Movie guide

We review the raucous new comedy 'Knocked Up,' and two more recent releases.

By , Film critic of The Christian Science Monitor

New in theaters Golden Door (R)

Director: Emanuele Crialese. With Charlotte Gainsbourg, Vincenzo Amato, Vincent Schiavelli. (120 min.)

A Sicilian widower (Vincenzo Amato) brings his mother and two sons to America in this draggy Italian epic that's big on production values but skimpy on inspiration. The protracted journey of the family through the maze of Ellis Island has a documentarylike appeal, but too often the scenes are worn down by leaden whimsy. As an Englishwoman seeking entrance to America by banding with the Sicilians, Charlotte Gainsbourg is uncommonly touching. Grade: C+

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Knocked Up (R)

Director: Judd Apatow. With Seth Rogen, Katherine Heigl. (129 min.)

Judd Apatow's "Knocked Up" is a prime example of what has officially become a genre: The hyper-raunchy comedy. Dirty-minded outrageousness works best, at least for me, when it's keyed to characters whose minds I care about. What is ironic about "Knocked Up" is that, despite its pushing-the-envelope ambitions, it's essentially a sweet, sitcomish story about a schlep, Seth Rogen's Ben, who accidentally impregnates Katherine Heigl's beautiful Alison, and rises to the occasion by preparing for fatherhood. Rogen is a marvelous comic actor. Heigl is capable of seeming goddessy and klutzy in the same instant. They should be a classic mismatch made in heaven. It doesn't quite click, though, because Apatow overemphasizes the novelty of pairing an average joe with a hottie. This sort of thing, after all, has been done before by Woody Allen and Albert Brooks. (Rogen sounds like Brooks and has a similar passive-aggressive force field.) Like those films, "Knocked Up" is about the union between a self-denigrating yet strong-willed Jewish guy and a WASP princess. In other words, Apatow is essentially revising the comedic tropes of an earlier generation and, by adding a dosage of sexual frankness, accommodating a new audience. Sweep aside the gross-outs and you've got the family values comedy of the year. Grade: B+

Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea (R)

Director: Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer. With Sonny Bono, John Waters, Norm Niver, Manny Diaz. (73 min.)

This one-of-a-kind documentary, codirected by Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer and narrated, appropriately, by John Waters, has been playing around the country in theaters and, beginning Sept. 1, will appear on the Sundance Channel. Once touted as the "California Riviera," the Salton Sea in southern California is now a fetid bog spewing dead fish. And yet a few hardy souls, including a nudist and a Hungarian revolutionary who calls himself Hunky Daddy, still live there and champion its resurgence. This is a startlingly funny portrait of Gothic Americana. Grade: A

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