De Niro’s Soused Writer; Swacked Teens; DeVito’s Lorax: Movies

Paul Dano and Robert De Niro star in "Being Flynn." The film opens March 2 in New York and Los Angeles. Photographer: David Lee/Focus Features via Bloomberg

Alcoholics and drug addicts seek redemption in “Being Flynn,” but none so strenuously as Robert De Niro working to reclaim his acting mojo.

Based on Nick Flynn’s 2004 memoir, “Being Flynn” chronicles the author’s reconnection with the grizzled, hard-drinking father he never knew.

Paul Dano (“There Will Be Blood”) plays the younger Flynn, a cocaine addict working in a New York homeless shelter.

De Niro plays the dad, an unpublished writer and ex-con with an ego as inflated as his liver.

“Everything I write is a masterpiece,” De Niro’s Jonathan says in the narration he shares, by turns, with Nick.

After a few financial setbacks -- he gets kicked out of his rat-trap apartment and loses his hack license after falling asleep at the wheel -- Jonathan slips into the twilight world of New York’s homeless.

Nick and Jonathan are all but strangers when Flynn pere wanders into the shelter. Their newfound connection embarrasses Nick (nicely underplayed by Dano) and leaves him terrified of ending up like dad. In flashbacks, Julianne Moore sweetly plays Nick’s suicidal mom.

“Being Flynn” reteams De Niro with screenwriter/director Paul Weitz after the junk of “Little Fockers.” They tear into “Flynn” like they have something to prove, and succeed to a point. This is certainly De Niro’s second-best performance as a taxi driver, but the maudlin tale goes heavy on the Bowery bum loquaciousness.

“I find myself momentarily between places,” says the street-traipsing Jonathan, sounding like he’d gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.

“Being Flynn,” from Focus Films, is playing across the U.S. Rating: **1/2 (Evans)

‘Project X’

In “Project X,” three kids throw a party that goes out of control, big-time. That’s about it for plot, except for a crazy drug dealer who supplies and then firebombs the party, and something about a hostile midget who gets locked in the oven.

All three boys are losers at their Southern California high school (the party is their bid to be liked), and each is a type: the gawky nerd (Thomas Mann) whose parents have gone out of town and left him the house; the obnoxious loudmouth (Oliver Cooper) transplanted from Queens; and, inevitably, the blimp (Jonathan Daniel Brown).

Anti-bias groups would be justified in going ballistic. Women are referred to in terms the boys might have learned from the raw rap lyrics pounding on the soundtrack.

The only wit, if you can call it that, is in the awesome extent of the devastation.

Yet I can’t say I had a terrible time at director Nima Nourizadeh’s first feature. After the unbearable first half-hour, I began to enjoy the sloppy mixture of destruction and adolescent sweetness.

Groups that rail about Hollywood depravity could use it as Exhibit A: It’s fueled by alcohol, ecstasy, pot and a slew of bare young breasts.

Then again, anyone who’s had it with the sanctimony of daily political campaign statements may find something appealing in a movie whose only aim is to sell sex and drugs to the young people of America.

“Project X,” from Warner Bros., is playing across the U.S. Rating: *1/2 (Seligman)

‘The Lorax’

“Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” is a big, bright 3-D blow-out of the book, a dark little S.O.S. from 1971.

With a fattened back story and newly invented human characters -- all computer animated, none memorable -- the movie might put off Seuss traditionalists as surely as its moralizing has peeved Lou Dobbs. (Prime Minister David Cameron, meanwhile, in a Downing Street briefing, said it was his favorite children’s book).

Published a year after the first Earth Day, “The Lorax” was a cranky, heartfelt warning about industrialization, as only Theodor Geisel could present it: the uncaring Once-Ler has chopped down all the Truffula trees, knitting their wispy tufts into Thneeds (think fuzzy pashmina shawls) and dooming the Bar-Ba-Loots and Humming-Fish to near extinction.

The title character -- a peanut-shape curmudgeon -- warns of environmental disaster.

Even in a universe of Grinches and Sour Kangaroos, the Lorax is a finger-pointing drag.

Directed by Chris Renaud (“Despicable Me”) with an adapted screenplay by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio (who co-wrote 2008’s livelier “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!”), “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” pads the book’s 45-pages with a boy hero named Ted (Zac Efron) searching for a legendary Truffula tree to impress a girl (Taylor Swift).

Ted’s journey into the decimated hinterland leads him to the reclusive Once-Ler (Ed Helms), who relates the long-ago tale of the Lorax and a paradise mined into wasteland.

Renaud, like most Seuss adaptors, amps up the cuteness, giving the Humming-Fish annoying Chipmunks’ voices and creating yet another sassy grandma for the ubiquitous Betty White.

Only Danny DeVito’s crusty Lorax makes a strong impression, skirting the few workmanlike musical numbers and piercing through a 3-D landscape that’s more colorful than captivating.

“Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax,” from Universal Pictures, is playing across the U.S. Rating: ** (Evans)

What the Stars Mean:

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

(Greg Evans and Craig Seligman are critics for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are their own.)

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