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SUMMER PREVIEW HOT PROSPECTS

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Take a plump Eddie Murphy in a dress.

Add a plump Martin Lawrence in a dress.

Stir in a schizo Jim Carrey.

Mix with a storm-tossed boat, the X-Men, a bunch of angry chickens, Rocky and Bullwinkle and the Invisible Man.
Exhibitors have their fingers crossed that this will be a formula guaranteed to keep the public coming back to theaters all summer long. And that doesn't include the lifelike dinosaurs of Dinosaur, Russell Crowe in ancient Rome in Gladiator and Tom Cruise trying to get Mission: Impossible right the second time in M:I2, all of which are already in theaters.

It had better work. Summer moviegoing accounts for 40 percent of the year's total box office and a misfire will hurt.

Surely Murphy's return in the role of chunky Prof. Sherman Klump AND his dysfunctional family AND the suave Buddy Love in The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps has money written all over it. Klump and his family will be trying to stop Buddy Love, who is the professor's potion-induced alter ego, before that slickster can ruin Klump's upcoming marriage to a fellow professor, played by Janet Jackson. Among the characters Murphy will plays is Klump's momma.

Martin Lawrence must have figured that if Murphy could get laughs in a dress -- not to mention Robin Williams as Mrs. Doubtfire -- he could, too. In Big Momma's House, Lawrence plays a street-smart FBI agent who goes undercover in disguise as a crass Southern granny. It promises to be a crowd pleaser.

If you think one Jim Carrey is funny (unless he's playing Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon ), there will be two versions of Carrey to bounce off audiences in Me, Myself and Irene. In the Farrelly brothers' comedy, some of which was shot in Rhode Island late last spring, Carrey plays a Rhode Island state trooper who is a Jekyll and Hyde. When he's assigned to take a young woman across state lines, both personalities fall in love with her. The comedy looks from a preview as though it could well top the Farrelly hit There's Something About Mary in the laugh department AND at the box office -- watch out for the dead cow! A Providence premiere is scheduled before the movie opens nationwide June 23.

In The Perfect Storm , George Clooney will try once again to carve out a successful movie career, this time as captain of a Gloucester, Mass., fishing boat that gets caught in what has been called "the storm of the century." Based on a real-life event that happened in 1991, chronicled in Sebastian Junger's 1997 bestseller, the movie version (unlike the book) takes us aboard the ill-fated vessel to hypothesize about what happened during the sudden killer storm. Some of the film was shot in and out of Gloucester on a boat that's the twin of the real Andrea Gail.

If you've ever laughed at the Wallace and Gromit clay-animated short films from Britain's Aardman Animations, you're likely to be among the first in line for Aardman's Chicken Run . It's about a group of chickens who plot to escape from a farmer and his hatchet-wielding wife who run their chicken farm like Stalag 17. Sounds like a lot of fun.

Speaking of fun, who would have ever guessed that one day Robert De Niro would get to play opposite Rocky and Bullwinkle, stars of the hit '60s animated series? But that's what happens in The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. No kidding! While the flying squirrel and the moose are animated, the real-life De Niro will play the villainous Fearless Leader, with Jason Alexander as Boris and Rene Russo as Natasha. Good luck to all of them.

Speaking of fantasy figures come to life, one of the most hotly anticipated summer movies among a select group of computer-noodling kids (please, get a life!) is X-Men , based on the Marvel Comics fave. Wolverine, Dr. X and the evil Magneto will turn up in this live-action adaptation of the most popular comic book series ever. The X-Men, outcasts since birth, have each been born with a unique genetic mutation that gives them extraordinary powers. Of course.

This summer the closest thing to traditional animation will be found in Fantasia/2000, Disney's followup to its 1940 musical extravaganza, although calling this mix of hand-drawn and computer-generated animation traditional would be doing it a disservice. Like its predecessor, Fantasia/2000 is a collection of many different vignettes, all based on a musical score. All of it is new, except for the classic Mickey Mouse Sorcerer's Apprentice sequence. The film has already been in IMAX theaters since Jan. 1. Its June 16 release marks its entry in traditional moviehouses. (Alas, the IMAX theater at Providence Place fell way behind its construction dates and isn't scheduled to open until a week after Fantasia/2000 is in regular theaters.)

Summer's other animated entry, Titan A.E., is a computer-generated $75-million space adventure that vows to dazzle audiences of all ages. After Earth is destroyed, a rebellious teenager (of course) travels through space searching for a legendary spacecraft called the Titan, which allegedly holds the secret of salvation for what's left of the human race.

Also geared to both children and adults is Disney's The Kid , starring Bruce Willis, who had a smash last summer in Disney's ghostly The Sixth Sense . This time he's a little more down to earth, playing a successful "image consultant" whose life is turned upside down when he magically gets a chance to meet himself as a pudgy, 8-year-old child. Unfortunately, the boy is not at all happy about the adult he has turned out to be -- a 40-year-old "loser" without a wife or dog.

Harrison Ford hopes he has as much success with ghosts as Willis did last year. Co-starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Ford's What Lies Beneath mixes the supernatural with the story of a troubled marriage.

Kevin Bacon, who had his own problems with ghosts last year in Stir of Echoes , gets to fool around with some very special special effects that will allow him to do a disappearing act in Hollow Man . This is a new version of those Invisible Man movies that were such hits in the 1940s.

In time for the July 4 holiday, Mel Gibson stars in The Patriot as a reluctant soldier who gets swept up in the American Revolution when the Redcoats kidnap his son. Sounds like an 18th-century version of the Civil War family saga Shenandoah .

Clint Eastwood goes to outer space with Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland and James Garner in Space Cowboys . They'll play a team of over-the-hill Air Force hotshots who get called up to fix a damaged satellite, 42 years after they were passed over for the first U.S. space mission. Who said you don't get a second chance? Eastwood directed with NASA's blessing.

Other films to watch out for this summer include Shaft, a remake of the 1971 action film starring Richard Roundtree as a black private eye. Samuel L. Jackson takes over the role, though Roundtree will have a small role.

Robert Redford's golfing movie, The Legend of Bagger Vance starring Will Smith and Matt Damon, looks to be aiming for the mythical qualities of Redford's baseball movie, The Natural. Damon plays a World War I hero who gets golfing advice from a mysterious caddy, played by Smith.

Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie will be out for car-theft kicks in the explosive action film Gone in Sixty Seconds .

And even Godzilla will rise from the ashes one more time for Godzilla 2000 .

It promises to be a hot time for all.
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