The unlikely winner of the award for best-reviewed movie of the weekend is Aardman Animation's The Pirates! Band of Misfits . Of the major critics, only Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel sends it to the plank. "Amusing in small doses, Pirates is the first Aardman film to suffer a serious shortage of sight gags, the first where the whimsy feels forced and the strain shows," he huffs. You have to wonder if Moore saw the same film as the Chicago Tribune 's Michael Phillips, who calls it "maniacally inventive" and goes on to write that hours after seeing it, "I was smiling at the memory of the best bits, some so fleeting they practically dare an audience to catch them on The Fly." Or Tom Russo in the Boston Globe who writes similarly, "There's so much going on, often so subtly, you may want to sail with this crew more than once." Likewise Nell Minow in the Chicago Sun-Times "The wonderful folks at Aardman have created another deliriously silly stop-motion animation delight, filled with giddy pleasures and so many witty details flying by that you wish for a pause button." Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times simply calls the movie, "a clever piece of business that is a complete pleasure to experience." Linda Barnard in the Toronto Star assures readers that while the filmmakers at Aardman do employ computer effects "to play backup," fans of the Wallace & Gromit TV shows and movies and the Chicken Run and Arthur Christmas features, should rest easy. "This marriage doesn't scupper Aardman's classic clay-based animated heritage," she writes, "and The Script is still filled with the kind of dry laughs only The Brits can conjure up." Elizabeth Weitzman of the New York Daily News took two little girls with her to the press screening, who, she says, "made this heartfelt request as soon as it ended 'Please please please give this movie five stars!!!" She wound up giving the movie three, "But I can say that most 5 and 7-year-olds are likely to have the same response they did." Adults, she says, are likely to have "a rollicking good time, even if Aardman's ambitions don't quite dazzle as usual." But Manohla Dargis of The New York Times , ordinarily one of the toughest critics on the block, seems completely won over by the filmmakers. "The movie is a curiosity cabinet of visual pleasures," she writes, "but so breezy and lightly funny that you may not realize at first how good it is. (You're too busy grinning.)"


Safe is expected to bomb at the box office this weekend. If it does, however, it won't be because of the performance of its star, Jason Statham, which is being praised even by many critics who hate the movie. "There's nothing terribly original about Safe, but it's a suitably grimy playground for action cinema's reigning pit bull," comments Robert Abele in the Los Angeles Times. "Lordy, he acts up a storm," remarks Amy Biancolli in the San Francisco Chronicle. " Andy Webster in the New York Times wishes "If only someone would offer this actor a project worthy of the full range of his talent." And Rick Groen in the Toronto Globe and Mail concludes "It takes a star with quality to be so rock solid in a crumbling yarn." Actually quite a few critics think the yarn is pretty solid. Rafer Guzmán in Newsday calls it "one of the year's best surprises, a lightning-fast, down-and-dirty action flick." Farran Smith Nehme remarks that "taken on its own genre-adhering terms, it's quite enjoyable." Claudia Puig in USA Today deals out praise to director Boaz Yakin's for his "quick cuts, unstinting energy and a lack of sentimentality." But these are the exceptions; most critics are pummeling the movie the way Statham pummels bad guys in his action flicks. "The movie takes no chances, hitting all its marks for stunt work and CGI eruptions," writes Peter Howell in the Toronto Star . Joe Neumaier in the New York Daily News comments that the movie is "filled with bombast and sneers but barely any thrills." And David Germain of the Associated Press tears into filmmakers for turning "Manhattan into little more than a Shooting Gallery, stacking up corpses in service of a supposed story about one man's path to redemption. But really, all they care about is stacking up corpses, as many as they can, ripped apart by as many bullets as possible, with a few snapped necks and other more intimate moments of savagery to break up the repetitive tedium of the gunplay."