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"Dr. Dolittle 2"; "The Fast & the Furious"; "The Golden Bowl"; "Shrek"

Quick Flicks

!B! "Dr. Dolittle 2"!B! "The Fast & the Furious"!B! "The Golden Bowl"!B! "Shrek"

"Dr. Dolittle 2" — Eddie Murphy returns as the vet with the gift of gab in this warmer, more kid-friendly sequel to his hugely popular 1999 comedy. This time the good doctor is called to arms by some forest critters that are about to lose their habitat to greedy developers. It turns out the doc's cause isn't without hope, especially when he discovers there's an endangered species of bear at stake. With court order in hand, Dr. Dolittle sets out to find lonely female bear Eva (Lisa Kudrow's voice) a mate. Things look really bleak when the only male for the job is a jaded circus bear named Archie (wonderfully voiced by Steve Zahn). Will Eva accept Archie? Can the doctor teach Archie to survive in the woods? Will his teen-age daughter ever speak to him again? Murphy anchors this comic menagerie with unaffected and affable charm. But it's Archie and the rest of the critters who steal the show.

"The Fast & the Furious" — When it comes to good, old-fashioned B-movie action, romance and fatuous dialogue, this tale of the demimonde of illegal street racing in the Los Angeles basin is almost so classically bad it's good. Vin Diesel looks like he's trying to escape every frame he's in, playing the head of a racing family. Paul ("don't call me Keanu") Walker puts his blond good looks to use as the cop sent to infiltrate the gang. But wouldn't you know it — he falls in love with Diesel's sister (Jordana Brewster) and soon finds his loyalties tested. Should he honor his badge? Or should he hunker down and live life on the edge? It's all terribly familiar, but fun.

"The Golden Bowl" — Another year, another nearly moribund Merchant-Ivory adaptation of a literary classic. This year it's the Henry James novel of the same name, featuring Nick Nolte and Kate Beckinsale as an unusually close father and daughter. Uma Thurman and Jeremy Northam play illicit lovers who decide to indulge in one last secret assignation before Northam marries. Although beautifully costumed and well-acted, this James Ivory-directed period drama moves at a pace even a slug would consider slow. Also missing is frequent Mercant-Ivory contributor Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's usual knack for making period dialogue sound genuine. Dip into "The Golden Bowl" only If you're feeling culturally deprived.

"Shrek" — Movies that appeal to viewers from 4 to 104 are rare cinematic creatures, but "Shrek" not only joins those lofty ranks, it raises the bar. In this fractured fairy tale, lonely ogre Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) finds himself faced with slaying a dragon, rescuing a damsel (Cameron Diaz' voice and CG-interpreted face) in distress and keeping company with Donkey (voiced by Eddie Murphy), a wisecracking but genuinely smartass of a companion. Besides standing every time-honored storytelling convention on its ear and revitalizing the animated tale's stylistic flourishes, "Shrek" also lands more than a few well-deserved zingers at the past master of the form, Disney. Smartly spoofing the beloved bedtime story with wit, charm and heart, "Shrek" is a movie experience to cherish. It remains my favorite flick of this summer.

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