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Hit and Miscasting

We grade casting decisions for upcoming films, like Will Smith in ”Ali” and Angelina Jolie in ”Tomb Raider”

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Aaargh! British papers are screaming bloody murder now that skinny Texan Renee Zellweger has snagged the lead in Bridget Jones’s Diary (”Of all the clunking, Hollywood idiocy,” griped an Evening Standard columnist). We tend to agree: When we read Helen Fielding’s best-selling London-based novel, we pictured Bridget with a smoke-seasoned voice, more lbs. on her frame, and more years to her age. Here’s our take on several other high-profile castings currently in the works.

Film As-yet-untitled story of filthy-rich aviator Howard Hughes
Star Leonardo DiCaprio
Our Verdict The model-escorting party dude seems a natural fit to play the womanizing Hughes, and he’s already found cinematic success with transportation vessels. Can tissue-box shoes be far behind? B+

Film Ali, the biopic of boxing titan Muhammad Ali
Star Will Smith
Our Verdict Not the greatest. The former Fresh Prince can rhyme and dance, but he seems to lack Ali’s brooding intensity and bulk. Our fear: Smith’s too much butterfly, not enough bee. B-

Film Prozac Nation, adapted from the memoir of depressed Gen-Xer Elizabeth Wurtzel Star Christina Ricci Our Verdict We’re ecstatic! A doyenne of despondency since her days as Wednesday Addams, Ricci embodies tortured souldom in those saucer eyes alone. A-

Film Tomb Raider, based on the videogame featuring buxom adventuress Lara Croft
Star Angelina Jolie
Our Verdict Like Lara herself, this kicks ass. Jolie’s real-life penchant for knives should help her slip into character. And aren’t her lips animated already? A

Film The Queen of the Damned, from the Anne Rice novel that has Lestat as a…rock star
Star Wes Bentley
Our Verdict As long as they don’t dye his locks platinum blond a la Tom Cruise, we’d follow the haunting American Beauty hottie anywhere. He’d probably do a good acting job, too. A-

Film Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, about a disfigured, masked man
Star Antonio Banderas
Our Verdict
Phantom takes place in Paris. Banderas is as Spanish as they get. We heard him sing in Evita. And isn’t seeing his gorgeous mug the whole point? C+

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