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:
· "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!