Jersey Girl<br/>Mean Girls<br/>The Whole Ten Yards<br/>Freeze Frame<br/>The Hours of the Day<br/>Intimate Strangers<br/>Almost Peaceful<br/>Deep Blue<br/>Duck Soup

The nerd king grows up (and makes us wish that he hadn't)
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The Independent Culture

Even the bard of oral sex, soft drugs and Star Wars trivia has to grow up sometime, and so Kevin Smith's new film, Jersey Girl (12A), is his ode to parenthood. It features Ben Affleck as the hottest PR man in New York - until his wife (Jennifer Lopez) dies in childbirth. One breakdown and seven years later, Affleck is the hottest street-sweeper in New Jersey, but he still yearns for the glamour of the city. Can his father, his daughter and a flirtatious video store clerk (Liv Tyler) persuade him that it's a wonderful life?

Even the bard of oral sex, soft drugs and Star Wars trivia has to grow up sometime, and so Kevin Smith's new film, Jersey Girl (12A), is his ode to parenthood. It features Ben Affleck as the hottest PR man in New York - until his wife (Jennifer Lopez) dies in childbirth. One breakdown and seven years later, Affleck is the hottest street-sweeper in New Jersey, but he still yearns for the glamour of the city. Can his father, his daughter and a flirtatious video store clerk (Liv Tyler) persuade him that it's a wonderful life?

Smith is unquestionably speaking from the heart, but after a sparky opening half-hour he has nothing to say except that children are adorable, precious and thoroughly well-behaved. Jersey Girl could be any number of slushy Hollywood hugathons. The only signs of Smith's authorship are the film's slight amateurishness and an ill-fitting chat about porn and masturbation.

Teen queen Lindsay (Freaky Friday) Lohan stars in Mean Girls (12A) as Cady, a girl who has spent her childhood with her zoologist parents in Africa.

Aged 16, she enrols in an American high school for the first time, and quickly observes that her classmates' struggles for status are as vicious as those of any jungle animals. Disappointingly, this concept is as underdeveloped as the characters: the Loveable New Girl, The Cynical Goth, the Nice Hunk, and the Peroxide Bitch are all present and correct. Still, Tina Fey, who also plays Cady's maths teacher, has packed the screenplay with enough barbed one-liners to ensure that, as high-school comedies go, Mean Girls is near the top of the class.

The Whole Ten Yards (12A) reunites Matthew Perry's nervy dentist with Bruce Willis's certifiable hitman from 2000's The Whole Nine Yards. Perry mugs, wisecracks and pratfalls so tirelessly that he almost has a hernia, but it's still plain that this muddle was only produced because someone liked the title.

Freeze Frame (15) stars Lee Evans as a paranoid recluse who videotapes himself 24 hours a day, every day, so he always has an alibi if he's ever accused of a crime. It's a timely idea, and it could have been a compelling film if only someone had told the writer-director when enough was enough.

Everything is catastrophically over the top, from the Bat Cave production design and the blue-grey colour scheme to the unremitting plot zig-zags and a standard of acting which makes Evans's gibbering, shaven-headed Frank Spencer soundalike the most believable character.

The Hours of the Day (12A) could almost be a fly-on-the-wall documentary. With basic camerawork, flat lighting and no music, it records the humdrum existence of a humourless young man who runs a small clothes shop on the outskirts of Barcelona. He's no different from some people you might know, apart from one small point: once in a while he brutally murders a stranger.

Jaime Rosales's remarkable debut film is a serial killer thriller with a twist. The murders occur without warning, without fuss, without explanation, and (for the killer) without consequence. File under "cult classic".

Patrice Leconte's Intimate Strangers (15) is a witty Hitchcock pastiche in which a woman (Sandrine Bonnaire) mistakes a tax lawyer (Fabrice Luchini) for a psychotherapist, and describes her sexual problems to him before he has time to disabuse her. It's a juicy premise, and yet Leconte discards it with undue haste: after just a few minutes the misunderstanding is cleared up, and although the woman treats the lawyer as an unpaid therapist anyway, Intimate Strangers never quite recovers its momentum. Leconte seems to lose his way, which could be why he gives the film five or six endings, one after the other, and not one of them is satisfying.

Still in Paris, Almost Peaceful (15) is set in a Jewish tailoring business just after the Second World War. Like Intimate Strangers, it has all the trappings of a Quality French Drama, but its anecdotal scenes never coalesce into anything substantial.

Deep Blue (PG) is a feature-length fillet of the BBC's Blue Planet documentary series. On the big screen the images are even more awe-inspiring than they were on TV, but the squashed running time has left it with no coherent shape. Michael Gambon's voice-over doesn't rectify things, either. His actorly booming is no match for David Attenborough's soft-spoken authority, and the script's purple musings are no substitute for facts and figures. All it tells us about the turtle is that it's "a lonely traveller in liquid space", which isn't really telling us anything.

Duck Soup (U) is on at the NFT until 30 June. It's probably the funniest film made by the Marx Brothers - or, indeed, anyone else.

n.barber@independent.co.uk

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