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The Movies

Culture | The top 5 movies in popularity as measured by box office receipts for the week ending Dec. 31

Issue: "Ashcroft: Under fire," Jan. 13, 2001
1
Cast Away $31.2 million
2 weeks in release
$100.8 million to date
CAST / DIRECTOR / STUDIO
Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt / Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) / Twentieth Century Fox

PLOT
A plane crash survivor learns how to stay alive when he's stranded on a remote island.

MESSAGE
Ocean and island scenes that are cinematically majestic but spiritually empty.

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CAUTION
Rated PG-13 for intense action sequences and some disturbing images.

2
What women want $22.6 million
3 weeks in release
$111.9 million to date
CAST / DIRECTOR / STUDIO
Mel Gibson, Helen Hunt / Nancy Meyers (The Parent Trap) / Paramount Pictures

PLOT
Comedy about a self-centered adman who, after an accident, discovers he can hear women's thoughts.

MESSAGE
Insensitive men need to grow up, and exposure to women can help them do so.

CAUTION
Rated PG-13 for sexual content and bad language.

3
Miss Congeniality $15.5 million
2 weeks in release
$42.7 million to date
CAST / DIRECTOR / STUDIO
Sandra Bullock, Benjamin Bratt / Donald Petrie (Grumpy Old Men) / Warner Bros.

PLOT
Action comedy about an FBI agent who must pose as a beauty queen.

MESSAGE
Glamour may be shallow, but it can turn an ugly duckling into a swan.

CAUTION
Rated PG-13 for sexual references and violence.

4
The family man $14 million
2 weeks in release
$39.8 million to date
CAST / DIRECTOR / STUDIO
Nicolas Cage, Tea Leoni / Brett Ratner (Rush Hour) / Universal Pictures

PLOT
A Wall Street bachelor gets the chance to experience life with a wife and family.

MESSAGE
Pro-family, pro-children, without being smarmy; a moving variation of It's a Wonderful Life.

CAUTION
Modern touches: Rated PG-13 for sensuality and some bad language.

5
The Emperor's New Groove $11.8 million
3 weeks in release
$47.9 million to date
CAST / DIRECTOR / STUDIO
Voices of David Spade, Eartha Kitt / Mark Dindal / Walt Disney Pictures

PLOT
An arrogant emperor must regain his throne after he's turned into a llama.

MESSAGE
Even powerful people need to make friends. caution Rated G.

CAUTION

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Six years after Forrest Gump comes this reunion of director Robert Zemeckis and star Tom Hanks: Cast Away (see above), a movie with a curious brand of uplift. It uses familiar themes but tinkers with conventional formulas. For much of the movie there's no dialogue save for the hero talking to a volleyball. Mr. Hanks is a FedEx executive whose plane crash-lands in the South Pacific. For four years he survives alone on an island, a modern Robinson Crusoe who learns how to spear fish and live through typhoons. But Daniel Defoe's 18th-century Crusoe also learned much about God. Released as one of this year's few clear Oscar contenders, Cast Away is part adventure and part pop optimism a la Forrest Gump and the Hanks cult classic Joe vs. the Volcano. The film is strange: "There are no atheists in foxholes or rubber rafts," the saying goes, but Mr. Hanks's character spends time on a rubber raft and a wooden raft without apparently learning anything at all. He could be expected either to praise God or curse God, but only a thoroughly materialistic worldview would suggest that he would ignore Him. The film works as a movie spectacle and star vehicle, with an ironic touch: The survivor who spent his life worrying about time and efficiency must carry on in the limbo of isolation and peril. In an anticlimactic ending, the survivor returns to a world that has moved on without him.

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