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Moviegoers hungering for hit flick ‘Hannibal’

‘Lambs’ sequel rakes in the dough despite reviews

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Boy, when members of the American moviegoing public decide not to listen to critics, they do it in a really big way.

In case you haven't heard, "Hannibal," the critically panned sequel to "The Silence of the Lambs," overcame all the bad reviews — to the tune of nearly $60 million in its first three days alone, which is more money than a lot of this year's movies are probably going to make in their entire theatrical run.

To give you a little perspective, it's taken 10 weeks for the martial-arts/fantasy epic "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" to make that much money, and that film is now the box-office crown-holder for foreign-language pictures released in the United States.

To no one's surprise, the filmmakers are already preparing for the now-inevitable follow-up (among the ideas being pursued are a remake of "Manhunter," the prequel that features Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter as a minor character, or an altogether "original" sequel to the new film).

Even usually crotchety actor Anthony Hopkins has gotten into the act, telling reporters at the Berlin Film Festival that he would like to play the serial-killer character one more time.

"Hopefully that will be fairly soon, maybe next year," he said.

Needless to say, the whole thing has left a bad taste in my mouth. And that's not counting the number of (not too surprisingly) personal attacks on yours truly by e-mail, singling me out for my panning of the movie — even though my review was far from the meanest one out there.

To my way of thinking, the critics who most deserve the public's ire are those who reviewed the film positively. That's partly because I think they're doing a disservice if they in any way encourage teenagers to see the movie, since the ads don't come close to indicating how gory and gruesome it really is.

And to a certain extent, I think there were at least a couple of critics who reviewed the film on the reputations of its cast (including Academy Award-winner Anthony Hopkins and Oscar-nominee Julianne Moore) and its director ("Gladiator" helmer Ridley Scott) rather than on its merits.

At least I'd like to think so, since the thriller is virtually suspenseless, and the lurid ending (somewhat faithful to the lurid source material) seems like it was done for shock value rather than good storytelling.

Or maybe it's just me.

OR MAYBE IT'S NOT: OK, I'm not the only one having a problem with "Hannibal."

In Australia, the attorney general has ordered an urgent review of the rating the film was given — MA15-plus, the equivalent of our R rating, which allows children to see it if accompanied by a parent or guardian. And there are calls for a re-rating (to the more restrictive R 18-plus, which equates to our NC-17).

And in Italy, authorities have threatened to remove scenes because of "excessive violence," especially after four women there fainted while seeing the film over the weekend.

Of course, these "minor" controversies haven't fazed either the makers of the film or Motion Picture Association of America President Jack Valenti, who still defends the R rating his organization gave the film in the United States. Which again shows how out of touch he is.

IT'S NOT PERFECT: Even if you're one of the many devotees of "Hannibal," you should know just how flawed the movie is.

Since the movie's release last weekend, sharp-eyed filmgoers have managed to find nearly two dozen errors and have posted them on the Movie Mistakes Web site www.movie-mistakes.com.

Among the most noticeable gaffes (for those who haven't seen the movie yet and still want to, beware — there's a potential spoiler in the third one):

There's a sequence in which FBI Special Agent Clarice Starling's earrings change from studs to hoops and back again three times.

In another scene, there's a voice-over of Hannibal reading a letter to Starling that ends with him saying, "Your good friend," before the signature — even though that phrase isn't used in the letter.

But the most glaring error may be in a scene where the two main characters are handcuffed together and Hannibal, in one of the film's more gruesome moments, manages to escape, leaving Starling in the cuffs.

However, when FBI agents arrive moments later and instruct her to put her hands in the air, the handcuffs have disappeared.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "In America we predicate talent on success. And if you're not successful at any given moment, or do a bad film because you need the money, you pay for it. I did 80 percent of my work for money, and it was embarrassing. I can only count on one hand the films I'm proud of." — Veteran film actor Martin Sheen, currently in TV's acclaimed "The West Wing."

E-mail: jeff@desnews.com