Splice came and went in the blink of an eye and Predators sucks. So if you're jonesing for a good horror movie these days, you're advised to catch Jay and Mark Duplass' Cyrus, even though it isn't any kind of conventional scare flick; Jonah Hill's title character, however, could stand proudly next to Anthony Perkins' Norman Bates in the Crazy-Ass-Mama's-Boy Hall of Fame.
The Duplass' indie comedy begins innocently enough, with John C. Reilly's depressed divorcé embarking on a tentative romance with Marisa Tomei's single mother. Yet events take a turn for the re-e-eally uncomfortable when Reilly finally meets her son, and he turns out to be Hill's Cyrus: 21, still living at home, and the possessor of some seriously disturbing mommy issues. (Reilly gleans this on his first night in Tomei's house, when he sees Hill blithely walk into the bathroom while she's showering, and shut the door behind him.)
As Hill's veiled hostility towards mom's new suitor degenerates into pure passive-aggressive loathing, Cyrus itself starts to unravel a bit; its comedic prickliness and legitimate sense of danger eventually turn formulaic, and despite fleshing out her role with considerable finesse, Tomei is stuck playing a shell of a character who makes less and less sense as the film progresses. Yet Cyrus is more than worth a viewing for Reilly and his tortured sweetness, the ever-magical Catherine Keener (portraying Reilly's ex), and especially Hill, whose powerfully funny, pathetic, and frightening turn marks a new high point in a career thus far filled with them. Hearing Cyrus' horrifically inappropriate conversations with his mom ("You deserve someone who can love you in a way that I can't love you ... "), you may not know whether to laugh or shudder, but with the dead-eyed, comically faultless Hill enacting the guy's Oedipal struggle, you'll almost certainly feel like applauding.
THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE
There are sequences in the Disney action-adventure The Sorcerer's Apprentice - and far too many of them - that find the squirmy, irritating Jay Baruchel and the vacant, equally irritating Teresa Palmer briefly stopping the movie cold with some lazy, halfhearted attempt at awkward near-romance. I'd say that any one of the actors' scenes together would be a good time to head out for a snack or to use the restroom, but that would suggest there are scenes here that you wouldn't want to miss. Offhand, I can think of exactly one, and it isn't a scene so much as a 10-second throwaway in which Nicolas Cage - playing the wizardly mentor to Baruchel's anxious dweeb - gets out of trouble by briefly assuming the role of a honking Noo Yawk cawp. (Cage, bless his lunatic soul, can still occasionally make me giggle, even when every fiber of my being is telling me not to.) Aside from that bit, director Jon Turteltaub's attempt to recapture the "magic" of his National Treasure outings is so relentlessly mediocre and unmemorable that you can't even summon up the energy to hate it; this anesthetizing experience drains you of your ability to feel anything.
Little kids with bad taste might have fun, especially if they haven't seen any of the Harry Potter-y films The Sorcerer's Apprentice liberally borrows from, and the effects are surprisingly not-embarrassing. But the movie remains flaccid and under-imagined, with such talents as Alfred Molina, Alice Krige, and Monica Bellucci badly wasted, and Baruchel proving that if he's going to be a film star, he'd be smart to surround himself with strong comedic personalities, as the young man himself exudes almost no personality. Watching him, and listening to his obnoxious whine of a voice, I wasn't thinking back to Baruchel's fine ensemble work in Undeclared, Tropic Thunder, or She's Out of My League; I was thinking of that scene in Million Dollar Baby where his grinning-simpleton character got beaten to a bloody pulp. Hey, at least something about Baruchel's presence here got me smiling.