New release movie reviews - April 4

IDENTITY THIEF **1/2 (111 minutes) MA

In this throwaway comedy from director Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses; Four Holidays) a financially strapped family man and executive (Jason Bateman) has his identity very easily nicked by a clever fraudster (Melissa McCarthy) within minutes of the studio logo.

Though the premise sounds topical, it's just an excuse for an old fashioned road movie as the exec tracks down the con artist and takes her back home to the police. Predictably, he discovers there's more to her and the back story gives some heart to a computer-written yarn largely tricked up with car crashes and snakes.

It's formulaic multiplex mulch in which McCarthy - so funny in Bridesmaids - ocassionally lets loose with the comic blurts that have become her signature. It's way over-long, often feels strained and cares so little for plausibility that being hit by a speeding car takes exactly one edit to fully recover from.

That said, Identity Thief is the latest example of the disconnect that often exists between critical opinion and popular appeal. Largely slammed by critics, the low-budget film - its $35m cost is about half the studio average -  has been a huge hit, taking about $150m worldwide.

And that's before it hits the home market, where critics will count even less.

RETURN TO NIM'S ISLAND *** (85 minutes) G

In this pleasant, family-friendly, eco-positive adventure, Bindi Irwin (bearing a slight, inexplicable American accent) wards off a double threat to the beloved island where she lives with her scientist father (Matthew Lillard, aka Shaggy from the Scooby Doo films) and nerdy, comedy-relief brother (Nathan Derrick).

While dad is off to the city to try and stop evil developers - yes, they're always evil - from turning their home into a tourist attraction, Bindi recruits the aid of a fellow tween adventurer (Toby Wallace) to stop a gang of poachers from making off with the island's precious animals. This, while finding three endangered species to help her dad's quest.

This message-driven film is perfectly fine for kids around 10, though it is a little light on humour. Adults accompanying said kids, though, are strongly advised not to think too hard as the predictable tale unfolds.

Why, for instance, would bringing people and money to the island be bad rather than good for the local wildlife? After all, Bindi's father, the late Steve Irwin, believed in sensitive, eco-friendly development. And how is it that Bindi has a super-fast internet connection on a remote island where mobile phones don't work? And where does all the electricity come from? And what about plumbing?

Aficionados of kid movie villains will welcome the sight of John Waters, who played a baddie in 1998's The Real Macaw. As a sea-faring, money-grubbing poacher with two dumb teenage sons, he does a good job of scaring the kids before getting his just desserts courtesy of a flock of birds with good aim.

SLEEPWALK WITH ME *** (81 minutes) M

In his diverting directorial debut, American comedian Mike Birbiglia tells a semi-autobiographical story recounting his trouble with sleepwalking and getting started in comedy. Though the sleep-walking episodes are funny, it's the way Birbiglia captures the pains of performing comedy to tiny rooms that really fly. Though largely unknown outside America, some might recognise Birbiglia from his bits on the radio show This American Life.


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