David Berenbaum

David Berenbaum

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The Spiderwick Chronicles Review

It's time to declare the search for the next Harry Potter over and give J.K. Rowling and her boy wizard the title of ultimate family fantasy franchise in perpetuity. Perhaps that will keep audiences from suffering through more underwhelming wannabes like The Spiderwick Chronicles. After a year that saw Stardust, The Golden Compass, The Seeker: The Dark is Rising, and the anticipated arrival of another trip to Narnia, no one has yet to top Hogwart's or those who dwell inside its hallowed halls. Spiderwick is no different. It's all a big, implausible CGI payoff, lacking the necessary context to engage its audience.

It's been a tough few weeks for the Grace family. An impending divorce has seen Mom (Mary-Louise Parker) and her three kids -- oldest daughter Mallory (Sarah Bolger) and twin boys Jared and Simon (Freddie Highmore) -- leaving New York and heading to the country, where a crazy aunt's (Joan Plowright) rundown residence awaits them. After hearing a noise in the walls, one of the boys breaks open a secret section, revealing a long forgotten attic room. In it, he finds the Spiderwick Chronicles, a book written by his great uncle (David Strathairn) concerning a magical world beyond reality. In this enchanted domain, fairies and other sprites battle ogres and goblins for the fate of all.

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Zoom Review

Upon its release, Zoom was instantly reviled not only as one of the worst movies of 2006, but one of the worst movies ever made. As I write this it's hovering as the 15th worst film ever per the IMDB's (admittedly unscientific) "bottom 100," one run below Troll 2.

Is Zoom worse than #17 Phat Girlz? Worse than Glitter (#23)? Worse than Alone in the Dark (#38)? Zoom is hardly a masterpiece, but, really now, it isn't that bad.

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Elf Review

On Christmas Eve, an infant crawls into Santa's sack and hitches a ride back to the North Pole. Upon finding his imported cargo, Santa passes the bundle of joy off to a paternal elf (played with care by Bob Newhart), who names the baby Buddy and raises him up to be a full-sized man in a miniature world.

The one-joke premise becomes worlds funnier once we learn that the elf in question is played with positively-charged whimsy by Will Ferrell. Best known for his ensemble work in Saturday Night Live and Old School, Ferrell has chosen the ideal project to test his skills as a leading man. And he keeps his clothes on, which means all ages are welcome (and encouraged) to attend this holiday party.

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The Haunted Mansion Review

Attendance must be down at Disney theme parks. It's the only explanation I can come up with that would explain the Mickey Mouse conglomerate's insistence on making movies based on attractions in its parks. After all, what better way to remind us that we're overdue for a visit? Earlier this year, The Pirates of the Caribbean dazzled us with its vivid animation and special effects, while last years The Country Bears fizzled behind some silly singing animals. As Disney's third attempt, The Haunted Mansion flourishes more than it flounders, but only works as mindless entertainment.

Eddie Murphy stars as a sleazy realtor named Jim Evers, who along with his wife Sara (Marsha Thomason), have built one of the most successful real estate practices in New Orleans. Jim has closed a record seven deals in the last month alone, yet despite the success, Sara has grown tired of Jim's absence from their children's soccer games and team barbeques. Deciding it is time for a vacation, the Evers set out on a road trip. But before they leave town, Jim must make one last deal at the sprawling Edward Grace Estate.

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