What is Robert De Niro thinking? The question is being posed not with condescension or derision – though that’s probably how it sounds – but with curiosity and concern. When he makes a movie like “Hide and Seek” – essentially a B-horror flick with the benefit of a high-quality cast – is he doing it for a change of pace? Certainly the first two-thirds of this generically titled thriller are engrossing enough, chockfull of good, old-fashioned scary movie images and ideas. De Niro plays a New York City psychologist who takes his daughter, played by Dakota Fanning, to a dinky town upstate after the suicide of his wife, played by Amy Irving. He hopes she’ll come out of her frequently stoic state to make new friends. She already has. His name is Charlie, and he’s presumably imaginary. Then the bodies start piling up, and the weakness of the script really comes to a head. Rated: R for frightening sequences and violence. Rating: 1 1/2 out of 4 stars.

‘Are We There Yet?’

Planes, trains and automobiles apparently aren’t enough anymore. In straining to wring every imaginable last laugh, this cruel road trip comedy also trots out a horse, a blinged-out sport utility vehicle and an armada of 18-wheelers driven by misinformed, overzealous truckers. None of this helps, though, when the passengers of said vehicles are the manipulative, high-maintenance brother-sister duo of Lindsey (Aleisha Allen) and Kevin (Philip Daniel Bolden) under the inept, reluctant watch of Nick (Ice Cube) who tolerates them in an effort to woo their exceedingly hot, divorced mother, Suzanne (Nia Long). It’s numbingly one-note until it shifts abruptly into a second note that clangs even worse. It tries to be sentimental. Rated: PG for language and rude humor. Rating: 1 out of 4 stars.

‘Assault on Precinct 13′

The phrase “cult classic” has been used to describe the original “Assault on Precinct 13,” John Carpenter’s 1976 urban Western about cops and criminals banding together inside a police station against a multicultural siege of gang members. This new “Assault on Precinct 13” is a classic, too – a classic example of remaking a movie by making it bigger, louder and more obvious. An all-star cast (Ethan Hawke, Laurence Fishburne, Drea de Matteo, Gabriel Byrne) replaces the unknowns from the original, and the action has been moved from Los Angeles to Detroit in a blinding New Year’s Eve snowstorm, perhaps an attempt by French director Jean-Francois Richet to obscure the muddled action sequences. Rated: R for strong violence and language throughout, and for some drug content. Rating: 1 1/2 out of 4 stars.

‘Racing Stripes’

Dismissing this as a paltry retread of “Babe” would be mean, and it’s hard to be mean to a movie that’s so well-intentioned. The similarities are hard to miss, though, as are the differences. Whereas the talking little piggie of “Babe” wanted to be a sheepherding dog, the talking baby zebra of “Racing Stripes” (voiced eagerly by Frankie Muniz) wants to be a racehorse. Like Babe, Stripes the zebra lives on a farm, where he’s surrounded by a menagerie of computer-enhanced creatures who crack wise – only here their voices are provided by a much higher-profile assemblage of celebrity talent (Whoopi Goldberg, Joe Pantoliano, Snoop Dogg and Dustin Hoffman). What “Racing Stripes” offers in star power, though, it lacks in heart. It’s strangely distant, with its superficial platitudes about tolerance and daring to go after big dreams. Rated: PG.Rating: 2 out of 4 stars.


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