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Economy

Slate's Summary Judgment: 'Aeon Flux,' 'Transamerica,' 'The Kid & I'

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Now on to the question of whether any new movies deserve your business this week. The online magazine Slate compiles our weekly digest of what critics are saying. Here's Mark Jordan Legan with Summary Judgment.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN reporting:

Only 24 more moviegoing days until Christmas, people, and some long-awaited Hollywood studio releases are coming, just not this weekend. First up in limited release, we have the inspirational buddy comedy "The Kid & I." Tom Arnold stars as a down-and-out actor looking for his big comeback, which arrives when a rich man asks him to be in an action movie with his son, who happens to have cerebral palsy. In real life, Arnold lives next door to Eric Gores, a young actor with the disease, and was inspired to write and produce this film. The young Gores and Shannon Elizabeth also star.

(Soundbite of "The Kid & I")

Mr. TOM ARNOLD: So this 18-year-old kid is going to...

Unidentified Woman #1: Huh-uh.

Unidentified Man: He's 17. He's going to be 18 in a few months.

Mr. ARNOLD: So he's going to be the ass-kicking action hero, and I'm going to be the dumb, fat, hyperactive sidekick?

Unidentified Man: Exactly.

LEGAN: Even with all its good intentions, most of the critics had problems with the film. Variety enjoys it and predicts success, saying, `A well-known cast and an upbeat storyline should combine to give "The Kid and I" a feel-good ride at the box office.' But The New York Times laments, `The film is self-congratulatory, excruciatingly sentimental and sloppily written and directed.' And the Village Voice complains, `It qualifies as the most indulgent kind of homemade project laden with tediously inspirational dialogue.'

Next up in selected cities is the quirky comedy "Transamerica." Felicity Huffman of "Desperate Housewives" fame stars as a preoperative transsexual who goes on a road trip with a teen-age son she--I'm sorry, he, at least for now--never knew she/he had.

(Soundbite of "Transamerica")

Unidentified Woman #2: What else is new?

Ms. FELICITY HUFFMAN: (As Sabrina Osbourne) I got a phone call last night from a juvenile inmate of the Newark prison system. He claimed to be Stanley's son.

Unidentified Woman #2: No third person.

Ms. HUFFMAN: (As Osbourne) My son.

LEGAN: Overall, the critics praised the film, and Huffman is already getting some Oscar buzz for her lead performance. Newsday thinks, `What keeps Huffman's turn from being mere spectacle is the actor's perceptive compassion for her character.' The New York Times calls "Transamerica" `touching and funny. Huffman's performance is a complex metamorphosis, and it is thrilling to watch.' And the Hollywood Reporter shouts `impressively realized on all levels. This transgender spin on the road trip boasts an extraordinary central performance.'

And we close with the only wide release from a major studio this Friday: "Aeon Flux." Based on the popular MTV animated series, Charlize Theron stars as a secret agent in the future sent to assassinate a top corrupt government official. Jonny Lee Miller also stars.

(Soundbite of "Aeon Flux")

Ms. CHARLIZE THERON: (As Aeon Flux) I don't need that to kill you.

Mr. JONNY LEE MILLER: (As Oren Goodchild) But it would be easier, wouldn't it? What do you want from me?

Ms. THERON: (As Aeon Flux) What do I want? I want my sister back. I want to remember what it feels like to be a person.

LEGAN: Guess what? The studio did not make this film available for the critics to screen in advance. That usually means they fear negative reviews and want to try and have a strong opening. But, guys, you have Charlize Theron running around in skintight outfits blowing things up. Do you really think the teen-age boys who watch the cartoon and read the comic book care if Rex Reed or Jeffrey Lyons found it satisfying? `Dude, let's go see the first showing of "Aeon Flux." Charlize is so hot.' `Slow down, dude. The New Yorker finds it one note and derivative.' `True, dude. They were dead-on with their critique of "The Constant Gardener."'

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

DAY TO DAY's a production of NPR News with contributions from slate.com. I'm Alex Chadwick. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.