The Way Home Directed by Lee Jeong-hyang (Paramount Classics, opens November 15)
A petulant city brat (Yoo Seung-ho) is livid when his frazzled mother packs him off to a remote mountain village for a stay with Grandma (Kim Eul-boon), and the little sociopath aims all of his ire squarely at his mute, saintly new caretaker. (A few faint echoes of Manoel de Oliveira's I'm Going Hometitular and otherwisedo this film no favors.) Lee Jeong-hyang's punitively affirmational parable seems anomalous amid the paranoiac thrillers and s&m paroxysms that constitute much of South Korea's movie export, barring perhaps the weirdly ebullient relish the director takes in ogling Granny's patiently endured humiliations. Of course, this painfully stooped old woman represents ancient, battered, selfless Mother Nature, offering unconditional love and sustenance to the wasteful urbanite who runs riot in her cottage and steals her shoes. Eventually, she kills him with kindness, though less stoic viewers might wish she'd use the nearest blunt object instead. Jessica Winter
The Santa Clause 2 Directed by Michael Lembeck (Disney)
In this totally bearable sequel, Santa (Tim Allen) must find a bride by Christmas Eve if he wants to retain his red suit. To save time, an elf (Spencer Breslin) clones him. The real Claus heads for warmer climes for rapid-fire dating while his copy assumes dictatorial control of the North Pole. The scenes in which Fake Santa torments the elves with a toy soldier army are twisted enough to make it worth sticking around through the mawkish courtshipit's been impossible to take a romantic sleigh ride seriously ever since Kramer fed Beefarino to that hansom horse. Like most Christmas movies, Clause 2 stresses conformityif you're not feeling that Yuletide cheer, well then, by golly, there must be something wrong with you. Ben Kenigsberg
Leela Directed by Somnath Sen (Lemon Tree, at the Loews State)
Bollywood's cerebral, luminous Dimple Kapadia must be atoning for her cloying first name and Breck Girl quintessence via this priggish, lethargically paced parable of renewal, which interprets South Asian identity struggles and the regret implicit in love with all the complexity of a Mentos commercial. Less contemplative than Jennifer O'Neill in Summer of '42 or even Rebecca De Mornay's Risky Business hooker, Kapadia trudges along in flawless English as dour Leela, a Bombay professor whose faltering marriage to froggy-looking, philandering poet Nashaad (Vinod Khanna) unravels during a semester teaching in Southern California. Her cautious rebirth is cued by Kris (Amol Mhatre), a fratty Indian American student and Leela's eventual inamorato. Kris's own journey toward truth, meanwhile, reveals a heritage jaundiced by his divorced mother Chaitali's (Deepti Naval) conflicted sexual hypocrisy. Knitted-brow acting, always a drag, is amplified to pathology here. Nita Rao
Get the Film Club Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.
More Film News
- Alex Gibney: Steve Jobs Had the 'Focus of a Monk — Without the Empathy'
- Netflix’s 'Narcos' Tries to Be 'The Wire' for Colombia’s Drug War
- ‘The Second Mother’ Offers a Sharp Brazilian Take on the Upstairs/Downstairs Drama
- The Predictability of Teary Kids Doc 'My Voice, My Life' Doesn't Make It Any Less Powerful