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Notes from the Back Row

For the under age and middle aged

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Time is chasing all of us, like that ticking crocodile in Peter Pan. What got us stoked as little kids gets tired by the time we hit the teenage years which, along with our 20s and 30s, usually fly past in either a blur of sex, drugs and irresponsibility, or an arduous slog of romance, marriage and crapping out children. In both cases we end up somewhere in our 40s, battling menopause (whatever that is), weight issues, or some midlife crisis watching our once-favorite movie stars make crappy middle-aged romantic comedies.

This week’s movies hit most of the age differences, starting with Disney’s newest family values flick, Sky High.

Part Spy Kids, part The Incredibles (only inferior to both) Sky High is a coming-of-age tale in which protagonist Wil begins superhero high school only to discover his powers haven’t yet manifested and he must take remedial, "sidekick" classes. After overcoming the trauma of "coming out" to his famous superhero parents about not having powers, Wil next must deal with the usual high school problems of dumb teachers, bullies who can shoot fire out of their hands, and being totally oblivious to the crush his longtime friend has on him because he’s completely enthralled with the hottest chick in school.

Of course Wil’s powers finally do arrive, just in time to save the day and everyone learns a valuable lesson in the end. The good news is that this movie is well acted and includes two ex-Kids In The Hall, and comedic genius Bruce Campell as the school’s coach. It’s light and straightforward and very Disney, which, unless you’re in Grade 4, is also the bad news.

For Grades 5 and up, however, Stealth also opens this week. A testosterone-fuelled, high octane, super charged adventure flick directed by Rob Cohen ( Fast and the Furious, XxX) Stealth is about a trio of Navy fighter pilots whose jobs are jeopardized when the government introduces a new super stealth fighter piloted only by a computer. Of course, the new plane gets struck by lightning and develops a personality of its own. Hey, it worked in 1986’s Short Circuit didn’t it?

The three ace pilots in their pimped out super planes have to figure out a way to defeat the renegade computer and its slightly more pimped out super plane. Even starring Jamie Foxx and Jessica Biel, Stealth is nothing more than an unrealistic mash up of old movies like Iron Eagle, Maximum Overdrive, Top Gun and the obscure ’70s beauty Killer Dozer . If you like CGI special effects (tough to call them special when they’re in every scene) and skimpy dialogue, Stealth is for you.

Speaking of skimpy, Jessica Biel spends just enough time in a bikini to make us forget about the need for us all to get our shit together before passing time lands us in a middle aged nightmare like Must Love Dogs.

Must Love Dogs ought to be renamed Must Love Cliches . Sarah (Diane Lane, stooping to new lows,) recently divorced, is an elementary school teacher who gets to work with cute kids all day. Even though she’s gorgeous and smart she just can’t find a good man. Her meddling, fast-talking sister puts her profile on an internet dating program and she embarks on a montage of disastrous first dates before a comedy of errors sets her up with a great guy (John Cusak, who must have needed some quick cash). Add in a gay best friend and Dermot Mulroney for conflict and you have a dumbed-down, Sleepless in Seattle -formula picture that’s actually just a subversive advertisement for a real internet dating corporation.

We’re supposed to get smarter with time, not more banal. Must Love Dogs should be put to sleep.

AT VILLAGE 8 July 29-Aug. 4: Sky High; Stealth; Must Love Dogs; Bad News Bears; The Island; Mr. and Mrs. Smith; Fantastic Four; Wedding Crashers; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

AT RAINBOW THEATRE July 29-Aug. 4: Madagascar.

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