By Michael Slezak
Updated August 09, 2006 at 11:03 PM EDT
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There’s a recurring theme in this morning’s newspaper reviews of World Trade Center — the majority of which seem to paint it as a well-intentioned, albeit imperfect film — and it’s a curious one: Critics can’t quite believe it’s an Oliver Stone film. EW’s own Owen Gleiberman noted something to the same effect in his review of the film (he gives it a B) when he wrote that United 93 ”was exactly the sort of film you might have expected Oliver Stone to make, but World Trade Center isn’t a great Stone film; it’s more like a decent Ron Howard film.” And he’s not alone; ch-ch-check it out for yourself — and let your fellow readers know what you think if you happen to see the film.

Christopher Borrelli, Toledo Blade: “Oliver Stone made this? The same Oliver Stone who made JFK, Wall Street, Salvador? It says here in the press notes, he did; it says there on the cover of Newsweek, he did. But it’s still hard to believe, and I don’t necessarily mean that as criticism. World Trade Center just lacks his usual attention to corruption and politics; for a director best known for running a fever at all times, the shock is how conventional World Trade Center plays.”

Mark Rahner, Seattle Times: ”The result is unrecognizable as Stone’s, stylistically or thematically. Based on the ordeal of two of the only 20 survivors pulled from the rubble, it’s a narrowly focused and reverent celebration of the human spirit, with some powerful moments. But noble intent and adherence to real events don’t necessarily add up to success onscreen; it’s also often tedious and schmaltzy.”

Geoff Pevere, Toronto Star: ”While much of Stone’s customary sturm und drang is absent — and has been replaced by an effectively eerie subtlety best exemplified by the fleeting glimpse of an airplane’s shadow on a building wall and the sound of distant explosions — so is the possibility of engagement outside of a kind of dutiful surrender to the sheer tidal force of sentiment.”

Amy Biancolli, Houston Chronicle: “The unthinkable has happened. Oliver Stone has made a film that is unrecognizable as an Oliver Stone film. Beyond a manifest passion for the material, nothing about World Trade Center suggests Stone is its director. It boasts evidence of no outsize ego, no conspiracy theories, no virtuoso overkill, no epic length. It displays optimism, patriotism, emotional frankness and faith. Detractors might call it sentimental. Most of all, it exhibits no political slant whatsoever, injecting only heartfelt empathy for the day’s many victims and heroes.”

William Arnold, Seattle Post-Intelligencer: “Anyone looking for a multilayered, Syriana-like exposé from Hollywood’s most suspicious A-list filmmaker could reasonably feel disappointed. There’s no subtext whatsoever, and the script never aspires to be more than a well-done television movie.”

James Sanford, Kalamazoo Gazette: “Given director Oliver Stone’s reputation as a risk-tasking renegade and an unrepentant liberal, it wouldn’t have been terribly surprising if he had turned World Trade Center, his portrait of the Sept. 11 attacks, into a fierce anti-Bush-administration screed starring Sean Penn, Jane Fonda, Warren Beatty, and Susan Sarandon — with a love theme performed by the Dixie Chicks. The World Trade Center that Stone has made, however, is startling in an entirely different way: It’s probably the most conventional film in Stone’s body of work.”

And finally, I direct your attention to a review by Richard Roeper in the Chicago Sun-Times, only because, amazingly, he manages to use its opening paragraphs as a setup for calling Ann Coulter ”an unconscionable pig.” Whether you love or loathe the conservative she-beast, you’ve got to admire Roeper’s moxie.

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