In cinemas today: Little blue men and a bare-assed Ryan Reynolds

Of the new movies releasing in South Africa today, the following are the 2 with the highest profiles. They're also likely to be the big box office champions of the weekend, although I can't say I'm enticed to watch either. Fortunately though, after a dud September at South African cinemas, the October lineup is looking a lot more interesting. And we're just about there!

1) The Smurfs

Following in the steps of Garfield and Alvin and the Chipmunks, The Smurfs is yet another beloved 80s cartoon (and older entertainment property, actually), being given the big screen adaptation treatment.

Releasing in 2D and 3D, The Smurfs is a family comedy that, like Garfield and The Chipmunks, mixes CGI-animation and live-action. It also, unfortunately, has adopted the mindset that simple, wholesome fairy tale-like creatures won't sell movie tickets. As a result, the Smurfs have become sassy, smirking troublemakers. Oh, and now they, and sorcerer nemesis Gargamel (Hank Azaria), are running around contemporary New York City. Neil Patrick Harris plays the stressed straight man to the little blue beings - who, for the record, are voiced by the likes of Alan Cumming, Anton Yelchin, George Lopez and Katy Perry .

The Smurfs is 24% Fresh on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes. The vast majority of critics have dismissed the film as soulless, seen-it-all-before fare solely designed to keep undemanding kiddies entertained. This said, some kinder reviewers have insisted that the promotional material (e.g. this trailer) is much worse than the full length film. Personally, I'll be giving this one a miss.

2) The Change-Up

Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman star in this adult-orientated comedy, which marks a return to the "body swap" sub-genre that was all the rage in the late 1980s. The 2 actors play best friends who are worlds' apart - Reynolds, a ladies man who can't hold down a job, and Bateman, a suffocated family man with a successful career. One drunken late night piss in a fountain later and the guys have switched bodies. Of course, the initial confusion and exhilaration soon gives way to the realisation that the friend's life they envy so much is not as rosy as they thought.

In addition, I suspect that for all the film's R-rated saucy shenanigans, inevitably The Change-Up starts punting the typically conservative message from Hollywood that family, responsibility and settling down are the only way to add value to your life.

Anyway, The Change-Up is a weak 24% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes (exactly like The Smurfs actually!). Apparently, as great as the 2 leads are - Bateman especially - the movie is sunk by the same gross-out humour that is used to distinguish the film from its "vice-versa" predecessors. The Change-Up has been called stale at best, and a frequently offensive, crude disaster at worst.


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