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Box Office

December 19, 2008

The Day the Earth Stood Still

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

$30.4

million

$30.4 million

1 week

Rated: PG-13

Running time: 103 minutes

What it's about: Klaatu (Keanu Reeves, above), an alien in human form, and Gort, his giant bioengineered protector, hope to avert ecological catastrophe when they land in New York's Central Park. They want to save Earth, because it's one of the few orbs capable of supporting complex life.

Our take: For a while, this movie also seems capable of supporting complex life. Then the energy runs out.

Four Christmases

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

$13.1

million

$87.8 million

3 1/2 weeks

Rated: PG-13

Running time: 82 minutes

What it's about: After years of leaving the country for Christmas, a couple are forced to spend the holiday with their families.

: Our take: Yet another "Holidays+Families=Hell" comedy, but this one's surprisingly funny. Vince Vaughn, as one-half of the trapped couple, is his usual boorish self, but Reese Witherspoon (above) explores her lighter side to great effect as the other half.

Twilight

** ( 2 STARS)

$7.9

million

$150 million

4 weeks

Rated: PG-13

Running time: 121 minutes

What it's about: Good-guy vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson, above) and human Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) fall into a love that's immediate and absolute and not to be consummated - unless Edward decides to drink her blood.

Our take: This flesh-biter of a movie never turns into a nail-biter. The emphasis is on swooning, and the amorous thrills fade.

Bolt

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

$7.5

million

$88.8 million

4 weeks

Rated: PG

Running time: 121 minutes

What it's about: A dog who plays a superhero on TV thinks he is one in real life, which presents all sorts of problems when he finds himself in New York, a continent away from his beloved owner.

Our take: It's the first Disney effort in way too long to be more concerned with being a movie than with being a breeding ground for product tie-ins.

Australia

* 1/2 ( 1 1/2 STARS0

$4.2

million

$37.8 million

3 1/2 weeks

Rated: PG-13

Running time: 165 minutes

What it's about: With a can-do Aussie spirit, English aristocrat Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman, above) and her right-hand man and lover end up running the ranch her murdered husband left her.

Our take: This film is made up of bits and pieces of other movies, including The Wizard of Oz, and by the end it's just a more-than-you-can-eat buffet of colorful kitsch.

Quantum of Solace

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

$3.7

million

$157.6 million

5 weeks

Rated: PG-13

Running time: 106 minutes

What it's about: 007 avenges the death of his true love while obliterating a crooked international green-industry syndicate.

Our take: Daniel Craig (above), the most Byronic of all James Bonds, manages the astonishing task of rooting an outlandish yet sober-sided movie in reality and bringing it an air of wicked amusement, too.

Nothing Like the Holidays

** ( 2 STARS)

$3.5

million

$3.5 million

1 week

Rated: PG-13

Running time: 99 minutes

What it's about: The far-flung members of a Latino family living in Chicago gather for Christmas.

Our take: Is there anyone who hasn't seen this movie 10 times already? Kudos to the filmmakers for focusing on a Latino family (which includes John Leguizamo, above). But the rest of the film, though undoubtedly heartfelt, is strictly formulaic.

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

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

$3.2

million

$169.9 million

6 weeks

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.

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