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Movie Guide

May 24, 2002

The Importance of Being Earnest (PG)

Director: Oliver Parker. With Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Frances O'Connor, Reese Witherspoon. (94 min.)

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Staff *** If a dreamy romp and Oscar Wilde don't seem as if they should go together, then British director Oliver Parker has a surprise for fans of one of Wilde's great comedies. This late Victorian-era farce, the first film rendition of this play in 50 years, is based on the slimmest of conceits: that only a man named Earnest is marriage material to two English lasses, played winningly by Witherspoon and O'Connor. Coming on the heels of his success with "An Ideal Husband," this latest version is a nice addition to the updating of classic British theater works. By Gloria Goodale

Stallion: Spirit of the Cimarron (G)

Directors: Kelly Asbury, Lorna Cook. With voices of Matt Damon, James Cromwell, Daniel Studi. (84 min.)

Sterritt ** The adventures of a wild stallion who wants to stay wild, the young Indian who befriends him, and a mean-tempered cavalry captain who wants to break his will and hold him in captivity. The proudly traditional style of this kid-friendly animation seems rather tame in the age of "Shrek" and "Monsters, Inc.," but the action is mild enough for fairly young children, and grownups may enjoy its old-fashioned spirit.

Standing by Yourself (Not rated)

Director: Josh Koury. With Josh Siegfried, Adam Koury. (66 min.)

Sterritt * This deliberately scruffy documentary paints an on-the-spot portrait of disaffected teens in a New York town, focusing mainly on two 16-year-olds, one of whom is the filmmaker's younger brother. It has a degree of sociological interest, but it would be more effective if the material were shaped into a more coherent form.

About a Boy (PG-13)

Directors: Paul Weitz, Chris Weitz. With Hugh Grant, Toni Collette, Nicholas Hoult, Rachel Weisz. (101 min.)

Sterritt * Grant plays a mischievous bachelor who pretends he has a child so he can hunt wooable women in a single-parents club, then becomes the unexpected friend of a real 12-year-old who needs help to overcome his geekiness and make a hit with his peers. Hoult is excellent as the kid, but there's little he or Grant can do with the movie's most mawkish moments.

Staff *** Wryly humorous, cute, unconventional, Grant's best role.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene, and some innuendo. Violence: About 5 scenes with bullying. Profanity: 44 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 14 scenes with alcohol, 9 with smoking.

Dogtown and Z-Boys (PG-13)

Director: Stacy Peralta. With Sean Penn, Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Bob Biniak. (90 min.)

Staff **** The first incarnation of the skateboard came in with the hula hoop and lasted as long. Director and original "Z-Boy" skater Stacy Peralta has fashioned a wildly entertaining documentary chronicling the true birth of southern California "skater" cool, a decade later. Cobbled together for less than $500,000, his film chronicles the mid-'70s exploits of a rag-tag bunch of teens (the Z-Boys) who hung out at surf shops on the rundown streets of "Dogtown" (south Santa Monica, before gentrification). Having conquered the local surf with reckless bravado, they sought new thrills on the West Side's asphalt playgrounds and empty swimming pools with homemade skateboards and absolutely no fear. Inside a year, these daredevils redefined what was possible on a skateboard and created a guerrilla style and attitude that still pervades youth culture today. By John Kehe

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes with semi-nudity. Profanity: 43 harsh expressions. Drugs: 2 instances of smoking, some talk of drug use.

Enigma (R)

Director: Michael Apted. With Dougray Scott, Kate Winslet, Jeremy Northam. (117 min.)

Staff ***1/2"A Beautiful Mind" meets "The Longest Day" as a brilliant mathematician leads a team of British scientists desperately trying to break the Nazi's enigma code and stop their U-boats before they cut off the North Atlantic shipping routes. But the mathematician's sanity is close to breaking: Is the beautiful blonde he's in love with a spy? And is the dapper British secret agent shadowing him (played with his usual delightful elegance by Northam) a friend or foe? There's romance and suspense aplenty before several puzzles are solved – and the war won. By Gregory M. Lamb