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Tropic Thunder

*** ( 3 STARS)

$14.6

million

$86.9 million

3 weeks

Rated: R

Running time: 107 minutes

What it's about: A failing action star (Ben Stiller, above), a drug-addicted comic (Jack Black) and a celebrated Australian actor (Robert Downey Jr.) stumble onto real guerrillas while making a war film.

Our take: Downey is daringly funny as a white man from Down Under playing an African-American soldier. At its best, this movie wrings divine madness from wretched excess.

Babylon A.D.

* 1/2 ( 1 1/2 STARS)

$11.5

million

$11.5 million

1 week

Rated: R

Running time: 90 minutes

What it's about: Vin Diesel (above) stars as a sullen bruiser who must reluctantly escort a mysterious, angelic young person (Melanie Thierry) to a far-off destination - the promised land of New York.

Our take: This is not a terrible movie, but it quickly degenerates into chases and gunfights and not much else.

The Dark Knight

** ( 2 STARS)

$11.1

million

$504.8 million

7 weeks

Rated: PG-13

Running time: 152 minutes

What it's about: Citizens, lawmen and criminals - and an anarchistic freak called the Joker - respond to the emergence of the Caped Crusader.

Our take: As the Joker, Heath Ledger (above) detonates a savage sick joke or two, but the whole movie is set up for him to be the jiving put-on artist of destruction, outwitting the squares.

House Bunny

** 1/2 ( 2 1/2 STARS)

$10.2

million

$29.7 million

2 weeks

Rated: PG-13

Running time: 97 minutes

What it's about: The members of a struggling sorority have a thing or two to learn from a banished Playboy bunny (Anna Faris, above), and vice versa.

Our take: The underdog plot isn't anything new. Faris, as the ditzy but good-hearted ex-bunny, delivers a flat-out hilarious performance.

Traitor

** 1/2 ( 2 1/2 STARS)

$10

million

$11.5 million

1 week

Rated: PG-13

Running time: 114 minutes

What it's about: Don Cheadle (above) plays a righteous Muslim connected to Islamic extremists who are plotting to blow up scores of buses across America simultaneously.

Our take: Cheadle's ability to suggest hidden pockets of thought has never been stronger, but his rich emotionality and sense of humor have gone seriously missing in Traitor.

Death Race

No stars

$7.9

million

$24.7 million

2 weeks

Rated: R

Running time: 89 minutes

What it's about: A souped-up destruction derby auto race is played to the death on the grounds of Terminal Island, a prison for extreme violent offenders.

Our take: Jason Statham (above) and Joan Allen waste their talents on this tapestry of bent metal, shredded flesh and spurting blood.

Disaster Movie

No stars

$6.9

million

$6.9 million

1 week

Rated: PG-13

Running time: 90 minutes

What it's about: This relentless mash up of pop-culture references includes parodies of Juno, American Gladiators, Indiana Jones and Amy Winehouse. The stars include Vanessa Minnillo (above).

Our take: It's a scattershot blast aimed at teens with an extremely short attention span and a girl-fighting fixation.

Mamma Mia!

* 1/2 ( 1 1/2 STARS)

$5.4

million

$132.5 million

7 weeks

Rated: PG-13

Running time: 108 minutes

What it's about: In this clunky version of the international stage smash showcasing ABBA's greatest hits, Meryl Streep (above) plays a former pop-rock star who runs a decaying Greek tourist hotel.

Our take: It's like a party where everyone is so desperate to have a good time that it makes you miserable.

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