St. Petersburg Times: Weekend

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Also Opening

By STEVE PERSALL, Times Film Critic

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 20, 2003

Call to arms is rough on rump

[Photo: Warner Bros.]

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Clocking in at slightly shorter than the Civil War is Gods and Generals (PG-13), a prequel to the equally butt-numbing Gettysburg from 1993. Truthfully, the film runs 216 minutes (plus intermission and previews), bringing the time spent in a theater to nearly four hours. No, it isn't directed by Kevin Costner. Ronald F. Maxwell has those duties again, obviously pleased to land another job after Gettysburg cost $25-million to produce and earned less than $10-million at the box office. Only a wealthy Civil War devotee such as Ted Turner would pay more than twice as much to make a sequel. Like Gettysburg, Gods and Generals is a miniseries making a detour through theaters to, first, recoup some costs and, second, serve as advertising for the eventual TV presentation. Gods and Generals covers war events from Fort Sumter to the Confederacy's momentum heading into Gettysburg, focused on the career of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson (Stephen Lang, who played Gen. George Pickett in the first film). Jeff Daniels reprises his role as Union Lt. Col. Joshua Chamberlain, and Robert Duvall replaces Martin Sheen as Gen. Robert E. Lee. Turner has a cameo, and Bob Dylan contributes a new song (Cross the Green Mountain) over the end credits. If you make it that far.

The old college try

[Photo: DreamWorks Pictures]
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Old School (R) is the latest attempt to resurrect the spirit of National Lampoon's Animal House, featuring a former Saturday Night Live standout (Will Ferrell) and two good actors (Luke Wilson of The Royal Tenenbaums, Vince Vaughn of Swingers) who should have cooler things to do. The trio plays lifelong buddies trying to relive their college fun by opening an honorary fraternity house offcampus. Jeremy Piven, who pulled his share of dorm pranks in PCU, gets rehabilitated as the college dean infuriated by the scheme. Old School is directed by Todd Phillips, who proved what he's made of with the Tom Green "comedy" Road Trip three years ago. Rent Animal House instead. And remove that pledge pin.

-- STEVE PERSALL, Times film critic

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