MOVIES: 'I Don't Know How She Does It,' 'Dolphin Tale' and 'Coral Reef Adventure'
Following are Susan Granger's reviews of the latest movies playing in area theaters:
"I DON'T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT"
How to juggle marriage, motherhood and career? That's the dilemma hot shot Boston investment analyst Kate Reddy (Sarah Jessica Parker) faces every single day, including weekends and holidays. She's really ambitious, so when her boss (Kelsey Grammer) offers her the business opportunity of a lifetime, she's determined to do it all ... which includes sending something that looks "homemade" to the classroom baked goods sale, throwing her youngsters elaborate birthday parties and endlessly transporting them to and from school, play dates and appointments.
Meanwhile, her laid-off architect husband (Greg Kinnear) is starting his own firm and the kids instinctively know just which guilt-buttons to push. Then there's the suave British widower/banker (Pierce Brosnan), a corporate bigwig based in Manhattan, who thinks he may be falling in love with her.
Using the "Sex and the City" device of revealing insights into the camera, Kate's best-friend/working mother (Christina Hendricks) burbles her praises while her workaholic executive assistant (Olivia Munn) expresses her doubts, her office rival (Seth Meyers) smugly gloats about her struggles and a nasty, stay-at-home "Momster" (Busy Phillips) constantly criticizes Kate's choices.
Like Carrie Bradshaw, it's all about simpering, self-absorbed Kate. So when this ditz wails with dismay because her nanny took her 2-year-old son for his first haircut, inadvertently sends a suggestive e-mail to a colleague and adjusts her underwear while teleconferencing, it's hard to be sympathetic. It's also difficult to relate to pampered trophy wives who, literally, spend all day working out at the gym.
Although based on the wry best-seller by British author Allison Pearson, it's somehow lost its sense of humor en route to the screen, which is surprising since Aline Brosh McKenna had such success adapting "The Devil Wears Prada." Perhaps the fault lies with Douglas McGrath's ("Emma") generic direction, or maybe a superficial, retro story about stereotypically stressed, privileged people seems stale during a recession economy.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "I Don't Know How She Does it" is a frantic 5, as SJP's balancing act predictably collapses.
Back in 2005, troubled, fatherless, 11 year-old Sawyer Nelson (Nathan Gamble) was walking down South Beach in Florida, when he saw a young dolphin caught in a crab trap. Determined to help, he cuts the ropes, comforts the stranded animal and summons a marine rescue team who deliver her to a dedicated marine biologist, Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick Jr.), at Clearwater Marine Hospital.
Named Winter by Haskett's chattering daughter Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff), she is suffering critical damage to her tail, requiring amputation. As the odds against her survival mount, along with the aquarium's debts, Sawyer devotes himself 24/7 to Winter's care, ditching summer school, much to the initial chagrin of his hard-working single mom, Lorraine (Ashley Judd). And when Sawyer discovers that the military is developing prosthetics, he convinces ingenious Dr. Cameron McCarthy (Morgan Freeman) at the VA Hospital to take a look at Winter.
"No one in his right mind would try to put a tail on a fish," McCarthy mutters. "Which, luckily, I'm not."
Combining fact with fiction, screenwriters Karen Janszen and Noam Dromi delineate courage, dedication and persistence in overcoming adversity, dovetailing with a subplot involving Sawyer's swimming champion cousin Kyle (Austin Stowell), who returns home injured after his Army deployment in the Middle East.
In addition to assembling a remarkable acting ensemble, including Kris Kirstofferson and Frances Sternhagen, director Charles Martin Smith ("Air Bud"), working with cinematographer Karl Walter Lindenlaub and production designer Michael Corenblith, relates this heart-warming, real-life story which led to the development of a sticky, super-soft, flexible prosthetic material, dubbed "Winter's Gel," that has changed the lives of physically challenged people everywhere.
Filmed at Clearwater Marine Aquarium -- made famous at www.seewinter.com -- indomitable Winter plays herself in the movie, plus there's fascinating documentary footage of her swimming and interacting with children and other amputees, and a second aquarium building is opening that will display the movie props.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Dolphin Tale" is a feel-good, family-friendly, inspiring 8 -- with a special appeal to youngsters who love animals.
"CORAL REEF ADVENTURE"
At the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, you can submerge into the warm, tropical water of the South Pacific for a fascinating subterranean adventure, narrated by Liam Neeson and featuring familiar, toe-tapping tunes by Crosby, Stills and Nash.
Often called "the rain forests of the sea," coral reefs have thrived around the world for 60 million years. Yet 75 percent of their diverse ecosystems are now threatened by pollution, over-fishing, careless logging, silt runoff and global warming. So husband-and-wife filmmakers Howard and Michele Hall teamed up with Fijian diver Rusi Vulakoro and scientists Jean-Michael Cousteau and Richard Pyle to document this destruction and try to do something about it, because it's estimated that -- within 30 years -- coral reefs may vanish entirely.
Australia's magnificent Great Barrier Reef is protected and, as such, it's thriving with astounding examples of marine diversity, including giant clams and huge potato cod. But in Fiji, the soft coral capital of the world, many of the reefs are desolate and dying -- with a lone octopus scrounging for morsels among the bleached-out rubble. Noting, "Observation is the first step in science," camera-carrying divers are determined to document why.
Aside from donning scuba gear, there's no better way to visually explore a reef-scape than through the spectacular IMAX lens, particularly when CSN's "Our House" accompanies a shrimp and a Gobe fish in symbiotic harmony or when an intrepid marine biologist opens her mouth so a shrimp-like sea creature, whose mission it is to scrub the teeth of larger fish, can crawl in. There's dazzling diversity under the seas -- and it's awesome to see a school of 300 gray reef sharks swarming in a deep canyon off the Rangiroa atoll inTahiti.
MacGillivray Freeman Films, based on the Pacific Coast Highway near Laguna Beach, specializes in IMAX films that demonstrate their concern about the ocean and its inhabitants.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Coral Reef Adventure" is an educational, stimulating 6, encouraging environmental support on behalf of the world's endangered reefs. For show schedules, call (203) 852-0700 or visit www.MaritimeAquarium.org.