*/**** Image A- Sound A- Extras B
starring Russell Crowe, Renée Zellweger, Paul Giamatti, Craig Bierko
screenplay by Cliff Hollingsworth and Akiva Goldsman
directed by Ron Howard
by Walter Chaw Of the many ways that you can read the ending of Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up, the one I like is the suggestion that the artist will disappear when the masses decide to gratify themselves at the trough of empty spectacles and popular melodramas that do nothing to feed the soul. Ron Howard is at the forefront of greasing that along. Not entirely unexpectedly, his current work in television (he's the producer and narrator of "Arrested Development"), where he got his start, is, at least for the medium, complex and sophisticated. Yet his philosophy for the silver screen seems to have something to do with those three no-evil monkeys: His films have all the edge and subtext of a greeting card. They're handsome, big-budget productions with big, pretty, empty faces, and they're Pollyannaish and generally awful, uniformly, with Splash still the lone bright spot in his career. It is, after all, the only one of his films to feature an ambiguous protagonist and an existentially disquieting conclusion. The only one that acknowledges a possibility for the guys in the white hats to have a shadow as black as coal.