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At long last, The Golden Compass, New Line's high-stakes attempt at launching yet another massively profitable fantasy franchise, opens today, though the buzz on the Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig movie is lukewarm at best (currently a 44% Tomatometer score). Will director Chris Weitz prove he can effectively trade in pastry-penetration for shiny magical trinkets and talking CGI polar bears, or would the overstuffed and overlong epic, as frigid as Kidman after a cosmetic emotion-removal procedure, not even manage to inspire Andy Samberg to roll out of bed this Sunday with a box of freshly baked cupcakes for a matinée showing? A sampling of what the critics are saying:

· "The best you can say about The Golden Compass is that it's merely the second-dullest Nicole Kidman/Daniel Craig film this year." [NY Post]

· "For once, the smooth planes of [Nicole Kidman's] face, untroubled by visible lines, serve the character...But [the film is] hampered by its fealty to the book and its madly rushed pace..." [NY Times]
· "Big, noisy, and fantastic yet curiously sodden, too, filled with talking animals, sparkly light showers, and vague hints of ''religious'' feeling that are never more than distant echoes, The Golden Compass is a snowbound mystical-whizbang kiddie ride that hovers somewhere between the loopy and the lugubrious." [EW]
· "You need proper charts, a year's supply of baked beans, and Sir Ernest Shackleton if you've got any hope of finding the plot." [London Times]
· "If you have a friend who has read the books, buy him a ticket and take him along. You'll need him. Otherwise you will find yourself scratching your head at a movie that tries way too hard to do way too much in way too short a time." [Arizona Republic]
· "The Golden Compass ultimately fails as a film in its broad strokes and inadequate scene development. The film undershoots the high mark for fantasy-franchise momentum set by New Line's previous epic success The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring — to the point that, at its abrupt end, Compass rudely insists that its audience follow the story to a second effort." [Premiere]

UPDATE: Someone who worked on the movie wrote in to take issue with the inherent subjectivity of a round-up consisting entirely of amusing bad reviews. To be sure, not everyone hated it—Roger Ebert even gave it a rave!—so in the name of fairness, we reprint the e-mail, along with links to some of its glowing notices. Merry Compass everybody!

Question, and yes, I worked on Golden Compass, do you have an agenda in posting only negative quotes for the film? Yes, arguably the reviews have been somewhat polarized, but the LA Times, Roger Ebert (four stars), NY Daily News, Newsweek among many others love the film.

Way to be objective.