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P.P.S. please remember to find more Irish actors next time...

P.S. I Love You

Cert 12A

EVERYTHING Cecelia Ahern touches seems to turn to gold: the novels are all bestsellers, the sitcom is apparently a big hit in the states (even if RTE didn't like it) and she's also infuriatingly good looking. So perhaps we should blame Richard LaGravenese, who wrote the screenplay and directed P.S. I Love You, for the fact that it's a bit of a disappointment.

It gets off on the wrong foot. The opening scenes are intended to establish Gerard Butler and Hilary Swank as a mixed-up yet loveable couple -- but in fact their bickering grates on the nerves and the dialogue in the opening scene is particularly awful. Also, their romantic moments are mawkish and forced. Butler's performance is horrifically over-the-top and his Irish accent surpasses that of Tom Cruise in Far And Away as the worst ever heard in a film (think: the Lucky Charms leprechaun with a speech impediment), so when his character dies it's hard to empathise with the loss.

The film does improve thereafter, however. The setting moves to Ireland as Swank's character follows the instructions in the series of notes left for her by the dead husband. Ireland is presented, predictably, in picture-postcard perfection and although the accents are again terrible (would it have killed them to have hired a few more Irish actors?) the exploration of grief and loss is good and the film builds up a bit of girlbuddy movie momentum.

The supporting cast, which includes Kathy Bates, Lisa Kudrow and Harry Connick Jr, is better than the leads and Kudrow in particular adds a light touch to every scene she appears in.

For American audiences this would probably be nothing more than a so-so chick-flick -- but anyone Irish watching will be forced to wince a few times long before Hilary moves on.

Alvin and the Chipmunks

Cert G

THE helium-voiced theme tune for the cartoon version of Alvin and the Chipmunks has stuck in my head for nearly 20 years, but I won't pretend I was waiting for them to turn it into a film.

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Nevertheless, just in time for Christmas tie-in promotions and healthy soundtrack sales (or so the makers hope) the loveable rodents are back in a colourful CGI version, and although most of the references from the cartoon remain intact, the songs have been updated with enough beats and dubs to make them palatable for today's youth.

The story is of a commitment-phobic bachelor, Dave (Jason Lee), who is desperately trying to write a hit song but is lacking inspiration.

Enter the three talking, quipping trio of chipmunks to the rescue. The four of them cut an album and the question is whether the "fab fur" (as a mock Rolling Stone cover dubs them) can make it in the pop business without being exploited by unscrupulous agents. Unlike many children's films, which attempt to serve up a side of irony with their sugary kiddie fare, this is purely for small children. The jokes are literal and everything is signposted and pleasingly colourful. It's also full of uplifting lessons and spunky pop songs that sound like something Justin Timberlake might have sung in his Mickey Mouse Club days.

While it won't linger in anyone's memory for long, this children's film is a bit of harmless holiday fun.

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