'XXX' is moviegoing at its worst

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"XXX" is aimed so directly at 14-year-old boys that nobody else should have to pay for a ticket.

If anyone else wants to see it, that is.

The insane aspect of this movie's marketing isn't that adolescents are the target. It's that some grownups may think they have to check out this "event picture" too. Maybe they'll find something to enjoy – a nostalgic affection for the story's cold-war politics, for instance, as the American hero battles an anarchist gang in Eastern Europe.

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Or maybe they won't. Is the time really ripe for a warmed-over James Bond adventure, with a village idiot as the 007 clone?

Not that Vin Diesel isn't a canny show-biz player. If your idea of star power is "buff to the max" with "attitude to spare," as the publicity puts it, then he's your man. The infuriating thing about "XXX" isn't that it delivers thrills and spills to moviegoers who don't know any better, but that its Hollywood hype reinforces the notion that brain-dead entertainment is what movies are all about.

Among this week's other releases are "Secret Ballot," a subtle Iranian comedy, and "The Good Girl," a sensitive indie drama. How many TV promos have you seen for them?

The hypnotic grasp of "XXX" and its ilk crowds infinitely more worthwhile films to the farthest corners the cultural map.

• Rated PG-13; contains violence.

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