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Summary Judgment: New Movies

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Back now with DAY TO DAY, the big Fourth of July movies have been in theaters most of this week. And here's Mark Jordan Legan to tell us whether critics think they're sparklers or bombs. Here he is with Slate's Summary Judgment.

Mr. MARK JORDAN LEGAN (Slate): As I recover from my annual sparkler burns - I hope everyone had a nice and safe Independence Day. And what better way to celebrate our nation's freedom from tyranny than a movie about large metal robots trying to control the world? Yes, it's "Transformers," the movie. The popular '80s cartoon and toy line is now a summer action flick. And well, find your inner teenage boy and go.

(Soundbite of movie, ""Transformers")

Mr. SHIA LaBEOUF (Actor): (As Sam Witwicky) Gentlemen, I want to introduce you to my friend, Optimus Prime.

Mr. LEGAN: Some of the nation's critics say way cool, and some say oh please. The Washington Post cheers a wonderfully playful experience with some of the best action sequences you'll see all summer. But the New York Daily News warns: interested in plot and character development? Move along.

Maybe after spending the Fourth with your relatives, you'd like to see this limited release about a family even more dysfunctional than yours. Brenda Blethyn stars in "Introducing the Dwights," a comedy about an overbearing mother who can't stop controlling her grown children.

(Soundbite of movie, "Introducing the Dwights")

Ms. BRENDA BLETHYN (Actress): (As character) Hi.

Unidentified Man (Actor): (As character): Hi.

Mr. KHAN CHITTENDEN (Actor): (As character) It's Tim.

Unidentified Man: (As character) Hi.

(Soundbite of busy tone)

Ms. BLETHYN: (As character) Hello, sweetie.

Mr. LEGAN: The film critics, after checking with their own mothers and getting their permission, mostly enjoyed this Australian comedy, even though the Village Voice snarls: full of broad, toothless humor and hand-fisted fits of melodrama. And the New York Times calls "Introducing the Dwights" a funny, sad, icky-sweet comedy.

And like the last hotdog at the Fourth of July barbecue that no one really wants is the comedy "License to Wed." A young engaged couple must pass Reverend Frank's full-proof marriage prep course. Only Robin Williams is the reverend, and John Krasinski and Mandy Moore are the young nuptials-to-be.

(Soundbite of movie, "License to Wed")

Mr. ROBIN WILLIAMS (Actor): (As Reverend Frank) Laurie, bring it, girl.

MANDY MOORE (Actor): (As Laurie) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife.

Mr. WILLIAMS: (As Reverend Frank) Starts with coveting, ends with the clap.

Mr. LEGAN: The critics demand an annulment. The San Francisco Chronicle moans: there is bad, there's awful, there's horrible and then somewhere beyond that is "License to Wed." And the Los Angeles Times sighs: tortured slapstick, groan- inducing dialogue, and a lethal dose of treacle. And after all the Fourth of July picnic cupcakes we all just digested, we know how hard it can be to recover from a lethal dose of treacle.

BRAND: Mark Jordan Legan is a writer living in Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.