August 30, 2004 12:00 PM

Seth Green, Dax Shepard

It’s audiences who are up a creek with this sort of late summer fare, a lazy comedy with barely a wriggle of life. You wouldn’t bait a hook with it. Three lifelong buds, in tribute to a fourth friend who has died surfing, set off on an outdoor adventure. They follow a map, left behind by the deceased, that charts a course into the forest and down white-water rapids—and possibly toward the $200,000 payoff that vanished with real—life airplane hijacker D.B. Cooper in 1971. Other than Green, who comes closest to giving an actual performance as the most accomplished yet risk-averse of the guys, there’s nothing funny here apart from a deer that bares its teeth and snarls. Burt Reynolds in a big woodsman’s beard sure doesn’t qualify. (PG-13)

For moviegoers seeking emotionally deeper waters, there’s Mean Creek, a bleak little drama that ripples with unease before capsizing in grief. A bunch of teenagers decide to teach the school bully a lesson. They’ll lure him out on a boat, strip him bare and leave him in the water. Tiny ship of fools! Although the plotters quickly intuit that their bully isn’t so much mean as pathetically maladjusted, they behave with reckless, improbable stupidity, and the talented young cast overacts (with the exception of the uncannily good Rory Culkin). It’s Mystic River with kids. (R)


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