"Barnyard" Criminal acts and scenes of brutal violence spoil the nature of "Barnyard" as an animated movie for tots. A mythical one-man-operated farm is the setting for a cavalcade of animals to party like it's 1999 whenever the farmer isn't looking. Writer/director/producer Steve Oedekerk (screenwriter of "Bruce Almighty") smuggles a pro-military subtext into the script that scuttles the already drooping narrative with a sandbag of burden. It's impossible to enjoy the celebrity vocal performances and weird computer-generated animation because the movie is so heavy with authoritarianism and fear. (PG) 95 min. ** Cole Smithey
"The Devil Wears Prada" A breathless gallop at haute couture fashion culture, "The Devil Wears Prada" is a fish-out-of-water comedy that digresses so often into prolonged music video sequences that you feel like you're watching a movie with commercials included. That materialism experience is unfortunately much of the point of this loose adaptation of Lauren Weisberger's best-selling novel in which a journalist (Anne Hathaway) wins a coveted job as second assistant to the world's most notoriously exacting fashion magazine editor (Meryl Streep). The magazine is patterned after Vogue, whose influential editor Anna Wintour serves as the template for Streep's icy character. Streep carries the film with a disconnected tone for her character that is at once beguiling and disconcerting. (PG-13) 109 min. *** C.S.
"The Lady in the Water" Apologists for the categorically inadequate M. Night Shyamalan have their work cut out for them defending yet another cinematic killjoy from this supposed master of suspense. Inflated from an impromptu "bedtime story" that Shyamalan invented for his children, "Lady in the Water" is a hackneyed enterprise about a water nymph inappropriately named "Story" (Bryce Dallas Howard) who resides at the bottom of an apartment complex swimming pool. Paul Giamatti is Cleveland Heep, a stuttering superintendent who discovers the sprite, or "narf" as she's called, and protects her until he can wrench enough exposition from his underemployed neighbors to send Story back to her "Blue World" home via an eagle. Standing in their way is a red-eyed hyena creature called a "scrunt" that roams the compound attempting to kill Story. The metaphor buried at the bottom of this is all wet. (PG-13) 110 min. * C.S.
"Miami Vice" Michael Mann attempts to inflate an episode of his '80s TV show into a feature-length ballad of undercover ennui, lust and bloody intimidation. Dade County detectives Sonny Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Ricardo Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) try to break up a massive international drug operation by passing themselves off to a Colombian drug lord as "fast-boat" drug traffickers. Spiffy clothes, fancy boats and exotic locations add nothing to Mann's banal exercise in style over content. Farrell mumbles in different accents and Foxx poses like he's on an extended photo shoot for GQ magazine. (R) 135 min. * C.S.
"My Super Ex-Girlfriend" Super romance blooms with Uma Thurman as a part-time Manhattan superhero in this scattershot romantic comedy from Ivan Reitman. Architect Luke Wilson is initially thrilled to discover he's dating a superhero before realizing that his affections point more toward his coworker Anna Faris. Hell hath no wrath like a superwoman scorned, and the film swings wildly between reckless, bawdy humor, flat jokes and some surprising sight gag action sequences. But this half-hearted attempt at comedy with unlikable characters never gels. (PG-13) 95 min. ** C.S.
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" For Disney, the good news about this movie is that it enjoyed a record-breaking first weekend box-office gross. For the rest of us, the good news is that the last half-hour or so of this second installment in the "Pirates" franchise is fast-paced, mindless fun, and even displays a dash or two of wit. Alas, the price for this payoff is nearly two hours of glum and mostly needless exposition, punctuated here and there with action sequences that should have made up the whole of this elaborate confection. Those seeking a self-contained movie experience should be warned that "Dead Man's Chest" was filmed in tandem with the next "Pirates" installment, and this year's episode does not even attempt to tie up the plot it so ponderously introduces. (PG-13) 150 min. *** Thomas Peyser
"Step Up" Ballet mixed with hip-hop dance moves? This questionable concept isn't helped by a cliché-riddled romantic-drama plot that coasts on the strength of its two charismatic leads. Channing Tatum plays Tyler, a Baltimore ghetto hood sent to do community service at an arts school, and Jenna Dewan is Nora, the ballerina he is assigned to assist in her upcoming senior showcase. Nora's fickle nature and Tyler's lack of discipline threaten to sabotage the couple's romance, even as Tyler's ghetto reality takes a heavy toll on his sense of desperation. "Step Up" is a weak movie because it barely touches the surface of its ostensible subjects, dance and class struggles in an inner city. (PG-13) 103 min. ** C.S.
"Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" Will Ferrell came to prominence on "Saturday Night Live" doing a dead-on impersonation of President Bush, and he seems to have come full circle in this (his best) comedy vehicle, in which he plays Ricky Bobby, a simple-minded NASCAR driver who just "wants to go fast" and thank Lord Baby Jesus for the results. A best bud (John C. Reilly) and a French rival (Sacha Baron Cohen) take pressure off Ferrell to carry the whole film, and the result is that "Talladega Nights" remains surprisingly funny until the end. (PG-13) 105 min. **** Wayne Melton
"You, Me and Dupree" As the title character Dupree in this situational comedy, Owen Wilson plays the best friend to newly married Carl (Matt Dillon). Carl and Molly (Kate Hudson) live under the shadow of her overbearing father (Michael Douglas), who happens to be Carl's real-estate tycoon boss. However, ne'er-do-well Dupree casts the longest shadow over the couple's lives when they put him up for a few days while he hunts for a job and a place to stay. A hilarious dinner-table scene with the four main characters spikes the humor level beyond its otherwise predictable limits. Dupree may be a bad guest, but it's Wilson's boyish vibe of innocence that really overstays its welcome. (PG-13) 108 min. ** C.S.
Byrd Theatre, 2908 W. Cary St., Richmond, 353-9911.
Carmike 10, 1100 Alverser Drive, Midlothian, 897-0888.
Chesterfield Towne Center, 11500 Midlothian Turnpike, Midlothian, 379-7800.
Commonwealth 20, 5001 Commonwealth Center Parkway, Midlothian, 744-2600.
Regal Chester Cinemas 6, 13025 Jefferson Davis Highway, Chester, 796-5911.
Regal Short Pump Cinema 14, 11650 W. Broad St., Richmond, 360-0947.
Regal Virginia Center 20 Cinema, 10091 Jeb Stuart Parkway, Glen Allen, 261-5411.
Regal Westhampton Cinema 2, 5706 Grove Ave., Richmond, 288-9007.
Southpark Cinema 6, 274 Southpark Mall, Colonial Heights, 526-8100.
West Tower Cinemas, 8998 W. Broad St., Richmond, 270-7111.