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Thursday, Feb. 23, 2006 03:58 pm

The need for speed

Anthony Hopkins portrays Burt Munro, an obsessed Kiwi, in The World's Fastest Indian

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Sometimes the sheer force of an actor’s personality or ability can compel an audience to sit through a film they might otherwise walk out on. Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep — they got it. Paul Walker, Ryan Phillippe, Van Heflin and Kim Basinger — dull as dishwater. Of course, Anthony Hopkins belongs in the former group, and this is never more evident than in his latest feature, The World’s Fastest Indian. The film chronicles the efforts of Burt Munro (Hopkins), a New Zealander who became obsessed with retrofitting a 1920 Indian motorcycle with the sole intention of setting a land-speed record with it. Such efforts are usually undertaken with the help of corporate sponsors and the support of a team, luxuries Munro does without, though he does have one staunch supporter, a neighborhood kid by the name of Tom (Aaron Murphy). When Munro does come into some money, his efforts go into overdrive, and he’s eventually able to make the trip to Los Angeles and then to Utah, where he enters the annual Speed Week events at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Needless to say, Munro has more than a few roadblocks to negotiate along the way — so many, in fact, that director Roger Donaldson flirts with tedium on more than one occasion. And yet Hopkins keeps us engaged throughout with his unassuming, charming characterization. By the time Munro finally straddles his beloved machine and sets out to prove that he’s capable of attaining what appears to be an elusive goal, we’re right there with him, hitting the gas and popping the clutch. Thanks to Donaldson, these scenes push us to the edge of our seats; credit Hopkins with engaging our hearts and minds in this character’s noble quest.

Also in theater this week. . .

Curious George [PG] That mischievous little monkey instigates havoc wherever he goes, but the man with the yellow hat tries to keep his lovable pet from making a huge mess. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East
Doogal [G] A motley crew of friends set out on a dangerous adventure to save the world from a deep freeze imposed by the evil wizard Zeebad. Parkway Pointe, ShowPlace East
Eight Below [PG] A pack of dogs struggles to survive a harsh Alaskan winter after their three human companions desert the scientific expedition due to the severe weather conditions. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East
Madea’s Family Reunion [PG-13] Another Tyler Perry adaptation from his stage productions featuring that freewheelin’ granny, Madea. Parkway Pointe, ShowPlace East
Running Scared [R] A mid-level mobster must retrieve a gun used in a murder while his family’s lives hang in the balance. ShowPlace West
Turtles Can Fly [Not Rated] The wrenching tale of a Kurdish refugee camp on the night before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Kurdish with English subtitles White Oaks
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