dir. Bill Condon
Opens Fri Nov 19

No one can argue that the research done by Dr. Alfred Kinsey in the field of human sexuality wasn't a major factor in the 20th century's collective consciousness shifting from black and white to color (well, no one except the drooling Christian right-wing morons who recently compared Kinsey to Josef Mengele, but that's another story). Before the "Kinsey Report," the standard operating procedure of American health and sex education curricula was to codify bible morals into pseudoscientific stricture, or, as this film puts it, "morality disguised as fact." In Bill Condon's movie, you can feel the squeamishness when Dr. Kinsey (Liam Neeson) begins asking invasive, embarrassing questions about the private parts of naive collegians, and you can also share the righteous sensation of scales falling away from society's eyes when they learn simple facts about their bodies, themselves. The first half of Kinsey is exciting on a micro scale the way Kinsey's work was exciting on a grand one: It demonstrates that reason can prevail over mythology.

Unfortunately, because it's a movie, the second half allows mythology--the mythology of narrative--to re-intrude, and the picture grows musty. After some exhilarating sequences in which Kinsey and his wife (Laura Linney) and their celebrated team of questing, pansexual researchers (in descending order: Peter Sarsgaard, Timothy Hutton, and Chris O'Donnell--huh?) apply basic scientific principles to mystic emotional terrain, the film rightly shifts to examine the unintended consequences of all this sex, sex, and sex. Enter the pedophiles, the polyamory, and the post-coital despair. But the questions that are raised are never answered, leaving viewers with an intriguing hypothesis, but no satisfying conclusion. SEAN NELSON

Finding Neverland
dir. Marc Forster
Opens Fri Nov 19.

Marc Forster's third film, Monster's Ball, was complete and utter nonsense. His fourth film, Finding Neverland, is ordinary and dry nonsense. Monster's Ball miserably failed to address the problem of racism; Finding Neverland simply fails to address the problem of death. Clearly, Forster is a director of the middling order. Starring Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, and Dustin Hoffman, Finding Neverland is about some Scottish guy (I refuse to commit his name to memory) who wrote that silly children's story that obsesses a certain pop singer who at this very moment is accused of molesting a sick boy. This unremembered Scottish playwright is played by Johnny Depp, an actor who is vastly overrated. Kate Winslet plays a widow with four busy boys, very little money, and a cough that has no other future but to become worse and worse and worse until the lady's life is gone with the wind. The Scottish playwright befriends the sick mother and her boys, and this friendship, which is besieged by death, inspires that story which is very dear to the heart of the King of Pop. CHARLES MUDEDE

National Treasure
dir. Jon Turteltaub
Opens Fri Nov 19.

Starring Nicolas Cage, National Treasure is about man who, like his father, his grandfather, and the grandfather of his grandfather's grandfather, has spent his life trying to find the greatest treasure in the history of the world. According to a family legend, the treasure was buried by a benevolent secret society somewhere in colonial America to protect it from its previous possessor, the British, who obtained it from Rome, where it had been for thousands of years after arriving from the cradle of civilization, Egypt.

In his book, History of Philosophy, 19th century German philosopher Hegel attributes the stages of world history (Egypt, Rome, Europe) to the movement of an absolute spirit; in this Jerry Bruckheimer-produced film, it's the movement of this treasure that is responsible for the rise and fall of great civilizations. Early in the movie we learn that America's Founding Fathers riddled the country with recondite clues that lead maze-wise to the site of the all-important treasure. Their clues can be found on money, on the back of the Declaration of Independence, in old brick walls, and in the bowels of former colonial cities. Ultimately, National Treasure imagines an America that is supremely meaningful, that can be read (or decoded), and has a final reward for those who are super committed to disinterring the mysterious source of its greatness. But at the end of the movie the main mystery remains unsolved: Why was so much money, energy, and talent spent realizing what is evidently a dull and dumb script? National Treasure is no Holes, which shares several themes with Cage's film (treasure hunting, family legends, the unearthing of American's past). Above all, Holes has a convincing concept of our nation's history; National Treasure has an exceptionally weak concept of that history, even by Hollywood standards. CHARLES MUDEDE

The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie
dir. Stephen Hillenburg
Opens Fri Nov 19.

The land of Bikini Bottom doesn't house your typical collection of underwater creatures. Between its borders and the infamous Shell City lie roughneck bars blasting Motörhead, an evil plankton named Sheldon, and a king so fearful of baldness he wears a brown bag when his crown goes missing. All of which are obstacles for the two stars of this animated comedy, SpongeBob SquarePants and his buddy Patrick Star, who attempt to spare the life of Bob's boss, Mr. Krabs, an innocent victim of Plankton's scandalous plans for undersea domination.

Based on Nickelodeon series, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie appeals to both the easily entertained and those who appreciate the power of double meaning--i.e., an ice cream bender that cause SpongeBob and Patrick to pass out, and wake up crimson eyed and quick tempered. The film follows in the footsteps of smart-ass cartoons like The Simpsons and Ren and Stimpy. Except SpongeBob's moneyshot is a cameo by David Hassselhoff. JENNIFER MAERZ

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