"Accepted" High-school senior Bartleby (Justin Long) is a clever guy who just can't get into college. So he invents a phony one. Bartleby's increasingly ambitious hoax necessitates that he and his fellow rejects lease and renovate a disused mental hospital to house the South Harmon Institute of Technology, which he presents as a sister school to the actual Harmon College a few blocks away. A glitch in the bogus college's Web site unexpectedly attracts a hoard of slackers who effectively install themselves at the all-dorm campus. This slight but punchy comedy about college-age misfits (directed by the screenwriter of "Grosse Point Blank") begins well, but slips down a greasy narrative slope into a lackluster third act. PG-13 90 min. ** Cole Smithey
"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. ** C.S.
"How to Eat Fried Worms" Not "Snakes on a Playground," this shrill children's comedy based on a long popular book follows an 11-year-old boy who unthinkingly challenges a school bully by saying that he can eat 10 worms. The bully and his gang devise nefarious methods for cooking slimy night crawlers and earthworms into gross culinary forms for their little victim to consume without vomiting over the course of a single day. The movie's notion of fun seems to derive from an idea that boys will run back to their homes and relive the worm-eating aspects of the story. Gross, silly and small-minded, "How to Eat Fried Worms" is everything the title promises and less. (PG) 83 min. * C.S.
"Little Miss Sunshine" Finding this kind of quirky, charming family adventure at the summer Cineplex is like finding a diamond in a junkyard. It feels safer to just applaud its gifts and not complain too much about its faults. Everything hinges on getting pudgy, bespectacled Olive to a California beauty pageant for little girls. But the movie turns on the relationships between her dad, Richard (Greg Kinnear), a motivational speaker, his frustrated wife, Sheryl (Toni Collette), her suicidal brother (Steve Carell) and his teenage nephew (Paul Dano), who hasn't spoken in nine months. "Little Miss Sunshine" is an entertaining and occasionally insightful story that just finds itself with too much to say. (R) 99 min. *** Wayne Melton
"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.
"Snakes on a Plane" Samuel L. Jackson coasts on his fame in this glorified B-grade horror movie about an L.A. gang leader's wicked attempt to assassinate a potential witness by unleashing over 500 poisonous snakes on his flight. (Don't scoff just because you couldn't even get your Python cologne past security.) A cross between a slasher flick and a disaster movie, "Snakes on a Plane" casts CGI snakes attacking a young couple while they join the mile-high club, a man who hates babies and dogs, and numerous other victims hoping to land in time to receive an antidote for their bites. Although the film's production company, New Line, retooled the movie from a PG-13 to an R rating with ideas and dialogue from Web fans, "Snakes on a Plane" is a boring ride. (R) 106 min. * C.S.
"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. **** W.M.
"World Trade Center" Oliver Stone's signature films are juiced by their feverish need make grand sociological or geopolitical pronouncements. His 9/11 film by contrast based on real people and events focuses on the suffering of two Port Authority policemen trapped in the rubble, and on the torment of their families as they wait for news, delivering a spare, intimate portrait of a few normal human beings broadsided by history. The film is an act of contrition compared with the disastrous, bloated "Alexander" (2004). Dutiful is one word to describe the result. Slow, complacent and conventional are, unfortunately, others. (PG-13) 125 min. *** Thomas Peyser
"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.