What? Bernie Mac as a sarcastic family man? Sounds like the big screen version of The Bernie Mac Show.

In fact, it's a comedy called Guess Who, directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan, and starring Ashton Kutcher as the white boy who wants to date Mac's daughter. As you would probably guess, it's this week's box office champion.

But wait, there's more. The film is also a remake of the classic race-relations comedy Guess Who's Coming To Dinner—that is, if you use the word "remake" very loosely.

David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) isn't the only critic to say the film doesn't stand up to its inspiration. "While Mac is quite funny, it goes without saying that the troika of Mac, Kutcher and [Judith] Scott are no Tracy, Poitier and Hepburn. The film, with its love-is-colorblind message, has its moments, but most of its broad comedy falls flat."

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) says the characters "show that forming and keeping a loving relationship is a process that does not necessarily get easier with time—be it black, white, or mixed. The film hits its stride when it settles down and shows how the characters work to keep their love alive and their relationship strong. Kutcher and Mac have decent chemistry that could have been more fully exploited. Instead, the filmmakers continue to fall back upon time tested slapstick and superficial situational humor."

Dr. Kenneth R. Morefield (Christian Spotlight) finds that the film is actually closer in style and substance to a much more recent comedy. "If Guess Who had had the courage to actually remake Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, it might have been one of those rare remakes that improved on the original. The problem, though, is that despite its title, Guess Who is not a remake of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. It is a remake of Meet the Parents. And there is no discernible reasons why we need another version of that film."

He's not the only one to make that connection. Christopher Lyon (Plugged In) says, "The film's first act has more in common with Meet the Parents than the sophisticated classic, diving headfirst into Ben Stiller territory." But Lyon finds some merit: "Guess Who does gain surprising footing . . . when it gets serious about the issues of race and marriage. It assaults us with inappropriate joking, but in doing so reminds us that racism is not a dead issue, even in our modern culture, even in an Ashton Kutcher/Bernie Mac buddy comedy. We're suddenly aware again of how painful words and attitudes can feel."

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This mixed-race comedy is getting mixed reviews in the mainstream press.

Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and (Not So) Fabulous

Just as Guess Who is earning mixed reviews as a "remake," Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous is earning mixed reviews as a sequel.

Sandra Bullock reprises her role as FBI agent Gracie Hart, saving the Miss United States Pageant from danger by posing as—of course—one of the contestants. When this "fabulous" feat makes her famous, she has trouble going back undercover to save her endangered friends from a kidnapper.

Lisa Ann Cockrel (Christianity Today Movies) says it "serves to remind moviegoers why sequels are met with skepticism as soon as the follow-up projects are announced. It's because, all too often, they turn out like this. Miss Congeniality 2 may be armed, but it's certainly not fabulous."

Annabelle Robertson (Crosswalk) doesn't classify this as a "family film." She says, "Because of the content, parents should weigh this one very carefully, and my recommendation would be to err on the side of caution. On the other hand, adults, particularly women, will probably enjoy Miss Congeniality 2—even if it won't be winning any awards."

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) says, "Bullock falls into the same sequel trap that has bested far better actors. Instead of working to develop a strongly identifiable character, she simply coasts on the strength of her work in the original film. As a result, much of the humor plays flat and lifeless."

Marcus Yoars (Plugged In) writes, "After sitting through a casino full of predictable gay jokes, gaudy body slams and lame (or is that lamé ?) performances, I just wanted to call the whole pageant off and go home."

But Harry Forbes (Catholic News Service) sticks up for it. "This is lightweight stuff, but director John Pasquin succeeds in mixing the laughs and the action effectively. Bullock and [Regina] King make appealing sparring partners, and register genuine humanity underneath the slapstick. The film imparts an admirable message about friendship and remaining true to yourself throughout, and there are even several poignant moments."

Mainstream critics aren't feeling very congenial about this sequel.

Melinda and Melinda mixes Will Ferrell and Woody Allen

Woody Allen disappoints critics and fans yet again with Melinda and Melinda, which does at least have a clever premise. In a dinnertime conversation between friends, two storytellers (Wallace Shawn and Larry Pine) debate the nature of a fictional scenario. The story in question concerns a disturbed woman who wrecks her marriage and descends into depression. The storytellers argue, is this the material for a comedy or a tragedy? We watch the story play out through two different treatments. Actress Radha Mitchell (Pitch Black, Finding Neverland) plays the troubled, troublemaking Melinda in both versions, but joins a completely different cast in each—including Brooke Smith, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Chloë Sevigny, Amanda Peet, Jonny Lee Miller, and Will Ferrell in a role remarkably similar to the characters Woody Allen himself usually plays.

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Harry Forbes (Catholic News Service) says this "is not the film to change Woody Allen's unfortunate losing streak. Among the myriad problems with Allen's screenplay is that the comic portions are scarcely funnier than the more dramatic version, and the parallel stories are only fitfully interesting. In spite of all the opening talk about the meaning of life and so forth, the material feels wafer-thin."

Melinda gets the mainstream treatment here.

Is The Best of Youth the best six-hour movie ever made?

A six-hour movie? Does a movie ever need to be that long?

Well, when you consider that director Marco Tullio Giordana's epic The Best of Youth follows its characters through four decades of growth, from the 1960s to the present, that amount of time seems almost insufficient. The film concerns two Italian brothers caught up in dramatic and historic events. The high-spirited Nicola (Luigi Lo Cascio) is a traveler bound for a career as psychiatrist, and his brother Matteo (Alessio Boni) becomes a policeman in an attempt to address the things that grieve him about society. Their differing paths change their relationship over the years in surprising ways.

J. Robert Parks (Looking Closer) says, "You may not find a richer, more engrossing story than The Best of Youth all year long. The acting is universally strong, and the ensemble work is exquisite. One of the great advantages of the film's length is that it can let its characters develop slowly. The movie portrays life in the way that we live it, filled with little moments of joy and pain, tenderness and anger, rather than all-defining scenes of LOVE or HATRED or BETRAYAL, which is often how even good films have to handle their two-hour plots."

In the mainstream press, The Best of Youth is being hailed as one of the best films now playing.

More reviews of recent releases

Millions:Darrel Manson (Hollywood Jesus) raves, "Millions has a great shot at being the top family film of the year. Considering it's only March, that says something. Not only is it a great family film, it is a great film about faith and about caring for the world around us. This is the kind of film that parents should take children to see and then spend time afterwards discussing what they watched. Perhaps you can talk about how to spend money. Perhaps you can discuss what it means that heaven is involved in this world. Add to that discussion the lives of people who have been virtuous and exemplary—the saints who have informed our lives."

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The Upside of Anger: Andrew Coffin (World) says it's "a sad, often biting look at a family in the grip of anger. The film wants us to believe that however horribly its characters act, in the end things will turn out OK through some magical act of catharsis."

Ice Princess: "Most of the obnoxious, teen comedy 'realism' that soils similarly aimed efforts is absent," reports Andrew Coffin (World). "Ice Princess is enjoyably lightweight and occasionally stirring. Young girls should like it. The problem is that the movie's message is an all-too-common hallmark of modern fairy tales like this one."

Bride and Prejudice:Steven D. Greydanus (Decent Films) says the film's fusion of Jane Austen and Bollywood exuberance "works, for the most part. This is light entertainment, not high art. Think of it as a chaste You've Got Mail or Maid in Manhattan, with accents, bright colors, and singing and dancing."