Following are Susan Granger's reviews of the latest movies in area theaters:


Best known for its silly, cheeky "Wallace & Gromit" shorts, along with "Chicken Run," "Flushed Away" and "Arthur Christmas," Britain's Aardman Animation blends its stop-motion plasticine Claymation technique with CG special effects in this family-friendly 3D frolic on the high seas.

For 20 years, bumbling Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) has wanted to win the coveted "Pirate of the Year" award when his colleagues of sea-faring rogues convene on Blood Island, but he doesn't stand much of chance compared with the plundering booty of his dastardly rivals -- like Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven), Peg Leg Hastings (Lenny Henry) and Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayek).

But Pirate Captain's fortunes change in 1836, when he and his underachieving shipmates encounter the Beagle, a research ship carrying a young scientist named Charles Darwin (David Tennant), who identifies his beloved parrot Polly as the last surviving dodo, representative of a species thought to be long-extinct.

If Darwin can present portly Polly as a specimen to the Royal Society in London, it would be not only be considered a most commendable achievement but also great riches will follow. The complication is: sailing to London, where Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton) bars pirates from entering the Thames. So the buccaneers must travel in disguise and expect many manic chases.

Adapted by book author Gideon Defoe and co-directed by Peter Lord and Jeff Newitt, it's distinguished by its vocal cast (including Martin Freeman, Brendan Gleeson, Ashley Jensen, Russell Tovey and Brian Blessed in a cameo as the Pirate King) and clever production design, like the coveted Pirate of the Year trophy - a golden skull with a large garnet stuffed into one eye socket and a cutlass through it - and Mr. Bobo, Darwin's `man-panzee.' Admittedly, however, some of the humor -such as the Elephant Man and Jane Austen references - passes far over the heads of the intended audience of youngsters.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Pirates! Band of Misfits" is a swashbuckling 7, subtly referencing evolutionary science with an insidious spoonful-of-sugar.


Relying on the simple slapstick that characterized a variety of two-reel shorts, lasting 15-18 minutes, dating back to 1934-1946, by the manic comedic trio known as the Three Stooges, Peter and Bobby Farrelly ("Dumb & Dumber," "There's Something About Mary") have retained, revived and re-created their nostalgically amusing antics.

Simulating continuous episodes, the film is divided into three parts, each filled with mayhem. The first, "More Orphan Than Not" chronicles how short-tempered Moe (Chris Diamantopoulos), savvy Larry (Sean Hayes) and dim-witted Curly (Will Sasso) were dumped in a duffle bag on the doorstep of the Sisters of Mercy Orphanage. Almost immediately, they wreak havoc, terrorizing the nuns, including beatific Sister Bernice (swimsuit model Kate Upton), singing Sister Rosemary (Jennifer Hudson), sinister Sister Mary-Mengele (Larry David in drag) and their long-suffering, kind-hearted Mother Superior (Jane Lynch).

Although the nuns try desperately over the years to get them adopted, no one wants them, although the Harters (Stephen Collins, Carly Craig) come close. Later episodes find them grown and, eventually, dispatched into the outside world. Unless they can raise $830,000 in 30 days to satisfy Monsignor Ratcliffe (Brian Doyle-Murray), the bankrupt orphanage will close. As various schemes fail, the situation grows more and desperate, particularly when irascible Moe is chosen to be "Dyna-Moe," the newest cast member on TV's "Jersey Shore."

Although Benicio Del Toro, Sean Penn and Jim Carrey were the Farrellys' original choices, that was not to be, even though Carrey packed on 40 pounds in anticipation of playing Curly. After they dropped out, this new cast of bungling, uninhibited bumblers was chosen -- plus there are cameos by Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino, Jennifer "JWoww" Farley, Ronnie Ortiz-Magro, Paul "Pauly D" DelVecchio and Samantha Giancola.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Three Stooges" is a frantic, foolishly funny 5, concluding in a postscript as two actors, playing the Farrelly brothers, explain how the sadomasochistic stunts, like fake eye-poking, nostril-yanking and head-slapping, were performed, advising children not to attempt to duplicate these tricks at home.


Romantic should be Nicolas Sparks' middle name. Seven of his best-selling novels have been adapted for the screen, including "The Notebook," "Nights in Rodanthe," "A Walk to Remember" and "Message in a Bottle." They all involve lovers whose paths are troubled by grief, loss and redemption, as the fickle finger of fate determines their destiny.

U.S. Marine Sgt. Logan Thibault (Zac Efron) served three tours of duty in Iraq, and he credits his survival to a "lucky" photograph he picked up from the sand after a bloody skirmish with insurgents. It's of a beautiful blonde in front of a lighthouse -- with "Keep safe" written on the back. After showing it to his comrades, none of whom claim ownership, Logan thinks of her as his guardian angel and totes the photograph back with him when he returns to his sister's home in Colorado.

Still traumatized, Logan locates the lighthouse on the Internet and walks cross-country to the Louisiana bayou where it stands. Arriving in the nearby town of Hamden with his faithful German Shepherd, Zeus, he tracks down Beth (Taylor Schilling), a skeptical divorcee who lives with her adorable young son, Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart), and saucily observant grandmother (Blythe Danner). Strong and silent, he's unable to tell her about the photograph that once belonged to her deceased Marine brother. So Logan takes a job in the dog kennel Beth runs, arousing the ire of Beth's jealous ex (Jay R. Ferguson), the local deputy sheriff whose politically ambitious father is the local judge. Predictably, Logan and Beth fall in love.

With a screenplay adapted by Will Fetters, director Scott Hicks ("Shine," "Snow Falling on Cedars") introduces a brief glimpse of military action but then sets a leisurely pace for the courtship and its inevitable tensions and complications, lushly photographed by Alar Kivilo and punctuated by Mark Isham's dreamy score, as handsome Zac Efron scores as a teenage heartthrob.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Lucky One" is a sappy, sentimental 6, melting like a gooey marshmallow melodrama.