At the Movies

New in Theaters

Pacific Rim

(Playing at Durango Stadium 9)

(In standard format and digital 3-D with surcharge.)

It’s one of the saving graces of “Pacific Rim,” Guillermo Del Toro’s new mega-budget monsters vs. robots extravaganza, that at a key juncture, it knows how to make fun of itself.

This welcome bit of comic relief amid all the crunching, smashing and groaning in 3-D comes just as the good guys – that would be the robots, or rather the humans operating the 25-story machines built to save humanity – have hit a snag. These massive, digitally controlled contraptions suddenly all fail at once.

But then – eureka! – someone points out that one rusty old robot is analog. And so, in a movie that has spent some $200 million to boast the very best in state-of-the-art tradecraft, an analog machine saves the day, at least temporarily. Ha! Holy retro technology.

It’s too bad that Del Toro’s film, a throwback to the Japanese Kaiju monster films made famous by “Godzilla,” didn’t have more such deft moments. Though it’s made by an obviously gifted director and will likely please devotees of the genre, it ultimately feels very short on character and heavy on noise, noise, noise. Did we mention the crunching, smashing and groaning?

Happily, the plot is not convoluted (the script is by Travis Beacham and Del Toro) and there’s at least one really cool concept, called “The Drift.” No, this doesn’t involve land formations.

The real action begins some seven years into the Kaiju offensive (and circa 2020.) The Jaeger program, once successful, is failing. Global defense authorities decide to drop it and go for a giant coastal wall. Didn’t they see “World War Z?” Ask Brad Pitt: Walls don’t keep out zombies, and they won’t keep Kaiju out, either. It’s back to the Jaegers.

Enter jaded former pilot Raleigh Becket (a handsome but bland Charlie Hunnam). Raleigh lost his co-pilot and brother in a Jaeger fight, and is in no mind to share his er, mind again. But humanity’s at stake.

His new co-pilot is a young Japanese woman named Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) with a serious beef against the Kaiju. Showy supporting parts are played by Idris Elba as the impressively named commander Stacker Pentecost; Charlie Day as a manic, nerdy scientist (not as funny as he could be); and Ron Perlman as a shadowy Kaiju-parts dealer.

It takes a good hour for the real battle to get going. You’re glad when it does, but mostly, you wish the mind-melding concept had been mined more fully, especially since the scenes inside people’s minds show, too briefly, another, subtler side of Del Toro’s talents. One arresting flashback to Mako’s youth almost seems to come from a different movie – like his powerful 2006 “Pan’s Labyrinth.” Too bad Del Toro doesn’t share a bit more of that side of his moviemaking mind with us here.

“Pacific Rim,” a Warner Bros. release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America “for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief language.” Running time: 131 minutes. HH½ out of four.

JOCELYN NOVECK, AP National Writer

Grown Ups 2

(Playing at Durango Stadium 9)

It would be dishonest to call “Grown Ups 2” the most repellent high-profile comedy in recent memory. But that’s largely because few moviegoers have memories kind enough to have already erased 2010’s “Grown Ups” – which offered almost every loathsome quality of this installment, plus Rob Schneider.

Adam Sandler returns as Lenny, a Hollywood player who since the first film has moved his family to his rural hometown, where the kids can bike to school and Dad gets plenty of Guy Time with pals Eric (Kevin James), Kurt (Chris Rock), and Marcus (David Spade). Happily, this film’s conception of male friendship is less reliant on insults and abuse than its predecessor, and doesn’t need to paint the men’s wives as shrews in order to give the motley bunch something in common.

Which is not at all to say that the humor has matured. The opening scene, in which a deer wanders into Lenny’s house, offers two separate occasions in which the beast rears back on hind legs to urinate on someone; the second goes on long enough to suggest someone has a fetish to indulge. Throughout, gags are cartoonishly broad and afforded so little time for setup and delivery we seem to be watching less a story than a catalog of tossed-out material.

Set on the last day of school, the script follows as Lenny commandeers his kids’ bus (the driver, played by Nick Swardson, is high on pills) and, after dropping them and their schoolmates off, makes a day of it with his hooky-playing pals. Together they pioneer new bodily functions (Eric’s “Burp-snarting,” which may sound more amusing than it is) and fantasize about those they don’t get enough of: Attending their daughters’ dance rehearsal, they can’t stop gawking at an instructor the credits helpfully dub “Hot Dance Teacher.”

Soon the fellows are trying to make old bodies do what young ones never did. Visiting a favorite swimming hole so Eric can dive off the cliff he always feared, they cross paths with a band of frat boys (led by Taylor Lautner), whose collective loutishness makes Sandler & Co. look like knights of the Round Table. A rivalry is born, though the adults don’t know they’re being targeted for destruction. Instead, they spontaneously decide to throw an 80s-themed yard party, and in a couple of hours half the town arrives in costumes that would have taken a week to assemble.

Like the first film, this one is built upon the seriously misguided idea that five or ten minutes of sentimental family-values talk can coexist with an hour and a half of burp-snarting and the like. Here, Lenny must contend with the news that his wife (Salma Hayek) wants to have a fourth child; Eric, inexplicably, must keep his wife (Maria Bello) in the dark about how much time he spends keeping his elderly mother company; Marcus must make peace with the thuggish son he never knew he sired; and Kurt... well, Chris Rock gets to ad-lib one or two funny lines and spend the rest of the film waiting for something better to come along.

Sandler, whose best work tends to be his least rewarded at the box office, has never before made a sequel. That he would make an exception for “Grown Ups” says nothing good about his trajectory as an artist.

He and Rock, more than their costars, may yet have good movies in them about embracing adult responsibilities after years of playing the fool. But “Grown Ups” and a dozen other half-hearted productions suggest they won’t succeed with such statements while they’re trying to succeed commercially.

“Grown Ups 2,” a Sony/Columbia release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America “for crude and suggestive content, language and some male rear nudity.” Running time: 100 minutes.

John Defore, The Hollywood Reporter

Still Showing

Durango Stadium 9

(Next to Durango Mall, 247-9799, www.allentheatresinc.com)

No Place on Earth. (Wednesday only.) In 1942, the matriarch of a Jewish family in the Ukraine leads her family underground to hide from the pursuing Nazis. They end up living in darkness in two damp caves for almost a year and a half. The Nazis were just the worst. Rated PG-13.

Despicable Me 2. The Steve Carell-voiced Gru completes the transformation from supervillain to good guy when he’s recruited by the Anti-Villain League. Rated PG.

The Lone Ranger. Johnny Depp is Tonto, who tells the tale of how mild-mannered John Reid (Armie Hammer) became the famous masked man. Rated PG-13.

White House Down. Fortunately for President Jamie Fox, Officer Channing Tatum just happened to be touring the White House when terrorists struck. Rated PG-13.

The Heat. Melissa McCarthy can make anyone – even Sandra Bullock – look funny and the R rating is icing on the cake. Rated R.

Monsters University. A prequel to the 2001 blockbuster in which the monsters attend college. Rated G.

World War Z. It’s safe to call this the first installment in a new franchise that has Brad Pitt battling for his life against a planet full of zombies. Rated PG-13.

Man of Steel. The latest re-telling of the Superman story didn’t wow critics, but the fans can’t stay away. Rated PG-13.

Back Space Theatre

(1120 Main Ave., 259-7940, www.thebackspacetheatre.org)

Frances Ha. A New York gal lives more inside her own mind than the real world, but she seems happy about it. Rated R.

Gaslight Cinema

(102 Fifth St. Next to the railroad depot, 247-8133, www.allentheatresinc.com)

The Lone Ranger. See above. Rated PG-13.

The Kings of Summer. Three teenagers spend a summer in the woods where they build a house and live off the land. Rated R.

Ted Holteen and Associated Press

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