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A Horrible waste...

horrible bosses Comedy. Starring Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, Jennifer Aniston, Donald Sutherland, Jamie Foxx. Directed by Seth Gordon. Cert 15A

After Bridemaids proved there are signs of intelligent life in the world of Hollywood comedies, we're back down in the gutter alongside The Hangover, Part II with this offering from Seth Gordon, the man who almost ruined the season of goodwill with Four Christmases.

The premise here is that friends Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day) and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) are having a rotten time at work, being tormented by, respectively, a tyrannical monster (Kevin Spacey), a nymphomaniac dentist (Jennifer Aniston) and a coke-addled sociopath (Colin Farrell). So, over a couple of beers one night they decide to kill their employers, the trick being that they'll kill each other's nemesis, thereby leaving no tie to themselves.

Genius. Or at least it would be if it hadn't been filched from Strangers on a Train and later Throw Momma From the Train. The writers actually mention those two movies as if that will get them off the hook.

Look, acknowleding that you stole something doesn't make you any less of a thief and Gordon is no Hitchcock, so what we get are a few comic set-ups marred by resorting to vulgarity and sexism.

Despite good cameo performances from Spacey, Farrell and Jamie Foxx as a 'murder consultant' the whole affair is badly scripted and wastes a good cast, scandalously so in the case of Aniston in a criminally underwritten role, in a cesspool of lowest common denominator crassness. HHIII

CARS 2 Animation. Featuring the voices of Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Eddie Izzard, John Turturro. Directed by John Lasseter and Brad Lewis. Cert General

One has to admire the tenacity of Pixar chief John Lasseter for his insistence to add a sequel to Cars to his studio's impeccable roster. The original is the weakest item in the Pixar catalogue and, although a reasonable way to pass a couple of hours, it's not in the same league as Monsters Inc, The Incredibles, Wall.E, Up or the genius that is the Toy Story trilogy.

The lack of strength of the central characters, race car Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and his sidekick Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), is heightened by the short which precedes the feature, with the cast of Toy Story reassembled for Hawaiian Vacation.

Things begin promisingly, introducing us to suave English superspy Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) as he undertakes a mission to discover a secret weapon. It's a sprightly start with the 3D being used to great effect. Then we're back to the town of Radiator Springs where McQueen is taking time out.

That doesn't last too long as former oil tycoon Miles Axelrod (Eddie Izzard) wants to prove the worth of a new eco-friendly fuel and sets up a Racing Championship which will pit McQueen against his arch-rival, Italian ace Francesco Bernouli (John Turturro), When Mater is mistaken for a spy in Tokyo he becomes the focus of the story. Big mistake.

The writing is nowhere near as sharp as previously. Every time Mater looms into the frame it's like having a dentist's drill hoving into view. Watch Hawaiian Vacation to remind you just how good these people can be and then beat a hasty retreat because the main feature is destined for the junkyard. HHII

THE BIG PICTURE Thriller. Starring Romain Duris, Niels Arestrup, Catherine Deneuve. Directed by Eric Lartigau. Cert 15A

This French adaptation of Douglas Kennedy's best-seller is a well thought-out thriller which centres on the theme of identity. When lawyer Paul (Romain Duris) discovers that his wife in having an affair, he confronts his rival and, following an unfortunate accident, concocts a plan in which he assumes the man's identity. As Paul sets out for a new life in Montenegro, events make his escape difficult. HHHII

BEGINNERS Comedy drama. Starring Christopher Plummer, Ewan McGregor, Goran Visnjic, Melanie Laurent. Directed by Mike Mills. Cert club

Christopher Plummer delivers one of the finest performances of his career in a heartbreaking comedy drama inspired by writer/director Mike Mills' relationship with his own father. Illustrator Oliver Fields (Ewan McGregor) is devastated by the death of his mother but his grief turns to amazement when his father Hal (Plummer) reveals that he married knowing he was gay and he has denied his true self since he said "I do". Free to explore his sexuality, Hal immerses himself in the gay scene, winning the heart of forty-something Andy (Goran Visnjic). Tragedy deals a further cruel blow and as Oliver struggles to bear the emotional burden, he finds unexpected romance with Anna (Melanie Laurent), a visiting French actress. HHHII

>Kate Whiting