Bee MovieBEE MOVIE

During its first 15 minutes or so, Dreamworks' computer-animated Bee Movie is a visual delight but not much of an aural one.

Charlize Theron and Tommy Lee Jones in In the Valley of ElahIN THE VALLEY OF ELAH

Paul Haggis' In the Valley of Elah continually approaches greatness without ever really getting there.

Shrek the ThirdSHREK THE THIRD

Shrek the Third finds its computer-animated ogre undergoing something of a mid-life crisis, and based on the evidence here, so is the series itself. In contrast to the constant hyperactivity and relentlessly aggressive pop-culture references of the first two Shrek films, this latest offering is notable for its distinct lack of aggression; the film hasn't completely shucked off the qualities that made its forbears such (literal) monster hits, but on occasion, it actually takes the time to curtail its smart-alecky, type-A tendencies and just breathe. In doing so, it stands as my favorite Shrek movie to date. Unfortunately, that isn't high praise.

Christopher Moynihan, Harry Shearer, Catherine O'Hara, and Parker Posey in For Your ConsiderationFOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

I love Christopher Guest's improvisational comedies with a passion bordering on mania, and he and co-scenarist Eugene Levy have been wonderfully consistent about treating fans to a new one every three years; 1997's Waiting for Guffman led to 2000's Best in Show and 2003's peerless A Mighty Wind. Now we have For Your Consideration, a skewering of the annual Oscar-derby madness, and I couldn't have been more excited about seeing it. So why, despite its many, many great moments, does reflecting on the director's latest leave me feeling disappointed, and a little depressed?

Tilda Swinton and Skandar Keynes in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, & the WardrobeTHE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH, & THE WARDROBE

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe, director Andrew Adamson's imagining of the first book in C. S. Lewis' Narnia series, is almost childishly clunky, but it's nearly impossible to dislike. Geared, as it appears, toward a very young audience - I'd say seven or eight - the movie is sweet, and it's sincere, and it displays a welcome touch of fairy-tale simplicity. Despite the rather prosaic nature of its presentation, Narnia is one of those movies that, if it catches children at the right age, might linger in their memories for some time to come; it's just magical enough to suggest how magical it should have been. For kids who are finally seeing their beloved Narnia novel translated to the big screen, Adamson's Narnia will be good enough. It just doesn't have much to offer the rest of us. Adamson is co-director of the Shrek movies, and he does a fair enough job with the movie's CGI wonders; the lion Messiah Aslan (voiced, to the surprise of no one, by Liam Neeson) moves with regal grace, and the beavers who accompany the Pevensie children on their quest seem to be, for kids in the audience, enjoyably frisky characters. But all throughout the film, I had the nagging feeling that, if he was allowed, Adamson would have happily computer-generated his humans, too.

MadagascarMADAGASCAR

See enough movies, especially ones geared to the younger set, and you all but stop expecting to be surprised by the arc of the plot; our heroes will learn valuable Life Lessons, generally while embarking on A Perilous Journey, good will triumph over evil, the comforts of home, family, and friends will prove more beguiling than any possible adventure, yada yada yada. The joy - the shock - of the new computer-animated comedy Madagascar is that, from scene to scene, you might find yourself having no clue where events will lead, yet you're laughing too hard to pay the matter much mind.

Scrat in Ice AgeICE AGE

Movies with charm have been in such short supply this year that the animated Ice Age feels like a shot of pure oxygen. Visually, the film is lacking the detail of a Shrek or a Monsters, Inc., and it's a bit on the goody-goody side, but it's a completely enjoyable, amiable good time at the cineplex, particularly if you've been looking for a movie to take the family to that's less saccharine than Return to Neverland and infinitely smarter than the likes of Big Fat Liar and Snow Dogs.

Nicole Kidman in The OthersTHE OTHERS

Alejandro Amenabar's ghostly The Others feels like the film version of some beautifully chilling short story by Lovecraft or Shirley Jackson, where "Boo!"-style thrills take a back seat to dread and psychological complexity; it's a savvy, entertaining piece.

Halle Berry and Hugh Jackman in SwordfishSWORDFISH, ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE, and LARA CROFT, TOMB RAIDER

Within a four-day span, I sat through Swordfish, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, and Lara Croft, Tomb Raider, and have become convinced that they're all the same movie. True, one is a sleek action-thriller, one a Disney cartoon, and one inspired by a popular videogame, but consider:

ShrekSHREK

Let's face it: Kids are gonna love Shrek, Dreamworks' comedic, computer-animated fairy tale. They'll get a kick out of the loud, outsize characters and superb visuals, and they'll probably laugh a lot. No one under 12 will want to miss it.

As for the rest of us ... .