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Just Friends (PG-13)

Director: Roger Kumble. With Ryan Reynolds, Anna Faris. (96 min.)

"Just Friends" reeks of low-expectations but delivers big returns. Chris, a former fat kid who blossoms into a handsome music executive, returns to "Jersey" to woo his dream girl. On the way, the story breathes new life into tired topics such as high school sweethearts, sibling rivalries, and ditsy celebs. With Reynolds in the lead role, supported by a frenetic cast, director Roger Kumble wisely picks a brisk tempo from the get-go and never breaks cadence for long gags or gushiness. Reynolds's unfailing deadpan makes him the Chevy Chase for a new generation of National Lampoons. Grade: A
- Matt Bradley

Sex/Nudity: 12 scenes of innuendo and frank talk about sex. Violence: 1s slapstick scenes. Profanity: 69 expressions. Drugs: 6 scenes with drinking.

The Libertine (Not rated)

Director: Laurence Dunmore. With Johnny Depp, John Malkovich. (130 min.)

The advance word on "The Libertine" was so bad that I was rather surprised to find it - unterrible. As the depraved John Wilmot, the second Earl of Rochester, Johnny Depp adds yet another sly sleazoid to his burgeoning portrait gallery. The 17th century Wilmot was like a junior-league Casanova, and his descent here from raunchy fop to syphilitic wastrel is lovingly detailed by Dunmore. That detail, however, is obscured by some of the darkest tableaux this side of the Bat Cave. Grade: B-
- Peter Rainer

Rent (PG-13)

Director: Chris Columbus. With Rosario Dawson, Taye Diggs. (135 min.)

The musical "Rent" won just about every award known to man, and its tortuous route to Hollywood has been well documented. Now that it is at last on screen, my reaction is ... what's all the fuss? As directed by Columbus, Jonathan Larson's East Village reworking of "La Bohème" in the age of AIDS retains its calisthenic pathos, as well as most of its original cast, but you'd have to be a real Rent-Head (apparently their numbers are legion) to envisage Academy Awards in its future. As a new addition to the corps, Dawson is like a human Slinky. This is meant as a compliment. Grade: B-
- P.R.


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