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Think Different

Could it be that this year's crop of summer movies requires a brain cell or two?

Summer Movie Capsules
By Luke Y. Thompson
and Gregory Weinkauf

Down with LoveIn what will likely be either a massive counterprogramming hit or a total flop, the director of Bring It On and the forthcoming Fantastic Four brings us Ewan McGregor and Renée Zellweger in a pastel-colored period homage to '60s romantic comedies. We're supposed to recall Rock Hudson and Doris Day, but will contemporary audiences have memories that go that far back? (Fox)

The Matrix Reloaded Silly humans, Matrix is for kids! Or perhaps not, given the R rating of this summer's hugely anticipated (and hyped!) sequel. Once again, Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss and Laurence Fishburne don sexy sunglasses and adopt that weird, monotone cadence as they battle the Machine Army -- you know, in that other reality. They're assisted by the likes of Jada Pinkett Smith and Monica Bellucci against freaky nemeses Hugo Weaving, Lambert Wilson and a bunch of new characters who shoot at them a whole lot. Meanwhile, writers-directors Andy and Larry Wachowski plunder random mythology all the way to the bank. Let's just hope it doesn't inspire another Columbine. (Warner Bros.)

Pokémon Heroes You may exhale: The fifth Pokémon feature film has arrived. This time things get wet, as familiar characters like Ash and beloved Pikachu infiltrate an aquatic city to protect something called the Droplet of the Heart. See it quickly before Finding Nemo blows it out of the water. (Miramax)

Spellbound Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman have absolutely nothing to do with this feisty documentary about the American National Spelling Bee. Dewy director Jeff Blitz gets to the heart of childhood's most vital quest as eight youngsters and their hopeful parents and teachers seek the One who can save humanity from bad spelling. (ThinkFilm)

Friends and FamilyIt's The Birdcage meets Mickey Blue Eyes! A New York gay couple (Greg Lauren and Christopher Gartin) moonlights as mobsters, but their parents don't know, thinking the twosome runs a gay catering company. When the family shows up for a surprise visit, the charade is taken to extreme lengths, as the couple's mob buddies are coerced into pretending to be waiters and cooking up a dinner party. When rival gangs get involved, hilarity ensues. Advance word has it that this film may be the next My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but somehow the notion that Italians will embrace yet another Mafia comedy seems unlikely. (Regent)

2 Fast 2 Furious Star Vin Diesel and director Rob Cohen may have bailed on this particular franchise, but Paul Walker is still around, now directed by John Singleton, and hanging with a new bald-headed ethnic sidekick in the form of Tyrese Gibson. Multiculturalism was cited as a major part of the last film's success, so the cast also includes Ludacris, Eva Mendes, Cole Hauser and the simply monikered Jin. We figure it's the fast cars people like, though, and there are plenty -- as long as they crash into stuff, it's all good. (Universal)

Whale RiderNot actually a documentary about Lara Flynn Boyle visiting her boyfriend Jack Nicholson. Rather, based on a novel by Witi Ihimaera about a young Maori girl of the Whangara tribe who must struggle against both her beloved grandfather and a millennium of patriarchal rule to prove herself as a leader. The beach-dwelling tribe learns much from the girl when she demonstrates her spiritual connection to whales. (Newmarket Films)

Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd It's possibly the worst prequel idea since The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas: a Dumb and Dumber movie without Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels or the Farrelly brothers (or even Trey Parker and Matt Stone, long ago attached). Nonetheless, based on the trailer, Eric Christian Olsen's Carrey impersonation looks impressively dead-on. Maybe there's hope. (New Line)

From Justin to KellyCorrect us if we're wrong here, but wasn't American Idol a test of singing ability? When did the judges stop to analyze the acting talent of the contestants? Regardless, we'll all be able to judge for ourselves as winner Kelly Clarkson and finalist Justin Guarini star in this fiction film that reportedly involves a beach party. This might just put Mariah Carey's Glitter to shame -- not that it needed the help. On the other hand, screenwriter Kim Fuller did co-write the amusing Spice World. (Fox)

Rugrats Go Wild Those really grotesque-looking kids meet up with the globe-trotting Thornberrys in what promises to be an exotic adventure. Where else -- apart from maybe Spago -- are you going to get Tim Curry and LL Cool J in the same place? With music by Devo's zany front man, Mark Mothersbaugh. (Paramount)

Sweet Sixteen English working-man's filmmaker Ken Loach (Poor Cow, Bread and Roses) delivers the story of a Scottish lad (Martin Compston) struggling to make a new home for his mother, who's newly sprung from prison. Naturally, more hard knocks await. (Lions Gate)

Alex and Emma A Rob Reiner romantic comedy allegedly based on the Dostoyevsky short story "The Gambler" (more seriously adapted with Michael Gambon a few years back). Luke Wilson plays a novelist on deadline, while Kate Hudson is the stenographer who inspires him. As Wilson enacts scenes from the book in his head, Hudson morphs into multiple characters, thereby allowing the actress to try on for size several different hairstyles and accents. If she pulls it off, people may stop comparing Hudson to her mom. (Warner Bros.)

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