ALONG CAME POLLY (PG-13) As its title more than suggests, what we have here is a romantic comedy that feels like a series of slapped-together outtakes from There's Something About Mary. The relationship at the center of the movie is a by-the-numbers case of opposites attracting (Ben Stiller's uptight insurance analyst falls for Jennifer Aniston's free-spirited eccentric), with semi-funny physical humor and Farrelly Brothers-ish toilet jokes abounding. There's even a blind ferret subbing for the little pooch in Mary. On the plus side, Aniston makes her underwritten character feel surprisingly real, and Philip Seymour Hoffman and Alec Baldwin deliver a few solid chuckles on the sidelines. Stiller plays the same character he always plays, and is usually much better when reacting to situations than when he's trying to drum up some laughs on his own. Also stars Debra Messing and Hank Azaria.
THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS (R) Anyone with an affection for Denys Arcand's 1986 The Decline of the American Empire -- a Big Chill-ish account of self-possessed baby boomers, Euro-style -- will want to check out this film, which is essentially a companion piece to the director's earlier work. Arcand revisits Remy (Remy Girard), the sophisticated sensualist of Decline, now bald, bed-ridden with terminal cancer and watched over by his estranged, uptight son Sebastien (Stephanie Rousseau), who uses his considerable wealth to make his father's final days as comfortable and interesting as possible. Sebastien keeps his father happily stoned and brings together many of Remy's old friends and lovers (virtually the entire cast of Decline), as the movie offers up a stream of stylishly witty observations, eventually taking the form of a bittersweet reverie to lives well lived. The movie's not nearly as profound as it seems to think it is, but as far as elegant odes to love, sex, youth and its passing, God and art, you could do worse. Don't come expecting Proust's Remembrance of Things Past in 99 minutes (as the movie sometimes seems to consider itself), and be prepared for loads of cyclical conversations, and you'll do just fine. Also stars Marie-Josee Croze. 1/2
BARBERSHOP 2: BACK IN BUSINESS (PG-13) Ice Cube and Cedric the Entertainer star in this sequel to last year's popular comedy about a group of folks frequenting a small barbershop on Chicago's South Side. This time out, the movie's got gentrification on its mind, as the mom and pop stores in the barbershop's neighborhood begin losing ground to an invasion of Starbucks-esque establishments. Also stars Sean Patrick Thomas and Eve. (Not Reviewed)
CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE DRAMA QUEEN (PG) Expect coming-of-age cuteness galore as big city gal Lindsay Lohan (Freaky Friday) is dragged kicking and screaming to suburban hell when her parents relocate to a small town in New Jersey. Also stars Adam Garcia, Alison Pill and Carol Kane. (Not Reviewed)
DAWN OF THE DEAD (R) One might ponder the reasons for remaking George Romero's nearly perfect horror classic, but, hey -- the bottom line is that you can never have too many zombie movies. Actually, the word "zombie" is never even uttered in the 2004 version, and the creatures themselves more closely resemble the shrieking sprinters of 28 Days than the lumbering icons from Romero's original. Also missing in action are the original's famous images of the living dead strolling about the shopping mall where our heroes are trapped, or any other swipes at our happily zombified consumer culture. What we get instead is a competent but much more conventional thrill machine, filled with a steady stream of decent scares and even more flying hunks of bloody flesh than you'll see in Mel's Passion. It's an adequate fright flick but not much more, with a final 20 minutes that degenerates into just another extended and overly chaotic chase scene. The whole thing is bolstered by a self-consciously ironic soundtrack of heavy metal and jazzy lounge tunes about "the sickness" that seems to think it might actually work as a stand-in for the original movie's wit. It's not. Stars Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Mekhi Phifer and Ty Burrell.
DIRTY DANCING: HAVANA NIGHTS (PG-13) Not so much a sequel as a "re-imagining" of the 1987 hit, told from the perspective of an 18-year-old American girl in Cuba on the eve of the revolution. Diego Luna from Y Tu Mama Tambien plays the Yankee babe's sexy pool boy, who also just happens to be the island's best dirty dancer. Stars Romola Garai. (Not Reviewed)