Patch Adams—Robin Williams plays yet another doctor in this film based on a true story. With his shtick split between a clown, mental patient, and doctor, Patch Adams was one of those medical professionals who could only have been possible in the early '70s, when he formed the unorthodox Gesundheit Institute, which was dedicated to curing ailments with balloons, gorilla suits, and tubs full of noodles. Directed by Tom Shadyac (Liar Liar, The Nutty Professor, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective).
Hurly Burly—Four Hollywood players snort and screw their way into oblivion. Somehow, that's supposed to make them deep, just like Eddie's (Sean Penn) new-agey self-analysis: "Everything is very distracting, but what I've really noticed is that mainly, the thing I'm most distracted by is myself. I mean, I'm my own major distraction." The swanky condo, the drugs, and the bimbos are all part of the proverbial search for meaning, so we're not supposed to hate these guys for doing things like screaming, "Suck my dick," or offering up to each other a 14-year-old runaway girl (Anna Paquin) as a "pet" who fucks. We're supposed to feel sorry for them. One of them even dies. That's three too few, in my opinion. How on earth did the play upon which this movie is based win a Tony? As void of redemption as its characters are, the movie landed some big stars, including Sean Penn as an insecure casting director, Kevin Spacey as his smooth roommate and business partner, and Meg Ryan as an exotic dancer with a special talent for giving blow jobs in moving vehicles.—Nina Shapiro
Mighty Joe Young—Word has it that this is a family-friendly spin on the 1949 King Kong, with computer-generated special effects to enhance shots of the 15-foot-tall gorilla running down Hollywood Boulevard to escape greedy poachers, media hounds, and the LAPD. Starring blonde-of-the-moment Charlize Theron (Celebrity) as the gorilla's only friend and Bill Paxton as a zoologist that wins the hearts of both chimp and chick.
The Faculty—The latest from Midas screenwriter Kevin Williamson (Scream, Scream 2, and I Know What You Did Last Summer) has a winning premise: Students at Harrington High discover that their teachers aren't just uncool, they're aliens from another planet that must be destroyed! Directed by Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk 'Til Dawn) and starring beautiful teens
Elijah Wood (Deep Impact), Josh Harnett (Halloween H2O), and Jordana Brewster (As the World Turns).
You've Got Mail—Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) is a devoted proprietor of a children's bookstore who gives dramatic readings to awestruck tots and knows her stuff from Noel Streatfield to Roald Dahl. Around the corner looms big business in the form of a Barnes & Noblestyle giant, complete with cappuccino franchise, owned by mogul Joe Fox (Tom Hanks). Little knowing that they're already chat-room friends on the Internet, Joe and Kathleen keep crossing paths—and swords—as Joe's behemoth drains the life and soul out of Kathleen's business. Even without their class war, Joe and Kathleen aren't an intuitive match. He takes his inspiration—and his business practices—from The Godfather, while she takes hers from Jane Austen. He goes to swank literary soirees with his black-clad girlfriend (Parker Posey, hyperventilating as usual) while Kathleen prefers to loll around at home in floppy socks. The point of all this is to saddle two already ill-matched people with more and more obstacles, then knock them all down in the name of a passionate intimacy that knows no social barriers. Yet it's not chemistry, not even sexual hostility, that charges the air between Hanks and Ryan. She's cute, he's amiable; together they generate about as much electricity as a long-married couple parked in front of the telly.—Ella Taylor