New Films: Reviews

CAPTAIN JACK (PG, 100 mins)

Director: Robert Young

Starring: Bob Hoskins. Sadie Frost

Jack (Bob Hoskins) is a salty old seadog. His boat: a leaky tub. His home: Whitby. His destination: the ice-bound Arctic. His crew: a Noah's Ark of oddballs (Anna Massey and Gemma Jones's bickering sisters; Sadie Frost's small- town minx). His story: as dull as ditchwater, motored by Robert Young's chug-a-lug direction, and dragged under by Jack Rosenthal's waterlogged screenplay. Because, for all its broad good humour, Captain Jack is a relentlessly faded and arthritic affair; the missing link between homegrown Thirties cinema and low-budget Seventies telly. One from the Marie Celeste school of movie-making.

West End: Odeon Kensington, Odeon Swiss Cottage, Plaza

THE INHERITORS (DIE SIEBTELBAUERN) (15, 95 mins)

Director: Stefan Ruzowitzky

Starring: Simon Schwarz, Sophie Rois

Stefan Ruzowitzky's pungent Austrian parable manages a happy marriage of Orwell's Animal Farm with Thomas More's Utopia. Played out against a pastoral backdrop, The Inheritors kicks off with the mysterious death of a landowner and the subsequent bequest of his estate to the riff-raff: split seven ways between his peasant workers. The gentry are up in arms over the socialist collective in their midst. Meanwhile, the newly minted farmers struggle to maintain their working unit in the face of newfound freedom and outside hostility. Oscar-nominated for Best Foreign Film, Ruzowitzky's tale runs a predictable course, from lightness to dark, hopefulness to heartache. Ultimately, The Inheritors looks less a piece of contemporary cinema than a kind of cautionary piece of folk art. It's as deliberately structured as a waltz, as solidly drawn as a wood-cut. Its allegorical line in storytelling puts it pleasingly at odds with the rest of this week's output. It ploughs its own furrow.

West End: Curzon Soho

THE KING AND I (U, 87 mins)

Director: Richard Rich

Starring: Miranda Richardson, Martin Vidnovic

The three ages of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic: a Broadway musical at its birth; a beloved CinemaScope spectacular at its peak of popularity; and a sugared, kiddy-style cartoon today. Richard Rich's animated take on The King and I tinkers with the plot and shaves off most of the original songs to recount the now-familar tale of true-Brit schoolteacher Anna Leonowens (Miranda Richardson talking; Christiane Noll singing), whose mumsy intimacy and liberal outlook shake up the rigid hierarchies of feudal Siam. The King (Martin Vidnovic) is a strutting poseur with a heart of gold. Plus there's a comedy elephant, a fire-breathing dragon and a scheming minister (Ian Richardson) with one eye on the throne. The artwork is bright but rudimentary: the songs ("Whistle a Happy Tune"; "Getting to Know You", sung during an impromptu tour of the city) are retooled with a synthetic MOR gloss. It all ends happily.

West End: Clapham Picture House, Odeon Marble Arch, Odeon Swiss Cottage, UCI Whiteleys, Virgin Fulham Road, Virgin Trocadero, Warner West End. And local cinemas

MY FAVOURITE MARTIAN (PG, 93 mins)

Director: Donald Petrie

Starring: Jeff Daniels, Christopher Lloyd

After The Brady Bunch Movie, the Beverly Hillbillies and Mission: Impossible, Hollywood must be hunting hard for old TV shows to cannibalise. Forgive them, then, for alighting finally on My Favourite Martian, a small-screen sitcom from the Sixties (apparently), and surely the last stale crumb in the bucket. As directed by Donald Petrie, this feature-length overhaul is noisy, nonsensical and utterly charmless. Christopher Lloyd is the eponymous extra-terrestrial; nose-diving to Earth and being ushered under the wing of Jeff Daniels' down-on-his-luck TV reporter. Initially, Daniels has his sights set on a career-making exclusive; later, he grows to love the oddball. And so it goes: pantomime complemented by crude slapstick comedy. Enter Darryl Hannah as a kooky neighbour, Elizabeth Hurley as a vapid telly bimbo, and a walking, talking spacesuit with a remorseless set of naff one-liners. Exit enjoyment, involvement, any sense of money well spent. Exit cinema. Go home, lie down. Try to put it out of your head.

West End: Odeon Camden Town, Odeon Kensington, Odeon Marble Arch, Odeon Swiss Cottage, Odeon West End, UCI Whiteleys, Virgin Chelsea. And local cinemas

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