Justin Bieber in Justin Bieber: Never Say NeverJUSTIN BIEBER: NEVER SAY NEVER

Leave it to that great Socratic thinker Ozzy Osbourne, in a recent TV commercial, to ask the question that's been on many a middle-aged mind of late: "What's a Bieber?"

Rob Schneider, Chris Rock, Kevin James, Adam Sandler, and David Spade in Grown UpsGROWN UPS

In basic outline, director Dennis Dugan's Grown Ups is similar to last autumn's Couples Retreat, that witless, odious comedy in which a gaggle of Hollywood stars enjoyed a luxury weekend on a tropical isle and demanded that audiences pick up the tab. (More than $100-million worth of ticket buyers actually did. Staggering.) Beyond their locales, though, the main difference between them is that Couples Retreat starred Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Jon Favreau, Faizon Love, and Malin Akerman, while Dugan's film top-bills Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, and the entertainment vacuum known as Rob Schneider. Was this Happy Madison production - written by Sandler and Fred Wolf - going to pull off the borderline-miraculous feat of being the lesser of the two movies?

Adam Sandler and Leslie Mann in Funny PeopleFUNNY PEOPLE

Leslie Mann, the wife of comedy kingpin Judd Apatow, is unfailingly awesome, and I love her in her husband's first two outings as a film writer/director: 2005's The 40-Year-Old Virgin and 2007's Knocked Up. So it pains me to say that I would've enjoyed Apatow's third auteurist venture - the current Funny People - a whole lot more if Mann's character had been excised from it completely. Of course, that would've made the movie almost a full hour shorter than it is. That would've been all right, too.

Kyle Szen and Meredith Jones in The Wedding SingerOn Thursday night, the Timber Lake Playhouse opened The Wedding Singer, the musical-comedy version of 1998's love-in-the-'80s movie hit starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. Imaginatively and exuberantly directed by Brad Lyons, it's a joyful take on stage material that (in a wonderful surprise) is pretty damned terrific to start with, and Thursday's production was so big-hearted, so funny, so brilliantly costumed, and so smashingly well-performed that I might as well get it out of the way and say that its technical presentation was so routinely clunky that it bordered on the infuriating.

Jamal Woolard in NotoriousNOTORIOUS

Every musician's life is different, of course, but every musical bio-pic seems fundamentally the same: The humble beginnings, followed by the first hints of greatness, followed by the early romantic interests, followed by the steady rise to fame, followed by the new romantic interests, followed by the explosive success, followed by the personal setbacks, followed by the professional setbacks, followed by the cementing of the legend ... and if the movie can find room for a title card reading "With his life he proved that no dream is too big," so much the better.

Kevin Spacey and Jim Sturgess in 2121

Based on the Ben Mezrich nonfiction Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions, the film 21 boasts a far snappier title, yet I wouldn't recommend viewing it if you're even a day older than that. It's not often that a true story is re-told with such aggressive fraudulence, but 21 is a rare and rather spectacular failure - one in which your bullshit detectors wail at you early on and don't stop until you're rendered nearly deaf. The movie is directed by Robert Luketic, who also helmed Legally Blonde, and it's all just slightly less believable than Legally Blonde.

 

Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves in The Lake HouseTHE LAKE HOUSE

In The Lake House, Sandra Bullock plays Kate Forster, a Chicago doctor living in the glass-encased home of the movie's title. Upon abandoning her domicile for a move back to the city, Kate leaves a letter for the next tenant in the edifice's mailbox; the note is received by Keanu Reeves' architect Alex Winter, who responds, thus beginning a pen-pal relationship between the two. Based on their shared tastes, histories, and a fondness for melancholic gush, it's obvious the two are Meant for Each Other. But, unfortunately, a Happily Ever After doesn't appear in the offing, as there's a major hitch to their relationship: Kate lives in 2006, while Alex is firmly nestled in 2004.

In discussing this year's Oscar races in the picture, director, and the acting categories, we may as well begin with the nominee area audiences had the least chance of catching, as it was the only major contender yet to get an area release: Duncan Tucker's Transamerica.

Rob Schneider and Eddie Griffin in Deuce Bigalow: European GigoloDEUCE BIGALOW: EUROPEAN GIGOLO

Some comedies are so colossally, ridiculously unfunny that you're left with no choice but to stare at them in abject bewilderment. To the surprise of probably no one, Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo is such a comedy. Yet the movie - and I hesitate to call it one - is actually far more intriguing than "colossally, ridiculously unfunny" would indicate.

Jack Black in The School of RockSCHOOL OF ROCK

I've seen Sidney Poitier do it. I've seen Robin Williams do it. I've seen Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer, Edward James Olmos ... hell, I've seen Dame Maggie Smith do it. But I have never seen an actor playing The Inspirational Teacher connect with his students as believably, and oddly beautifully, as Jack Black does in The School of Rock.

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