SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW (PG, 107 minutes)
An adventure movie that pays homage to the old Saturday morning serials and breaks new technological ground at the same time, "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" is fine for kids 10 and older, though they may be put off by its murky plot and often dim lighting. Teen animation buffs may be the best audience for it. The movie features dizzying aerobatic dogfights, gun battles and plain old-fashioned slugfests between the heroic Sky Captain (Jude Law) and the invading machines. One rather crude line is spoken in a foreign language and translated in subtitles. There is also mild sexual innuendo. Kids under 10 might find the huge, pounding destroyer robots and others that look like reptilian monsters too creepy.
Writer-director Kerry Conran wanted to create a story using human actors against an entirely computer-generated backdrop. The result can be jaw-dropping, but not without drawbacks such as the actors occasionally looking a bit fuzzy around the edges. The opening scene, in which a dirigible docks at the top of the Empire State Building, is terrific, and the grandiose architecture harks back to Fritz Lang's silent classic "Metropolis" (1927).
Set in what appears to be late 1930s Manhattan, the plot is an amalgam of comic-book-style twists about missing German scientists, invading robots, remote-controlled flying machines and planes that can dive underwater. The story travels from Manhattan to mythical Shangri-La and back as our hero, dashing mercenary fighter-pilot Joe "Sky Captain" Sullivan (Law) and feisty, scarlet-lipped newspaper reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) chase after the evil genius behind the robot invasion of New York. (We see Polly dodging their giant feet.) Franky (Angelina Jolie), Polly's rival for Joe's affection, captains an amphibious plane squadron. The stars play to the material -- broad strokes, droll delivery.
WIMBLEDON (PG-13, 100 minutes)
A love story set during a championship tennis tournament, this film overcomes all kinds of movie cliches -- the stern father interfering with true love, off-court passion affecting on-court prowess -- and lobs a witty, gentle, mainstream film with a few exciting, well-choreographed match points. Filmed on the legendary courts of the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club in Wimbledon, the movie feels right. It has a droll, smart point-of-view, both in its sprightly visual style and its script. Then there's Paul Bettany's hugely ingratiating turn as a British contender at the end of his career, who falls for a young American player (Kirsten Dunst, in a rather cool performance) who has the killer instinct on the court that he lacks.
In this age of sappy, dumbed-down romantic comedies, "Wimbledon" is the exception and fine fare for high schoolers and many middle schoolers, but not preteens, and with this caveat: It chronicles a relationship between two singles that begins with casual sex ("fooling around" before the first match) and evolves into something more. There are no sex scenes, actually, just kissing and implied trysts. However, the film contains sexually tinged humor, most of it subtle, but with occasionally lewd slang, a joke about masturbation and two scenes in which the sounds of lovemaking (not by the protagonists) provide comic effects. A couple of bare derrieres, a changing-of-underwear montage and a nude silhouette behind a shower curtain also earn the PG-13, along with profanity and scatological humor. A gag about barbecuing a garden-munching rabbit may upset some.
Bettany plays Peter, a player ranked No. 119, invited to compete as the wild card at Wimbledon -- his last hurrah. He walks into the wrong hotel room and sees Lizzie (Dunst) in the shower. The attraction is instant, which is where the cliches kick in but do not kill the charm. Bettany narrates now and then in droll, self-deprecating voice-overs, and Bernard Hill and Eleanor Bron are a treat as his eccentric parents.