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Slate's Summary Judgment: 'Red Eye,' 'Valiant,' 'The 40-Year-Old Virgin'

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Now let's see if any of this week's new movies deserve your business. Here's our weekly digest of what the critics are saying, courtesy of the online magazine Slate. Mark Jordan Legan has this summary judgment.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN reporting:

Even though it's the dog days of summer, we have three wide releases to choose from this weekend. First up, we have the R-rated comedy "The 40-Year-Old Virgin." Former "Daily Show" regular Steve Carell stars as a guy who just never got around to, well, you know--look, just insert your own euphemism. Oh, now you got me to say `insert.' The title is the plot. Catherine Keener and Paul Rudd also star.

(Soundbite of "The 40-Year-Old Virgin")

Mr. PAUL RUDD: (As David) Hold up, hold up, hold up. Yo, answer this question. Are you a virgin? Are you a virgin?

Mr. STEVE CARELL: (As Andy Stitzer) Yeah, not since I was 10.

Mr. RUDD: (As David) It all makes sense! You're a virgin!

Mr. CARELL: (As Andy Stitzer) I am--shut up.

Mr. RUDD: (As David) How does that happen?

LEGAN: Most of the critics promised to be gentle, and they really liked "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," even though The Hollywood Reporter complains that `sticking to one joke in an unconscionably long movie makes for a very stale, witless and repetitive comedy,' the majority agrees with Entertainment Weekly, which calls it `buoyantly clever and amusing,' and The Washington Post cheers, `filthy, funny and sweet in equal measure.'

Next up we have the computer-animated family film "Valiant." This comedy adventure is about an undersized pigeon who dreams of joining the elite Royal Homing Pigeon Service during World War II. `Now there, there, lad. Keep a stiff upper beak.' Ewan McGregor and John Cleese provide some of the vocal talent.

(Soundbite of "Valiant")

Mr. EWAN McGREGOR: (As Valiant) I'm just what they're looking for, a pigeon with that something extra.

Mr. JOHN CLEESE: (As Mercury) Well, you know it's not a bloke's wing span that counts. It's the size of his spirit.

Mr. McGREGOR: (As Valiant) Wish me luck.

Mr. CLEESE: (As Mercury) Good luck.

Unidentified Actor: That boy's going to get cursed.

LEGAN: Many of the critics won't even throw crumbs to "Valiant," almost all complaining of the by-the-numbers story line. The Chicago Tribune finds it `a mix of top-notch voice talent, standard computer animation and several missed story opportunities.' The New York Times squawks `poorly plotted and suspense-free,' and The Hollywood Reporter sighs, `a plucky little bird that just won't fly.'

We close with the latest film from horror master Wes Craven. "Red Eye" is a suspense thriller about a young woman on a late-night flight who discovers true terror at 30,000 feet. That's right. She's seated next to a baby with colic. No, actually, she's seated next to a nice, young man who turns out to be incredibly dangerous and who wants to use her in his treacherous plot. Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy star.

(Soundbite of "Red Eye")

Mr. BRIAN COX: (As Joe Reisert) Joe Reisert.

Mr. CILLIAN MURPHY: (As Jackson Rippner) Your father?

Ms. RACHEL McADAMS: (As Lisa Reisert) Where'd you get that?

Mr. MURPHY: (As Jackson Rippner) Grabbed it off your dad's desk, next to your graduation picture.

You tell the flight attendant and your dad dies.

LEGAN: The nation's critics consider "Red Eye" a first-class thriller. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer shouts `an extraordinary exercise in claustrophobia, a movie Hitchcock might have made about our 9/11 paranoia.' The Christian Science Monitor raves `taunt, tense, gripping and suspenseful.' And The Minneapolis Star Tribune says the film `stretches believability to the breaking point more than once, but the story moves with such head-long speed that there's scarcely time to object.'

Hey, if "Red Eye" makes money, look for the horrifying sequel, `Pink Eye,' where everyone on a long trans-Atlantic flight gets conjunctivitis. Hey, you laugh, but those medicated eyedrops hurt.

CHADWICK: Mark Jordan Legan is a writer living in Los Angeles.

DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News with contributions from slate.com. I'm Alex Chadwick. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mark Jordan Legan