“The Great Gatsby” (PG-13, 142 minutes, Warner): “It’s like an amusement park.” That’s Nick Carraway, the wide-eyed, ever-present narrator of “The Great Gatsby,” describing one of the legendary parties thrown by the movie’s fabulously wealthy and elusive title character. But Carraway (played by Tobey Maguire) could just as easily be referring to the very movie he finds himself in, a hyper-real, hyperactive, hyperbolic adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel that spares no flower, flapper or fringe in bringing Jazz Age decadence to throbbing life. It takes a singular brand of chutzpah to consider perhaps the greatest piece of American literature of the 20th century and say, “What this story needs is 3-D.” Australian director Baz Luhrmann is just that audacious, staging Fitzgerald’s tale of reinvention and self-deception as a 21st century visual spectacle and multicultural musical mash-up of Jay-Z, George Gershwin and just about everything in between. Even at its most shallow, the film rescues Jay Gatsby (played here by Leonardo DiCaprio) as a largely sympathetic, romantic figure rather than a cynically ironic one. But neither is it necessary. Childlike, fetishistic and painfully literal, Luhrmann’s experiment proves once again that it’s Fitzgerald’s writing – not his plot, his characters or his grasp of material detail – that has always made “Gatsby” great. Contains some violent images, sexual content, smoking, partying and brief profanity.
“Tyler Perry Presents Peeples” (PG-13, 95 minutes, Lionsgate): Craig Robinson, “The Office” co-star and Judd Apatow utility player, makes a play for leading man with uneven results in “Tyler Perry Presents Peeples,” a bland, quickly disposable romantic comedy. Playing opposite Kerry Washington – in a wan, underwritten departure from her wildly popular “Scandal” persona – Robinson sings, mugs, riffs and vamps his way through a barely warmed-over version of “Meet the Parents” redux. Robinson plays Wade Walker, a would-be child therapist who has carved out a living singing inspirational songs to school children. Wade’s girlfriend, Grace Peeples (Washington), is a successful lawyer, and has studiously avoided introducing Wade to her high-achieving family for fear of their disapproval. Wade finally decides to take matters into his own hands, following Grace to a Peeples family weekend at their gorgeous beach house in tony Sag Harbor. Robinson maintains his signature openness and warmth throughout “Peeples,” which marks the directorial debut of Tina Gordon Chism (best known for co-writing the wonderful “Drumline” as well as “ATL”). With luck, her sophomore outing will find her in more assured control of stronger material. Contains sexual content, drug material and profanity.
Also: “Pain and Gain,” “At Any Price,” “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” “Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s” (documentary), “A Company Man” (South Korea), “Damian Lewis Double Feature” (BBC), “Eclipse Series 39: Early Fassbinder” (five films by the New German Cinema filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder), “Missions That Changed the War: Germany’s Last Ace” (2011, two-disc, four-part Military Channel documentary, Athena), “Online,” “Seattle Superstorm,” “2nd Serve,” “Super Buddies” (Disney), “Meddling Mom and the Sweeter Side of Life” (Hallmark Movie Channel double feature) and two Scholastic Storybook Treasures, “Children Make Terrible Pets … And More Stories About Family” and “Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late … And More Stories by Mo Willems” (animated).