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20th Century Fox

Summer roundup

Movies | Three box-office hits move from mundane to fun

Issue: "Hurtling toward havoc," Aug. 1, 2009

Public Enemies (rated R for violence and language) tells the Depression-era story of John Dillinger. The film tries to make the bank robber a sort of anti-hero, but director Michael Mann can't escape the mundane criminality of Dillinger himself, whose life follows a predictable arc: Break the law, escape the law, die by the hand of the law. Though buoyed somewhat by strong performances by Johnny Depp as Dillinger and Marion Cotillard as his girlfriend Billie Frechette, Public Enemies strives awkwardly to find something noble or heroic about a man who, by the film's own depiction, was neither.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs sees the return of all the characters kids love, including Manny the wooly mammoth (Ray Romano) and Diego the saber-toothed tiger who must rescue Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) after he falls through an ice crack into a hidden dinosaur world. The addition of Simon Pegg as a dinosaur-hunting weasel brings a bit of fresh energy, but the series is still a bit of a bore for anyone over 10. And though the PG rating is appropriate, jokes about body parts and a caterpillar "coming out" as a butterfly could give parents pause.

Rounding out this trio of summer surprises is Night at the Museum (rated PG for mild action and brief language), the Ben Stiller redux that finds night guard Larry corraling museum artifacts that come alive after hours en route to Washington's Smithsonian. To the funny and folksy Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams) and Jedediah (Owen Wilson) of previous installments add the chronically underperforming Gen. Custer (Bill Hader), Albert Einstein bobbleheads who solve the riddle of the pharaoh's tablet, and a trio of singing cherubs who sound remarkably like the Jonas Brothers. This wacky juxtaposition of history and comedy is fun for the whole family.

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Megan Basham
Megan Basham

Megan, a regular correspondent for WORLD News Group, is a writer and film critic living in Memphis, Tenn.. She is the author of Beside Every Successful Man: A Woman's Guide to Having It All.

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