Capsule reviews for Aug. 30

Afternoon Delight

Determined to be more cuddly than edgy, this broad sex comedy about middle-aged marital frustration follows Rachel (Kathryn Hahn), whose idea to spice up her sex life with her inventor husband (Josh Radnor) is to visit a strip club, where she meets McKenna (Juno Temple), who later becomes a nanny to the couple’s young daughter. It’s not exactly a manual on responsible parenting, but hardly the tribute to female empowerment it aspires to be, either. There are some amusing character-driven moments, but the script by director Jill Soloway doesn’t generate many big laughs, and it’s more creepy than poignant as it remains detached from reality. (Rated R, 97 minutes).


I Declare War

A thin premise is stretched to feature length in this modestly amusing yet unsettling glimpse at adolescent behavior that resembles a poor man’s Lord of the Flies. It follows a handful of prepubescent children who stage an epic game of Capture the Flag in the wilderness, away from any parents or authority figures, and get quite serious about the war tactics. Although the performances from a collection of young newcomers generally resonate with authenticity, the gimmicky naturalistic concept only records their blurring of fantasy and reality without offering any further insight or meaning. The result feels more like a sociological experiment than compelling drama. (Not rated, 94 minutes).


Instructions Not Included

Mexican sitcom star Eugenio Derbez makes an unsuccessful attempt to broaden his fan base with this predictable comedy (which he also wrote and directed), in which he stars as a womanizer forced to care for his young daughter, except that he knows nothing about parenting. So he sets out for Los Angeles to find the girl’s American mother, becoming a stuntman and eventually forming an unlikely bond with the child. It’s a broad comedy about arrested development with some heartfelt moments, but it doesn’t transition smoothly between comedy and drama, and the constant mugging of Derbez becomes as tiresome as his character’s lack of common sense. (Rated PG-13, 115 minutes).


The Lifeguard

Redemption is the theme of this bittersweet drama about Leigh (Kristen Bell), a journalist who becomes frustrated with her life and quits her big-city job to move back in with her parents in her small hometown. She even reclaims her old job as a lifeguard at the local pool, where she becomes enamored with a rebellious teenager (David Lambert). The film strains to be hip and edgy in its exploration of catharsis through starting over, and its central relationship feels more contrived than authentic. Rookie writer-director Liz Garcia doesn’t give her characters much context, and their lack of sympathy isn’t redeemed much by Bell’s passive portrayal. (Rated R, 97 minutes).


Our Nixon

This lighthearted yet compelling documentary provides new insight into the Nixon presidency by editing together footage from plentiful Super-8 home movies shot during those years by his top aides — H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and Dwight Chapin — who happened to be the same men later convicted in the Watergate scandal. The footage is only mildly illuminating, but it is combined with archival interviews (and excerpts from those infamous audio recordings) by rookie director Penny Lane into a slick and even-handed package that offers an intimate behind-the-scenes glimpse into the White House during tumultuous times, especially the foolish chain of events that led to Nixon’s downfall. (Not rated, 84 minutes).