Brief Encounters


Pacific Place

This true 1953 story of Irishman Desmond Doyle's David vs. Goliath legal battle to get his children back from orphanages—after his wife deserts them—gives County Meath-born Pierce Brosnan a chance to shed the Bond and bring back the brogue. (And, geez, he's about the handsomest underdog ever!) Still, Brosnan's innate suaveness doesn't prevent him from turning in a charming, down-to-earth performance in this solid family drama. Director Bruce Beresford doesn't eliminate, but at least keeps to a scant minimum, the weepy violin cues and heartstring tugs to a scant minimum. It's a bit suspicious that Doyle's kids (notably Sophie Vavasseur as Evelyn) and love interest (Julianna Margulies) are so faultlessly angelic and his lawyers (Stephen Rea, Adrian Quinn, and Alan Bates) are so impeccably amusing, but Brosnan's convincing portrayal of a father's love for his children makes the film rousing and life-affirming, which boosts Evelyn above its potentially cloying movie-of-the-week trappings. (PG) SHANNON GEE


Meridian, Woodinville, and others

Here's a sweet, silly cream puff that's no better or worse than Sweet Home Alabama or Maid in Manhattan, two of this year's most successful romantic comedies. Sandra Bullock is the Harvard-educated Lucy Kelson, a tree-hugging pro bono attorney who trades in the peasant skirts for power suits when she agrees to serve as chief counsel for playboy land developer George Wade (Hugh Grant). Initially, Lucy takes the job to save her beloved Coney Island, N.Y., community center from his company's wrecking ball, but she stays on to serve as nanny, therapist, consultant, and general life-runner for silly, scattered George. Grant plays his charming-rake thing to the hilt, and Bullock, also the film's producer, actually makes a convincing lawyer. Their chemistry is a little less convincing (why would she ever go for a guy like him?), but Notice is still dumb fun. (PG-13) LEAH GREENBLATT


Meridian, Oak Tree, and others

What is the state of American film when the latest from Nickelodeon is among the best movies I've seen this season? Call me naive, but I was on the edge of my seat for a good portion of this fun, 83-minute animated adventure. And while it's a kiddie movie, it aligns with a steady industry trend: Family movies get more mature every year, targeted as much at the adults who have to watch them as at the tykes they're billed for. The jungle-roving, R.V.-driving family of wildlife documentarians features all the TV show's regulars: inquisitive 12-year-old Eliza; eternally unhappy teen sister Debbie; adopted jungle-raised kid brother Donnie; nature-loving parents Nigel (Tim Curry) and Marianne; and the family's chimpanzee friend, Darwin. But this time around, the chimp cross-dresses and farts; Debbie gets a bushman boyfriend; naughty Eliza gets sent to boarding school (and runs away); and Rupert Everett and Marisa Tomei cameo as animal-snatching villains. (PG) KATIE MILLBAUER

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