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'50/50' works the percentages

Published October 10. 2011 05:03PM

You'll laugh.

You'll cry.

It's your choice.

Choice is an underlying theme in the movie, "50/50," where the title refers to the 50 percent chance of a cancer patient to survive.

The cancer patient, Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), is a successful 27-year-old Seattle public radio station reporter, diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer.

His buddy, Kyle (Seth Rogen), who is always on the prowl, becomes his champion.

"50/50" is not a downer, though there are serious moments, obviously because of the subject matter. The comedy arises naturally from the dark humor of that same subject material.

Musing about Adam's 50 percent chance of surviving his cancer, Kyle concludes optimistically, "If you're a casino, you'd have the best odds."

"50/50" has its raunchy "American Pie" moments, thanks to Rogen's deft delivery of his role's cynical comedic take on life.

There are a few "Grumpy Old Men" scenes with Adam's two older fellow chemo-therapy patients (Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer).

"50/50" has its "buddy film" moments with Rogen and Gordon-Levitt, who are a casting coup.

Bryce Dallas-Howard is another fine casting choice as Rachael, Adam's conflicted girlfriend who doesn't quite know how to handle his illness. Anna Kendrick ("Up in the Air") is also a wonderful choice as Katherine, Adam's therapist. Anjelica Huston plays Adam's mother.

The interesting back story to "50/50" is that Rogen befriended Will Reiser, who wrote the screenplay for the move based on Reiser's bout with cancer.

Look for a possible Oscar actor nomination for Gordon-Levitt whose sunny face (with those Roy Rogers' Asian eyes) undergoes some drastic changes to represent a cancer patient, but retains the open visage of a silent-movie star.

There also could be a Oscar supporting actor nomination for Rogen, who is remarkably good in the role.

Jonathan Levine directs the fine cast with a rare combination of sensitivity and rowdiness. He uses close ups and bright lighting effectively for conversation scenes between Gordon-Levitt and Rogen. Scenes between Gordon-Levitt and Dallas-Howard have romantic and darker tones.

"50/50" dares to joke about a very serious topic. Members of certain ethic groups can use certain words and not offend each other. So, too with screenwriter Will Reiser. He's been there. He's a cancer survivor. He has more than earned the right to laugh at cancer.

With "50/50," movie-goers who understand and appreciate that will be able to laugh, too.

"50/50," MPAA Rated R (Restricted. Under 17 Requires Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian) for language throughout, sexual content and some drug use; Genre: Comedy, Drama; Run time: 1 hr., 39 min.; Distributed by Summit Entertainment.

Credit Readers Anonymous: While "50/50" is set in Seattle, the majority of filming took place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Box Office, Sept. 30, "Dolphin Tale" swam to No. 1, after its opening week at No. 3, with $14.2 million and $37.5 million after two weeks. "Moneyball" stayed at No. 2, with $12.5 million, and $38.4 million after two weeks. "The Lion King," in its 3D re-release, dropped from No. 1 to No. 3, with $11.1 million and $79.6 million, after three weeks. "50/50" opened at No. 4, with only $8.8 million. "Courageous" opened at No. 5 with only $8.8 million. "Dream House" opened at No. 6, with only $8.2 million.

7. "Abduction," $5.6 million, $19.1 million, two weeks; 8. "What's Your Number?," $5.6 million, opening; 9. "Contagion," $5 million, $64.7 million, four weeks; 10. "Killer Elite," $4.8 million, $17.4 million, two weeks

Unreel, Oct. 7:

"Real Steel," PG-13: Hugh Jackman plays a promoter of battle-bots, where robot boxing is a top attraction in the science-fiction film.

"The Ides of March," R: The presidential campaign trail is littered with idealists. The drama includes a top-flight cast: George Clooney, Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ryan Gosling and Marisa Tomei.

Read previous movie reviews at Email Paul Willistein at: and on Facebook.

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes

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