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Box Office

January 02, 2009

Marley & Me

*** ( 3 STARS)

$36.4

million

$50.7 million

1 week

Rated: PG

Running time: 120 minutes

What it's about: Based on the autobiographical book by newspaper columnist John Grogan, Marley & Me is about a newly married couple (including Jennifer Aniston, above) who adopt a puppy.

Our take: If you have experienced the redemptive joy of coming home from a hard day at work, only to be greeted by a dog who just knows you're the best thing in the world, then this is the movie you've been waiting for.

Bedtime Stories

* ( 1 STAR)

$27.5

million

$38.0 million

1 week

Rated: PG

Running time: 105 minutes

What it's about: Skeeter Bronson (Adam Sandler, above) discovers, while babysitting his niece and nephew, that elements of his made-up bedtime stories come true the next day.

Our take: If you look closely at Bedtime Stories, it is almost possible to see how the cast and crew were making up the movie as it went along. It's just a series of nonsensical events that at times are anchored by reality and at other times are pure fantasy.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

**** ( 4 STARS)

$26.9

million

$38.7 million

1 week

Rated: PG-13

Running time: 159 minutes

What it's about: In 1918, Benjamin Button (the never-better Brad Pitt, above) is born with an old face, dilapidated plumbing and wrinkled skin over an infant body. Then he ages backward.

Our take: Every chapter of Button's story brings a fresh air of discovery. And the movie's emotional completeness comes from a full comprehension not just of one man's life, but of the intersection of many lives over the course of the 20th century.

Valkyrie

** ( 2 STARS)

$21.0

million

$29.5 million

1 week

Rated: PG-13

Running time: 120 minutes

What it's about: The heroic attempts of a handful of German officers to assassinate Adolf Hitler, bringing down the Nazi regime.

Our take: It sounds like sure-fire "what-if?" thriller material, and Tom Cruise (above) gives a game physical performance as the officer at the center of the plot. But his key moment of conscience occurs off-screen, and the director, Bryan Sin-ger, seems paralyzed by his subject's seriousness.

Yes Man

** ( 2 Stars)

$16.7

million

$49.8 million

2 weeks

Rated: PG-13

Running time: 104 minutes

What it's about: All the grooviness that descends on a negative guy (Jim Carrey, above) when he makes a covenant with a self-help guru (Terence Stamp) to say "Yes!" to everything in life.

Our take: Most of the good vibrations come from Zooey Deschanel, who plays a free-spirited club singer; she's the rare performer who can bring verve and body to eccentricity.

Seven Pounds

* ( 1 Star)

$13.2

million

$38.8 million

2 weeks

Rated: PG-13

Running time: 118 minutes

What it's about: Will Smith (above) plays some kind of renegade IRS agent struggling for spiritual redemption handing strangers financial breaks - and some bigger breaks, too.

Our take: Making a movie that's meant to be a stretch, Smith actually contracts; he can't express anything more extreme or unique here than anguished virtue.

The Tale of Despereaux

* ( 1 Star)

$8.9

million

$27.4 million

2 weeks

Rated: G

Running time: 100 minutes

What it's about: A big-eared mouse, a rat and a servant girl endure various adventures in a kingdom where, until recently, nothing was more important than drinking soup.

Our take: The three separate stories, none of which are particularly engaging, have nothing to do with one another, making the film a disjointed mess that will leave both kids and adults squirming.

The Day the Earth Stood Still

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

$7.7

million

$63.5 million

3 weeks

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.

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