Mr. Movie

'Hancock' not good for Smith

Superman has the Fortress of Solitude, Batman his cave. Will Smith's super-powered Hancock has a bottle of booze and a bus bench. When sober enough to do a good deed, Hancock causes car crashes, breaks windows, damages buildings and hurts innocent people. Most hate him, and some have filed multimillion-dollar lawsuits that are ignored.

Hancock gets no respect until he rescues a struggling public relations executive who convinces him to change.

Ace action director Peter Berg (The Kingdom) works hard to ramp things up but outside of one or two clever scenes, Smith's character doesn't have the energy or enough personality to get much more than half-hearted laughs.

With the edgy comedy thing not working, Berg's two TV-experience-only writers switch directions. In part two, Hancock takes a left turn and becomes more of a drama. The "twist" is surprising but not all that unexpected.

Smith's holiday movie savior superpowers -- in terms of script choice -- have been sapped by Hollywood's version of Kryptonite, a sense of box-office invincibility. Last year's I Am Legend wasn't. Though he grabbed an Oscar nomination for his 2006 performance in The Pursuit of Happyness, the film was underwhelming and so was Hitch the year before that.

Smith really hasn't done anything worth raving about since Ali and probably shouldn't have put his John Hancock on Hancock either. On paper, a comic, anti-social superhero sounds fun. But like Uma Thurman's My Super Ex-Girlfriend a couple of years ago, Hancock is a one-dimensional joke with nowhere to go.

Mr. Movie rating: 3 stars.

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl

Experience has made Hollywood's favorite new child star Abigail Breslin a better actress. It's too bad producers can't give her roles with more meat like Little Miss Sunshine.

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl casts Breslin as a Depression-era kid. She and excellent co-stars Julia Ormond, Stanley Tucci, Wallace Shawn and others, spoon-feed us politically correct dialogue on the struggles of the homeless and what it's like to go from prosperity to poverty.

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl is episodic. Its pieces are crammed into neat compartments like writer Ann Peacock -- one of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe's many writers -- and director Patricia Rozema wanted room for TV commercials.

Perhaps TV was the film's original destination, or maybe Peacock and Rozema just wanted to give the story a 1920s Depression-era movie flavor. They manage to capture the mood, but the preachy plot and zip for action undo what could have been an excellent movie for girls.

Mr. Movie rating: 3 stars.