The critical buzz on I Think I Love My Wife and Premonition.

Highlights from the week in criticism.
March 16 2007 12:46 PM

Uncivil Marriages

The critical buzz on I Think I Love My Wife and Premonition.

I Think I Love My Wife
I Think I Love My Wife 

I Think I Love My Wife (Fox Searchlight). Chris Rock directs and plays the lead role in this reinterpretation of Eric Rohmer's 1972 French New Wave classic Chloe in the Afternoon, about a married man's extended flirtation with infidelity. Most critics aren't impressed by the unlikely remake. In Entertainment Weekly, Lisa Schwarzbaum moans that Rock "has taken Rohmer's marvelously probing, psychologically refined, exquisitely yakky, and deeply French movie and turned it into a coarse-talking, race-conscious, tonally challenged life-crisis comedy." The Philadelphia Inquirer's Carrie Rickey admonishes, "As usual, [Rock's] observational humor zings (and stings)—but this is a movie, not stand-up." Surprisingly, one of the most positive reviews comes from the New York Times' A.O. Scott, who proclaims Rock's effort to be an "unusually insightful and funny mainstream American movie about the predicaments of modern marriage." (Buy tickets to I Think I Love My Wife.)—D.S.

Premonition
Premonition

Premonition (Sony). Critics are nearly unanimous in their disdain for Premonition, in which Sandra Bullock plays a woman whose husband may or may not have been killed in a car accident. Not only is the film "a deadly bore from start to finish," as the Los Angeles Times gripes, but "[e]ven more annoying is its blind-alley structure resulting in an unsatisfying mind game for the audience." In Salon, Stephanie Zacharek comments, "The picture can't decide between cheap scares or deep thoughts, so it goes for both." Other critics sense impending doom for Bullock's career. The New York Times' Stephen Holden calls the film a "giant step backward" for the actress, adding: "Embodying a paranoid but plucky Everywoman clutching at an elusive mate while trying to maintain her sanity, the best Ms. Bullock can manage is to seem glumly opaque." (Buy tickets to Premonition.)—D.S.

Addiction.
HBO's Addiction

Addiction (HBO, begins Thursday, 9 p.m. ET). This 14-part documentary series explores drug and alcohol addiction, with a different prominent director responsible for each segment (though HBO handled postproduction). The stories are wrenching, but some critics aren't impressed. In the New York Times, Virginia Heffernan comments, "[A]s art it's monotone; it's hard to believe it's the collaborative work of so many otherwise individualistic artists." And Newsweek observes, "The sprawling scope of Addiction is both its greatest virtue and its only real weakness." Still, the films' message gets across, as the Los Angeles Times notes: "[I]t's a giant-sized public-service announcement, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Drug Addiction but Didn't Know Whom to Ask, dominated by cool, collected, thoroughly informed talking heads with side trips to an ER, a drug court, treatment facilities and selected messy lives."— B.W.

Andy Barker, P.I.
Andy Richter of Andy Barker, P.I.

Andy Barker, P.I. (NBC, Thursdays, 9:30 p.m. ET; also at NBC.com). Conan O'Brien's former sidekick, Andy Richter, stars in this new comedy series—as an accountant by day, accidental detective by night. Critics seem charmed by the off-kilter humor. In the Washington Post, Tom Shales muses, "Richter is an implosive presence who works well when surrounded by the weird and wacky." The New York Observer is confident the antics will have a broad appeal: "[A]udiences probably won't need a lot of explanation as to why a talking Sandra Bullock doll from Miss Congeniality becomes a major plot point, as it does in the pilot episode," and Entertainment Weekly's Gillian Flynn observes approvingly, "[W]hen an entire episode is based around a 'murderous chicken cartel,' there's not too much room for improvement."— B.W.

New Republic

Magazine redesigns. Redesigned issues of the New Republic and Time hit newsstands this week. Readers of the scrappy, low-circulation political weekly will notice big changes: TNR is switching to a biweekly schedule, with longer reported pieces and more Web-only content—and its look and feel are going upscale. The New York Times writes, "[T]he magazine is fatter, with more photographs, articles, graphics … all packaged under a lush cover." Editor Franklin Foer told political Web site Politico.com that the magazine aims "to be the New Yorker of politics"; Foer rather painstakingly introduces the new issue in a video on TNR.com. The new Time will be cleaner, rely more heavily on graphics, and include several new sections. Editors also promise that the magazine's cludgy prose style will be brought up-to-date: According to the New York Times, Time has banished its "signature syntax, parodied by the humorist Wolcott Gibbs with his phrase, 'Backward ran sentences until reeled the mind.' " But the New York Observer's Tom Scocca criticizes the magazine's apparent desire to emulate the Economist—a magazine he considers "aggressively boring." Scocca concludes: "When other magazines say they want to be like The Economist, they do not mean they wish to be serious. They mean they wish, by whatever means, to be taken seriously."— B.W.

Back to Black, Amy Winehouse

Back to Black, Amy Winehouse (Republic). The 23-year-old British bad girl opens her second album with a hip-hop inflected Motown number, singing, "They tried to make me go to rehab, I said no, no, no"—and U.S. critics are falling for both the music and the attitude. Newsweek calls Winehouse a "perfect storm of sex kitten, raw talent and poor impulse control"; the Washington Post indulges her louche side in a profile that begins, "the more Amy Winehouse drinks, the better she sings." Her voice—according to a squib in The New Yorker—"combines the smoky depths of a jazz chanteuse with the heated passion of a soul singer," and other critics note that she channels '50s and '60s girl groups and vocalists like Billie Holiday, albeit with up-to-date beats and tawdrier diction. An "A-" review from Entertainment Weekly praises her lyrics: "smartass, aching, flirty, and often straight-up nasty —[they] raise this expertly crafted set into the realm of true, of-the-minute originality." (Buy Back to Black.)—B.W.

Edward Scissorhands
Edward Scissorhands

Edward Scissorhands. Choreographer Matthew Bourne, best known for an all-male staging of Swan Lake, takes his dance adaptation of Tim Burton's 1990 gothic love story on a U.S. tour. Critics praise what the Washington Post calls a "loopily inspired spectacle" for its energy and whimsy—and accessibility. The New York Sun labels Bourne "a stubborn and determined populist," and Joan Acocella, in a major New Yorker profile, writes that "Bourne is the most audience-conscious artist I have ever spoken to." Praise for Scissorhands itself is slightly less glowing. Acocella notes that "pure dance is [Bourne's] weak suit," and less august critics kvetch that the story lacks enough narrative drive. The St. Louis Riverfront Times complains, "Bourne has labeled his show a 'theatrical dance sensation.' I saw the dance, but anything that could purport to be unusually theatrical or remotely sensational eluded me." (Click here for tickets and video clips from Edward Scissorhands.)—B.W.

300
300

300 (Warner Bros.). Dawn of the Dead director Zack Snyder's ultraviolent film about the battle between Spartans and Persians at Thermopylae in 480 B.C. has some critics looking for a message about contemporary politics. The New York Times explains that the story "could be construed as a thinly veiled polemic against the Bush administration, or be seen by others as slyly supporting it"—but Snyder insists he had neither in mind when he made his film, an adaptation of the graphic novel by Sin City's Frank Miller. The movie itself is receiving mixed reviews. In Entertainment Weekly, Lisa Schwarzbaum lauds the film's spectacle but warns, "[S]urfaces, most of them computer-generated, are all this newfangled sword-and-sandals epic is about," and Slate's Dana Stevens predicts the film will be "talked about as a technical achievement, the next blip on the increasingly blurry line between movies and video games." On this note, the Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan sighs, "[U]nless you love violence as much as a Spartan, Quentin Tarantino or a video-game-playing teenage boy, you will not be endlessly fascinated." (Buy tickets to 300.)—D.S.

Doree Shafrir is the executive editor at Buzzfeed.

Blake Wilson is a Slate contributor and former Slate editor.

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