The shadow of September 11 still darkens front page headlines almost daily, and continues to color film criticism almost every week. Two big movies this week are being criticized for inappropriateness in view of last fall's devastating events. Big Trouble is under fire for lightly treating the threat of nuclear terror, and High Crimes is harassed for portraying the American military as thoroughly corrupt.

Those aren't the only new titles offending critics. But the other headline-grabbing releases are bothersome for far different reasons. National Lampoon's Van Wilder is as crass as they come. Kissing Jessica Stein, while popular with mainstream critics, bothers conservative viewers for condoning a homosexual romance. And the year's most highly acclaimed foreign release, a Mexican teen drama called Y Tu Mama Tambien, is stirring up discussions about whether graphic sex acts can ever be portrayed as art rather than pornography. (Film Forum will offer reviews on the film next week.) But according to some critics, even a few in the religious press, these controversial titles are not without considerable merit.

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Based on a novel by humorist Dave Barry, Big Trouble introduces a long list of characters and more than a dozen storylines. All of them are concerned with the journey of a suitcase from one caper to another. It's not an ordinary suitcase—it contains a nuclear bomb. Tim Allen, Renee Russo, Patrick Warburton (The Dish), and other familiar faces populate this zany release from director Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black). And yet, like last week's Death to Smoochy, this celebrity-packed movie has critics wondering how so much talent could produce such disappointing work.

Steven Isaac (Focus on the Family) says, ...

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