7.3

million

$20.6 million

3 weeks (2 weeks here)

Rated: R

Running time: 141 minutes

What it's about: Angelina Jolie (above) plays a mother whose missing son is returned to her. But the boy is not her son, and when she tries telling that to the police, she gets thrown into a psychiatric ward.

Our take: Director Clint Eastwood is more interested in stoking his audience's sense of outrage than telling a nuanced story.

Zach and Miri Make a Porno

* ( 1 STAR)

$6.3

million

$20.7 million

2 weeks

Rated: R

Running time: 101 minutes

What it's about: Two childhood friends, Zach (Seth Rogen, above) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks), can't pay bills; then Zach gets the big idea of creating a porn movie.

Our take: This movie is so amateurish, there's no suspense about whether Zach and Miri will make their porno; the real excitement would come if director Kevin Smith finally made a real live movie.

Soul Men

** 1/2 ( 2 1/2 STARS)

$5.4

million

$5.4 million

1 week

Rated: R

Running time: 99 minutes

What it's about: Bernie Mac (above) and Samuel L. Jackson co-star as former members of a soul trio who drive cross-country to perform in an Apollo tribute concert to their late lead singer.

Our take: When this ragged comedy succeeds at showing how these soul men become soul mates once again, it's because of Mac and Jackson, two performers who give their all even when the material is measly.

Saw V

No stars

$4.1

million

$52.2 million

3 weeks

Rated: R

Running time: 88 minutes

What it's about: The gory horror franchise continues as the latest Jigsaw killer works to keep his identity a secret. Its stars include Julie Benz (above).

Our take: Saw V is a particularly dull and discombobulated affair, shot and acted with all the flair of a basic-cable procedural.

The Haunting of Molly Hartley

* ( 1 STAR)

$3.3

million

$10.1 million

2 weeks

Rated: R

Running time: 101 minutes

What it's about: On the eve of her 18th birthday, a girl (Haley Bennett, above) discovers the evil lurking beneath the lush surfaces of her private girls' school.

Our take: A first-time director delivers aural jolts but little real suspense in this lifeless thriller.

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