By Michael Slezak
Updated June 01, 2007 at 06:57 PM EDT
Credit: Mr. Brooks: Everett Collection

So Knocked Up is getting stellar reviews — no surprise there — but it’s not the only movie opening this weekend. There’s also Mr. Brooks, a serial-killer thriller that raises the following questions: Can Kevin Costner convincingly play the villain? Is Demi Moore’s return to the big screen a welcome one? And what about that Dane Cook (pictured) — is he an actual movie star, or just a dude with a really great agent? EW’s own Owen Gleiberman gives the film a C, noting that Costner “slips into this image-shifting role as if it were a crisply tailored suit,” but that Cook remains “trapped in his innocuous comedy rhythms.” Scanning reviews from the nation’s newspapers, most (but not all) critics have decent things to say about Costner’s performance; Cook gets a mix of raves and raspberries; and alas, both Moore’s acting and her subplot receive a rousing chorus of “boos” from the balcony.

Joe Morgenstren, The Wall Street Journal: “Kevin Costner stars, if you can apply that term to self-besmirchment, in the Jekyll-and-Hyde role of Earl Brooks…. Dane Cook performs a notable act of levitation by rising, if only sporadically, above the role of a photographer turned blackmailer, but Demi Moore, as a police detective, is right down there at Kevin Costner’s level, raising questions about why presumably solvent actors would sign up for such squalid work.”

Robert W. Butler, The Kansas City Star: “The Thumbprint Killer… is played, quite well, by perennial good guy Kevin Costner…. The movie also introduces stand-up comic Dane Cook in his first big dramatic role… and he’s spectacular…. I’d dearly love to see Mr. Brooks re-edited to eliminate Moore.”

addCredit(“Mr. Brooks: Everett Collection”)

Claudia Puig, USA Today:”Cook, in his first serious role… overplays his wannabe killer in aparticularly ham-fisted fashion. Despite all the piled-oncharacteristics, [Moore’s] performance is bland and forgettable.Costner is dully wooden.”

Jeff Strickler, Minneapolis Star Tribune:”Costner turns in one of his best performances in years…. A subplotinvolving Demi Moore as the detective trying to find Brooks gets so faroff track that it ends up in a different ZIP code…. The filmmakersalso deserve kudos for a casting gamble that pays off. Comedian DaneCook (Employee of the Month) turns up as an icky peeping Tom.”

Stephen Whitty, The [New Jersey] Star-Ledger:”And while Costner’s unflappable calm is fine for jocks, cowboys andthe occasional post-apocalyptic hero, it doesn’t exactly help himconvince as an unstoppable mass murderer…. He comes across betterthan Dane Cook, though, who plays a completely unbelievable wanna-bekiller, and spends much of the film stammering, shaking and wettinghimself. And then there’s Moore — still the grimmest beauty in thebusiness — who approaches every scene as if it were a dead insect shejust found floating in her pool.”

Lou Lumenick, New York Post:”Kevin Costner… seems to be having a ball as a serial murderer…[who] is being pursued by Tracy Atwood (Demi Moore), a driven homicidedetective who, in an unusual twist, is an heiress who is even richerthan Mr. Brooks. This may or may not explain why her face barely moveswhen she talks.”

Stephen Hunter, The Washington Post:”What compels then isn’t the overwrought plot, but the simpler things,the dynamics between the actors, the avuncularity between old prosCostner and [William] Hurt and the class condescension between Costner and Cook.It has a fascinatin’ rhythm.”

Stephen Holden, The New York Times:”Tracy is the most wooden screen performance of Ms. Moore’s career.Looking exhausted and tense, the actress is as expressive as a waxmuseum effigy. That is not the case with Mr. Costner and Mr. Hurt, whopull out the stops to play a horror-movie tag team.”

Michael Sragow, Baltimore Sun: “Every time Costner talks on the promotional trail about molding Mr. Brooks into ‘an American classic,’ you can feel the same pomposity that limits his performance.”

Keith Phipps, The Onion A.V. Club:”Only Hurt seems to recognize that the only way to make thismaterial work is to play it with lunatic enthusiasm instead of graveseriousness…. It’s impossible not to imagine the cracked masterpieceBrian De Palma or Paul Verhoeven might have made from the same rawmaterial, particularly given how little [co-writer/director Bruce A.] Evans gives Hurt to do, howmuch time he gives to Cook’s apish mugging, and how little fun everyoneinvolved seems to be having.”