Theron’s Monster Chases Prom-Queen Glory; New Year’s Dud: Film

Charlize Theron’s latest monster, Mavis Gary, is not a murderer. Her admirable qualities pretty much end there.

A once and forever high-school mean girl, Mavis is the singular creation of screenwriter Diablo Cody and her “Juno” director Jason Reitman.

Young Adult” chronicles Mavis’s efforts to recapture her prom-queen glory days by reconnecting with a former beau. It features a crazy good performance by Theron, who won an Oscar for playing a serial killer in 2003’s “Monster.”

Reminded that the object of her stalker-like affection is a happily married man with a newborn child, Mavis’s soused response is a clueless, “I’ve got baggage, too.”

“Young Adult” takes its title from the teen-lit genre that has afforded ghostwriter Mavis a glamorous-from-the-outside life. Gorgeous at 37, with the style and figure of a college student, the divorcee lives alone in a Minneapolis high-rise, where she drinks, writes and sleeps around before waking up with a hangover to begin the routine anew.

On deadline for what will be the last entry of her once- popular book series, Mavis receives an e-mailed birth announcement from high-school sweetheart Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson). Like a heroine in one of her books, lonely Mavis heads back to her small Minnesota hometown to reclaim Buddy and their prom-royalty destiny.

Hate-Crime Victim

Her first night home Mavis visits a seedy saloon, where she runs into another old classmate, the barely remembered Matt Freehauf (comic Patton Oswalt, in a career-redefining performance). Dumpy, nerdy and smart, Matt has one claim to high- school fame: Mistaken for gay, he was bashed nearly to death, his body irreparably twisted and maimed.

“Oh, you’re the hate-crime guy,” says Mavis, the memory rising through a boozy fog.

With high school 20 years behind them, Mavis and Matt form a weeklong bond that would have been impossible in their youth. Both are too savvy to be duped by sentimentality -- they mock the idea of being another “Will & Grace” -- but their spirits are no less kindred for being broken and self-pitying.

This darkly funny and surprisingly moving film finds no lasting redemption for Mavis. People don’t outgrow themselves, Cody suggests, and life doesn’t bash everyone equally.

“Young Adult,” from Paramount Pictures, opens tomorrow in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Minneapolis. Rating: ***1/2

‘New Year’s Eve’

What did holidays ever do to Garry Marshall?

Following last year’s confoundedly popular “Valentine’s Day,” the director’s even lamer “New Year’s Eve” stitches together a “Love Boat”-style array of slumming stars and striving B-listers in transparent quick-buck fashion.

Sarah Jessica Parker, Robert De Niro, Hilary Swank, Zac Efron, Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry and Katherine Heigl are among the platoon of actors going through the motions of interconnected, idiotic storylines centered on New Year’s Eve in Times Square. (Street footage was shot at last year’s festivities.)

Parker, for example, plays a single mother facing a lonely holiday when her teenage daughter (Abigail Breslin) wants to go on a date. Josh Duhamel plays a lovelorn Manhattan guy hoping to meet Ms. Right.

Guess the rest.

Katherine Fugate’s howler of a screenplay -- characters navigate the chaos of Times Square with superhuman ease -- is on par with middling Lifetime filler. The New York of “New Year’s Eve” is mostly white, upscale and entirely sober; the only concession to the 21st century is Lea Michele’s preposterous “Glee”-like musical moment.

Hard to begrudge her, though, since she’s spent most of the movie trapped in an elevator with a smug Ashton Kutcher.

“New Year’s Eve,” from Warner Bros. Pictures, opens tomorrow across the country. Rating: *1/2

‘The Sitter’

A pre-weight loss Jonah Hill proves that bigger isn’t always funnier in “The Sitter.”

With nods to “Adventures in Babysitting” and “Risky Business,” this laugh-starved comedy casts Hill as Noah, a suspended college student who finds himself baby-sitting three maladjusted kids.

The good-hearted sitter only wants to do what’s right, even if it means dragging his precocious charges on a cocaine-buying errand that spurs one unfunny misadventure after another.

Director David Gordon Green (“Pineapple Express”) finds no rhythm in New York’s mean streets. Worse, the ethnic stereotypes, vulgar jokes and drug humor give way to mawkish moralizing long before an out-of-his-depth Hill delivers an inspirational speech to a 13-year-old gay kid.

“The Sitter,” from 20th Century Fox, opens tomorrow across the country. Rating: *1/2


What the Stars Mean:

****          Excellent
***           Good
**            Average
*             Poor
(No stars)    Worthless

(Greg Evans is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on the story: Greg Evans at gregeaevans@yahoo.com.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff in New York at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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