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Is 'Inception' too smart for America?

What comes to mind when you think about summer movies?  Laughs, stuff blowing up, more laughs, more stuff blowing up, etc.  But this weekend, Christopher Nolan, director of 'The Dark Knight', will unleash perhaps the most ambitious mind-bender ever committed to celluloid on American summer movie audiences with his new Oscar-bait film, "Inception".  The question is, will flip-flop-wearing Americans looking for mindless, escapist entertainment go see it?  Or, more importantly, will they get it?

Leonardo DiCaprio stars in new Warner Bros. film "Inception"
Warner

The production of "Inception" has been tightly guarded and shrouded in mystery.  But we do know that the plot centers on a team of thieves (Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Ellen Page) who are able to enter people's dreams to steal information.  DiCaprio's character, Dom Cobb, is tired of the business and is offered the chance to do one last job before retiring - enter someone's dream and plant an idea instead of steal one. 

What happens next is an exercise in cerebral calisthenics that even  Entertainment Weekly movie reviewer Lisa Schwarzbaum wasn't quite sure she understood:

"Beware the critic who claims the ability to analyze Inception authoritatively after one viewing. As engrossing and logic-resistant as the state of dreaming it seeks to replicate, Christopher Nolan's audacious new creation demands further study to fully absorb the multiple, simultaneous stories Nolan finagles into one narrative experience. Only repeated exposure can clarify for each spectator not only what's going on, but also whether the emotional payoff deepens enough to warrant the arbitrary complexity of the game."

Cilian Murphy (28 Days Later), plays an heir in whose dream a business rival (Ken Watanabe) hires Dom to plant the idea of the experimental process called inception.  Simple enough, right?  Well, not quite.  Turns out planting an idea versus stealing one has some unforeseen complications that Dom and his crew may or may not be able to handle.

To add to the complexity of wrapping your head around being inside another person's dream, the mathematically-obsessed Nolan (whose first movie, Memento, unraveled backwards) also throws in some twists that have symbolic, underlying meaning to the movie's plot.  Figuring them out is all part of the fun.

The trailer for the movie (see below) features eye-popping, gravity-defying special effects.  That (and air conditioning) may be enough to draw in summer audiences.  But will "Inception" be a must-see, repeat viewing experience, or will it be a victim of the long-awaited, family-friendly Disney spectacle "The Sorceror's Apprentice", and, of course, the bugaboo that is "Twilight: Eclipse"?

"Inception" has a special midnight screening tonight in select cities and opens Friday (7/16) in theaters everywhere.  Be sure to check out the movie's website for more trailers and a look at its red carpet premiere in London.

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