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"The Red Violin," "Wild Wild West" and "Big Daddy"

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"The Red Violin""Wild Wild West""Big Daddy"

"The Red Violin" I loved this movie even though it is the teeniest bit pretentious and its most vigorous action sequences deal with bowing the famed instrument of the title.

Crafted by a 17th-century Italian violin-maker for his unborn son, the instrument's destiny is forged by its maker's unhappiness as it comes to embody the father's grief when his wife dies in childbirth. Over the centuries, that sadness stays within the violin, its music giving voice to the pain and suffering within the world. Those lives it touches include an 18th-century Austrian child prodigy, a 19th-century British virtuoso and a 20th-century Chinese music teacher battling the dictates of Mao's Cultural Revolution. The story of the violin culminates at an auction in Montreal where we learn about those who want to own the rare red instrument. The most famous among the bidders is Samuel L. Jackson, who plays a musicologist whose interest in the violin is purely historical.

Part travelogue, part musical and part melodrama, "The Red Violin" somehow manages to be completely engrossing.

"Wild Wild West" I was so looking forward to this potential summer blockbuster. Expecting the Will Smith of summer movies past coupled with some big-bucks special effects as well as characters from a much-enjoyed TV show from the '60s, I was ready to be entertained. Instead, I was disappointed.

First, there's absolutely no chemistry between Smith and Kevin Kline, playing Smith's mechanically inclined partner Artemus Gordon. Second, the villain — Kenneth Branagh as Dr. Arliss Loveless — is far more interesting than the heroes. And finally, the special effects wad is shot on a nonsensical giant erector set-stylized tarantula that shoots fire bombs at ticky-tacky wooden buildings in hole-in-the-wall Western towns.

The charming Smith has a track record of bringing in bucks in movies that open near the July 4th holiday, so apparently the filmmakers felt nothing else was needed — like a plot, character development or believable acting.

"Big Daddy" Comedian Adam Sandler has turned playing lovable losers into a multimillion-dollar franchise. This time out, Sandler's doofus du jour is Sonny Koufax, a law school graduate who's never taken the bar. A slacker supreme, he's happy as he is. But things change when an adorable 5-year-old lands on his doorstep. His roomie — who's away — may be the tyke's biological father, but Sandler gets stuck with him. Comic, inappropriate parenting ensues.

Nowhere near as charming as "The Wedding Singer" and certainly not as simplistically sophomoric as "The Water Boy," this outing seems harried and the stupid human tricks forced. "Big Daddy" is a mess, albeit an amiable one. "Big Daddy" could have used a big dose of clever.

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