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Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2008 12:57 am

Miracle at St. Anna bores instead of inspires

Miracle at St. Anna Running Time 2:40 Rated R Parkway Pointe
Spike Lee's intention with Miracle at St. Anna is to rectify the lack of recognition that's been given to African-American soldiers regarding their participation in World War II. More than once, the film grinds to a halt for one of the four principals to rail against the injustices they've had to put up with as soldiers forced to serve behind the scenes for a country that regards them as second-class citizens. This point needs to be made, but it becomes such an overt message that the production at times resembles a sermon rather than a movie.
This is only one of many problems with this well-intentioned but flawed movie which sports far too many subplots and a jagged pace to be engaging. Tepid and dull, this tale of four African-American soldiers stranded behind enemy lines in the Italian village of St. Anna lurches along in fits and starts, teasing the viewer with the occasional engaging moment that's ultimately undercut by needless exposition. The four in question, Stamps (Derek Luke), Cummings (Michael Ealy), Negron (Laz Alonso) and Train (Omar Benson Miller) find themselves dealing with Italian partisans, frightened civilians, vicious Nazis and Angelo (Angelo Torencelli), a boy they've saved who may or may not be good luck.

There's a good two-hour movie lurking about in this bloated 160-minute mess. Many scenes and subplots could have easily been cut to give Miracle the sense of urgency it desperately needs. What's so frustrating about the film is that it contains many potentially moving moments, including its fantastic climax. However, the boredom Lee allows to blossom stifles any emotional resonance or connection. In the end, you can't help but wish that the soldiers who died in St. Anna had been given a better tribute.
Crude, offensive and altogether unpleasant, Howard Duetch's My Best Friend's Girlfriend gives comic Dane Cook another chance to achieve film stardom, an opportunity he attacks with gusto. Too bad this material isn't worth his effort, as his role of Tank is one of the most conflicted and unlikable characters to hit the screen in some time. He hires himself out to desperate men who ask that he take their estranged girlfriend's out on the date-from-hell so that they will gratefully run back to their ex's arms. The lout-for-hire decides to help his best buddy Dustin (Jason Biggs), by giving this treatment to the object of his affection, Alexis (Kate Hudson), a woman of seemingly contradictory behaviors and experience.

My Best Friend’s Girl Running Time 1:43 Rated R ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East
When the young woman finds herself attracted to Tank's misogynist maneuvers you know the film's jumped the tracks and that we are dealing with three psychotic individuals who each need year's of therapy. Tanks' crisis of conscience when he experiences love is unconvincing, Dustin's sense of desperation becomes creepy and Alexis' erratic behavior convinced me she got what she deserved during the movie's tacked on, nonsensical ending. Trust me, you'll feel like you need a shower after sitting through this abrasive disaster.
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