'Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story' (R), 'Juno' (PG-13), 'The Kite Runner' (PG-13)

'Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story' (R)

The Judd Apatow gang gives the Hollywood biopic (especially the music-star variety currently in vogue) just what it deserves in this affectionate and often hilarious tale of the periodic risings and fallings of the titular Cox, a hillbilly singer played to doltish perfection by John C. Reilly.

As Dewey goes through various incarnations down the decades, Reilly gets to perform a hit parade of drop-dead put-on songs, most of them sporting a wealth of double-entendres and political incorrectness (just when short people thought it was safe to go back to the record store …).

The genre clichés take a glorious whuppin' with gags that hold up much better than the usual 'Scary Movie'-type spoofery.

Earning its R rating with pride, it's more fun than a roomful of naked people. And with any luck, you'll never be able to watch a 'real' biopic of this sort again without laughing. Hard.

- Pat Holmes

Cinetopia, Eastport, Broadway, Lloyd Center, Hilltop, Division Street, Stark Street, Bridgeport

'Juno' (PG-13)

A killer cast and an endearing screenplay help this oddball comedy from Jason Reitman ('Thank You for Smoking') rise above its self-consciously hip approach.

Yes, it all seems rather glib at first, with the awkward, unnaturally articulate sort of dialogue that's de rigueur for this sort of indie fare.

But Ellen Page proves that her career-making performance in 'Hard Candy' was no fluke as she takes on the title character here. Juno is a sardonic teen who finds herself knocked up after a one-time fling with her otherwise platonic best pal, Paulie (Michael Cera).

Juno works through the problem with her refreshingly loving parents (J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney), gets to know the couple who plan to adopt her baby (Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner), and deals with the changes to her relationship with Paulie.

It's cynical, yet sweet, sympathetic and charmingly askew.

- Dawn Taylor

Cinetopia, Eastport, Fox Tower, Cinemagic

'The Kite Runner' (PG-13)

Here's your basic, vanilla best-seller adaptation and inspirational saga. Like another current Oscar-runner, it's the story of an adult's attempts to atone for a haunting childhood betrayal.

But while that film wears its literary pedigree like a designer wardrobe, this one respects its source material in tremulous, near-deadly fashion.

Aside from the interest of seeing pre-Soviet and Taliban Afghanistan (China stands in) as a place where a person could actually live without a boot on his neck, the film offers little but an appeal to a viewer's emotional knee-jerk reactions.

Bland and milky right down to the visuals (which include typically cartoony digital effects, this time of soaring kites), it feels at once hurried and drawn out.

There's a very good supporting performance - from Homayoun Ershadi as the protagonist's father - that stands out amid the wishy-washiness, but a story like this needs to inspire more than a vague warm and cozy feeling.

- PH

Fox Tower, Lloyd Mall, Bridgeport

Also new this week:

Whitney. Cher. Celine. Mariah. These money-note nightingales might be who springs to mind when the word 'diva' is tossed out. But for film buffs, the name just might be Wilhelmenia Fernandez.

Never heard of her? The American singer starred in the stylish and spellbinding French film 'Diva' 25 years ago. The film is being re-released for the anniversary (Cinema 21).

The odd-humored folks behind Portland's Grindhouse Film Festival are providing a few screams for the holidays once again this year. The festival hosts 'Silent Night, Deadly Night,' a cheesy, campy thriller that originally opened on Christmas in 1984 (and was yanked from theaters shortly thereafter).

Admission is $6, or $3 if you come dressed as Santa (9:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22, Hollywood Theatre).

A new movie theater opens Friday, Dec. 21: the Century Clackamas Town Center, situated within the renovated shopping mall. The theater holds 20 digital screens, and boasts 3-D capability (12000 S.E. 82nd Ave., Suite 3000, 1-800-326-3264).

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