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UNITED 93 It's hard to imagine a less sensationalized 9/11 film than writer-director Paul Greengrass' superb docudrama focusing on the morning when all hell broke loose in the US -- and specifically zooming in on the tragic yet inspiring saga of the one hijacked plane which did not reach its intended target. Perhaps it was imperative that an outsider tell this story, and that's what we get with Greengrass. A British filmmaker who achieved similar verisimilitude with 2002's Bloody Sunday (about the 1972 massacre of Irish civilians by English troops), Greengrass repeatedly refuses to take the bait of making a picture that can be tagged as exploitive, propagandistic or too political. Yet his restraint can only shelter us for so long: Ultimately, there's no defense against our own humanity. I imagine it's impossible to watch United 93 and not be brought to tears on several occasions. Whether such an outpouring of emotion will help the healing or tear open old wounds -- well, that's for each man and woman to decide for themselves. ****
THE WILD Comparisons to the fine Madagascar aren't necessary to point out the myriad shortcomings of The Wild, which manages to be abysmal on its own terms. Fast-paced is one thing -- Bugs Bunny and crew all but turned it into an art form -- but this ADD-affected movie seems to have been made by mentally stunted adults after they've popped a dozen uppers and downed two dozen cups of coffee. The CGI animation is impressively lifelike, though it begs the recurring question as to why we would want our animated movies to not look like animated movies. Everything else about this toxic toon is intolerable, especially the sidekicks who accompany Samson the lion (voiced by Kiefer Sutherland) as he leaves the comforts of the New York zoo to search for his wayward son in a faraway jungle. Nigel the koala (Eddie Izzard) rates a special mention, emerging as the most loathsome animated character since Martin Short's insufferable robot B.E.N. in Treasure Planet. *
OPENS FRIDAY, MAY 12:
ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL: Max Minghella, John Malkovich.
JUST MY LUCK: Lindsey Lohan, Chris Paine.
POSEIDON: Josh Lucas, Kurt Russell.