Children abide (or don’t) in this week’s new movie releases, including The Florida Project and Goodbye Christopher Robin
Matthew Lickona 3 p.m., Oct. 20
Clint Eastwood was due for a dud, and this stacks up as his flattest film, his stumpiest film, since Blood Work, bookending his hot streak of Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, and the Second World War diptych, Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. Time once again to take it easy. Perhaps a partial explanation (or excuse) might be found in the fact that Eastwood took over the project from Ron Howard (still a co-producer on it), and certainly it possesses a moral simplicity that would seem these days to be beneath his interest. Never beneath Howard’s, however. An eighty-year-old nugget unearthed from the annals of the LAPD, fit for a remember-when newspaper story on a round-number anniversary, it tells of the disappearance of a nine-year-old boy on the day his working single mother, a roller-skating switchboard supervisor, was to have taken him to the new Chaplin picture (The Circus, presumably), and of the strong-arm attempts of the beleaguered police department, five months later, to palm off on her an imposter — the world’s oldest changeling — rounded up at a diner in Illinois. The situation, for all its purported factuality, is too ridiculous to be truly gripping; too much so even to be minimally maddening. Angelina Jolie, with Star Power on her side, in addition to Mother Love, in addition to Truth and Justice, campaigns for sainthood in a cloche hat and a hummock of crimson lipstick, accentuating her most grotesque feature — a pair of novelty-shop plastic lips — and providing the only dash of color in a frigid blue image. Validation, if not official canonization, will come in the form of four rounds of applause in open court. With inferior material, Eastwood’s “classical” style and deliberate pace (filling, and overfilling, his accustomed two-and-a-quarter-hour time slot) amount to little more than proficient hackwork. John Malkovich, Jeffrey Donovan, Colm Feore, Jason Butler Harner. 2008.