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Slate's Summary Judgment: 'Cinderella Man,' 'Lords of Dogtown,' 'Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants'


And now our regular look at whether any of the weekend's new movies are worth your hard-earned cash, our weekly digest of what the critics are saying. It's called Summary Judgment, and it's from our partners at the online magazine Slate. Here's Mark Jordan Legan.


First up is the "Lords of Dogtown." When young Anakin Skywalker lands on planet Dogtown, he realizes the Force is not--oh, sorry, the whole "Star Wars" thing is hard to shake. Actually, Dogtown was the nickname of a 1970s Venice Beach neighborhood, where a group of teens pioneered a new style of skateboarding in swimming pools left empty by a drought and turned it into a huge pop culture phenomenon. Emile Hirsch heads the young cast.

(Soundbite of "Lords of Dogtown")

Mr. EMILE HIRSCH (Actor): (As Jay Adams) Yeah, this is Skip Engblom and this is Zephyrs skateboard team. Here's our entry fees. Now where's our trophies?

LEGAN: Many of the critics couldn't help but compare this drama to the 2001 award-winning documentary "Dogtown and Z-Boys," and they find the new film lacking. The Philadelphia Inquirer complains, `The film doesn't hold together in any compelling way.' Mostly it's the melodramatic story that many critics think is a wipeout, but a lot of them do enjoy the skateboarding shots. Says USA Today, `It's hard to think of a movie since 1950s "Sunset Boulevard" that has gotten more dramatic impact out of a pool.'

Next up is the eagerly awaited "Cinderella Man." Director Ron Howard and Russell Crowe, who last teamed up for "A Beautiful Mind," are now back with this true story set during the Great Depression. Washed-up boxer Jim Braddock gets a second chance to prove himself in the ring against heavyweight champ Max Baer. Renee Zellweger and Paul Giamatti also star.

(Soundbite of "Cinderella Man")

Mr. RUSSELL CROWE (Actor): (As Jim Braddock) How much?

Unidentified Actor: $250.

Mr. CROWE: (As Jim Braddock) For $250, I would fight your wife.

Unidentified Actor: (Laughs) Now you're dreaming.

Mr. CROWE: (As Jim Braddock) And your grandmother.

LEGAN: The critics think it's a knockout. The Hollywood Reporter shouts, `Superbly acted, beautifully shot and highly engaging.' And The Arizona Daily Star says, `"Cinderella Man" proves there's always room on the shelf for another riveting, elegant boxing film.' Everyone singles out Crowe's performance as a triumph. USA Today says it shows that `Russell Crowe is the dominant screen actor working today.'

And, finally, we have "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants." Based on the best-selling young adult novel, the film focuses on four close girlfriends spending their first summer apart--and, oh, yes, the pair of magical pants the girls discover in a thrift shop. That's right, you heard me: magical pants. Take that, George Lucas.

(Soundbite of "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants")

Unidentified Actress #1: We need rules. Every sisterhood has rules.

Unidentified Actress #2: OK, rule number one: Each sister is going to keep the pants for...

Unidentified Actress #1: A week.

Unidentified Actress #2: ...a week.

LEGAN: The nation's critics find these pants a nice fit. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution declares it `a solid, unpretentious and entertaining film.' The Arizona Republic calls it `warm, endearing, upbeat and fast-moving.' And the Orlando Sentinel blubbers, `It plays to everybody's inner weepy, teen-aged girl. And that's not such a bad thing.' Hmmm. If "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" does well, look for the male counterpart: "The Brotherhood of the Stay-At-Home Boxer Shorts." I'm wearing a magical pair right now.

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

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BRAND: And DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News and I'm Madeleine Brand. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.