City of Ember

Except for watching Bill Murray get attacked by a giant mole (something unique in Billy boy's career so far) this sci-fi fantasy aimed at kids feels wan and warmed over. Edward Scissorhands screenwriter Caroline Thompson has adapted Jeanne Duprau's children's book into a puzzle of plots and subplots with pieces that never fit together. Murray is the mayor of Ember, an underground city that has been surviving on generator power for 200 years, ever since the world ended. Two high school grads, Doon (Harry Treadaway) and Lina (Saoirse Ronan), have been told there is no life outside Ember, but both have their doubts. Hey, they're mavericks! Are you listening, John McCain? Is Doon's inventor dad (Tim Robbins) devising an escape plan? Isonan sad that she followed up her Oscar-nominated turn in Atonement with this pap? Is Murray improvising his lines? (I hope not because nothing he says is remotely witty). All that's left to recommend is the design eye of director Gil Kenan, whose animated Monster House two years ago was good, creepy fun. Ember looks genuinely scary, richly detailed in its dark alleys and subterranean pipeworks. You long for things to go bump in the night, but the movie muffles every risk in a blanket of bland.

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