Summer Movie Reviews: ‘The Trip,’ ‘The Devil’s Double’ & ‘Project Nim’

The Myth of the American Sleepover David Robert Mitchell’s directorial debut begins when Maggie (Claire Sloma), one of the film’s four teenage leads, decides to skip an end-of-summer sleepover party to chase after an older boy she likes. The camera then cuts to Rob (Marlon Morton), who’s looking for a girl he saw in a grocery store earlier that day, and then to Claudia (Amanda Bauer), who’s taken Maggie’s place at the all-girl soiree. Finally, it settles on Scott (Brett Jacobsen), a high school senior whose recent breakup has him contemplating the meaning of life. Nothing really happens in the film: there are no moral lessons, no life-altering revelations. There is, however, something familiar about the group’s adolescent vulnerability, which can be felt in the actors’ clumsy, monotonic delivery. Mitchell hired real kids instead of pros, and it shows. Whereas John Hughes understood that high school was still recognizable under a Hollywood shellac, Mitchell knows that you don’t need good lighting or a Glee star to create something authentically emotional. —Cayte Grieve

Project Nim In Project Nim, Academy Award–winning filmmaker James Marsh (Man on Wire) turns his camera on Columbia University in the 1970s, when an animal language research group tried to close the book on the nature-versus-nurture debate. Marsh’s exposition-heavy documentary introduces audiences to an infant chimpanzee named Nim Chimsky, the subject of what amounts to a real-life version of The Truman Show. We witness a diapered Nim curiously exploring the complex human world—and his caretakers’ optimism about his initial linguistic progress. As the years pass, however, disagreements within the group proliferate in tandem with now-adolescent Nim’s increasingly unpredictable and violent behavior, which eventually forces the project’s premature termination and Nim’s return to the primitive cages where he was born. Project Nim is an important testimony to the often cruel cost of science, and a telling reminder that chimps and humans aren’t so different after all. —Rory Gunderson

The Trip In this gorgeously shot but otherwise spartan comedy, director Michael Winterbottom sends his two leads, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon—playing exaggerated versions of themselves—on a road trip through picturesque northern England. Coogan has agreed to review a half-dozen upscale restaurants for The Observer, an assignment he initially took to impress his foodie girlfriend. But when she abruptly returns to America, he reluctantly invites his actor friend (Brydon) to take her place. Coogan plays a frustrated thespian entering midlife, hoping to land more meaningful roles while easing his pain with weed and women. Brydon is an able foil as the somewhat annoying friend—happy family, successful career—who becomes more likable as his unwavering optimism infects his recalcitrant partner. Over the course of 100 minutes—culled from a six-part BBC series—the duo exchanges insults, compares impersonations (their Michael Caine battle was a minor YouTube hit last year), and samples some of the finest cuisine ever prepared in the British Isles. It’s a buddy comedy, a road movie, and food porn all rolled into one. —Victor Ozols

The Devil’s Double An unfortunate resemblance to Saddam Hussein’s eldest son, Uday (Dominic Cooper), forces Iraqi army lieutenant Latif Yahia (also Dominic Cooper) to serve as the loathed progeny’s body double in Lee Tamahori’s The Devil’s Double. Under looming threats to his family’s safety, Yahia consents to plastic surgery, dental work, and a wardrobe makeover that casts him as Saddam’s “third son,” a carbon copy of Uday, a coke-snorting sadist with a murderous temper and a habit of preying on underage girls. A respectable and level-headed man who first told his real-life story in a 2003 memoir, Latif’s is the only voice of reason in an otherwise trigger-happy, amoral world. —Nadeska Alexis

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