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The Movies

Culture | The top 5 movies in popularity, measured by box office receipts for the week ending Aug. 19

Issue: "Trial and terror," Sept. 1, 2001
1
American Pie 2 $21.1 million 2 weeks in release $87.3 million to date
CAST / DIRECTOR / STUDIO
Jason Biggs, Tara Reid / James B. Rogers / Universal Pictures

PLOT
Rehash of the 1999 raunch-fest that reunites the original cast as college students.

MESSAGE
Teen hedonism: cheap sex is the greatest thrill in life.

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CAUTION
R for strong sexual content, crude humor, bad language, and drinking.

2
Rush Hour 2 $19 million 3 weeks in release $164.7 million to date
CAST / DIRECTOR / STUDIO
Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker / Brett Ratner (The Family Man) / New Line Cinema

PLOT
Cops from Hong Kong and L.A. reunite to chase a gangster who bombed an American embassy.

MESSAGE
Even the best people need to learn a few new tricks.

CAUTION
PG-13 for action violence, bad language, and some sexual material.

3
Rat Race $11.7 million 1 week in release $11.7 million to date
CAST / DIRECTOR / STUDIO
John Cleese, Cuba Gooding Jr. / Jerry Zucker (Airplane) / Paramount Pictures

PLOT
Hopeless rehash of 1963's It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World with an all-star cast running from Nevada to New Mexico to capture a $2 million prize.

MESSAGE
Some gambles aren't worth the payoff.

CAUTION
PG-13 for sexual references, crude humor, partial nudity, and bad language.

4
The Others $10.9 million 2 weeks in release $32.2 million to date
CAST / DIRECTOR / STUDIO
Nicole Kidman, Fionnula Flanagan / Alejandro Amenabar / Miramax Films

PLOT
Post-World War II ghost story about a woman with two kids and a missing husband living in an old Victorian mansion.

MESSAGE
Your own fears can be worse than the actual danger.

CAUTION
PG-13 for bad language and frightening moments.

5
The Princess Diaries $9.6 million 3 weeks in release $70.2 million to date
CAST / DIRECTOR / STUDIO
Anne Hathaway, Julie Andrews / Garry Marshall (Runaway Bride) / Walt Disney Pictures

PLOT
An insecure 15-year-old discovers she is heir to a European throne.

MESSAGE
With enough confidence, a girl can find her destiny. Inner and outer beauty are celebrated, rather than ridiculed.

CAUTION
Rated G.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Disney gives new life to the fairy tale with The Princess Diaries, a modern-day Cinderella story with a nerdy teenager who transforms into a beautiful princess. Playing the cheerful, larger-than-life role that once was her trademark, Julie Andrews returns to family film as the girl's grandmother, who turns out to be Queen Clarisse of "Genovia." To save her country, Queen Clarisse must turn her gangly descendant Mia into something regal. As the movie moves forward, we see the girl grow prettier with every scene. Anne Hathaway does well as the clumsy character who must take daily "princess lessons" to prepare for her coming-out day. The movie bogs down a bit when it gets away from fantasy: Too much screen time features Mia being picked on at school and confiding her troubles to her best friend (Heather Matarazzo), a whiny vegetarian. But it succeeds as a fairy tale: Mia accepts her responsibility to grow up and matures as she decides to take her place as princess. Her inner transformation isn't fleshed out; it just happens. But at least Princess is a refreshing departure from cynical stuff like Shrek, where anything noble is to be ridiculed and destroyed. Princess allows inner and outer beauty to coexist.

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