Box Office

December 25, 2009

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*** ( 3 STARS)

$77

million

$77 million

1 week

Rated : PG-13

Running time : 2:40

What it's about : In the future, a paraplegic ex-Marine controls the body of an "avatar," a body of a creature on another planet, and gets caught up in the economic interests of America and the wishes of the planet's native people.

Our take : Director James Cameron has delivered the screen's most-anticipated blend of live-action and motion-capture animation to date, but the story's simplistic.

The Princess and the Frog

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

$12.2

million

$44.7 million

4 weeks

Rated : G

Running time : 1:37

What it's about : A hard-working girl (the voice of Anika Noni Rose) with dreams of running a restaurant gets caught up in a voodoo curse.

Our take : It lacks for nothing in setting and atmosphere (New Orleans, mostly in the 1920s, with side trips to bayou country) but comes up short where it counts: the characters.

The Blind Side

*** ( 3 STARS)

$10

million

$164.7 million

5 weeks

Rated : PG-13

Running time : 2:08

What it's about : A well-to-do white family champions - and loves - an inarticulate black student at an evangelical school: Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron, above).

Our take : Without subtlety but with a lot of heart, the movie tells a real-life tall tale and fleshes out the inspiring idea that a young man from a destructive environment can bloom in a caring one.

Did You Hear About the Morgans?

No stars

$6.6

million

$6.6 million

1 week

Rated : PG-13

Running time : 1:43

What it's about : Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker star as a power couple on the outs who witness a murder and end up in the witness protection program, or FishOutofWaterVille.

Our take : Each of the film's theoretical punch lines is preceded by an eerie second or two of dead air, followed by the jokelike "payoff," guiltily delivered by one of its game cast members, followed by a longer awkward pause.

The Twilight Saga: New Moon

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

$4.4

million

$ 274.6 million

5 weeks

Rated : PG-13

Running time : 2:10

What it's about : Bella (Kristen Stewart, above) is drawn into the world of werewolves after the departure of her vampire love.

Our take : Constrained by the plot of the novel, the film keeps the two lovers apart for quite a spell, robbing the project of the crazy-in-love energy that made "Twilight," the first entry in the series, such a guilty pleasure.

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