Three major new releases in theatres this week are the sophomore efforts of their directors. And to listen to the critics, they sound rather "sophomoric." Fortunately, for those willing to visit the art-house theatres, the news isn't all bad.

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In a Hollywood moneymaker's dream come true, superstar rogue Brad Pitt and superstar smileyface Julia Roberts co-headlined a film directed by Gore Verbinski (Mousehunt). The Mexican is a road-movie, a romantic comedy, a folk tale, a crime caper, and, apparently, a complete mess.

Michael Elliott of MovieParables says, "There are films which run for 3 or 3½ hours which nevertheless seem to pass in the blink of an eye. The Mexican takes the opposite approach. Its two hour playing time feels more like three." Phil Boatwright of The Dove Foundation has more basic objections to the film. "Each screwball crisis is highlighted by crudity, profanity and comic bloodshed." Bob Smithouser of Focus on the Family finds offensive elements aplenty in the film regardless of its complexity. "Sure, the story itself may be interestingly crafted, but that's like saying the Bates Motel has nice eaves."

In my own review at Looking Closer, I confess that I checked my watch frequently as the film collapsed. I could almost hear the actors thinking to themselves, "Well, we tried, but we just can't make these puzzle pieces fit together, so let's wrap things up and go home." A kidnapper named Leroy (James Gandolfini of The Sopranos) was the only character worth paying attention to, the only one with dimension. And, in what one critic called that "a spasm of ineptitude", the writer took him out of the story far too early, a mistake from which the movie never recovers. I also have to agree with David ...

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