Based on the laughter and tears from the packed screening I attended, fans of "The Help" are going to love the movie adaptation of the bestselling novel.

Based on the laughter and tears from the packed screening I attended, fans of "The Help" are going to love the movie adaptation of the bestselling novel.

Just don't count this critic among them. For a movie with a topic that is so open to challenge our ideas, it sides too often with just being entertaining.

In Mississippi in the early '60s, Skeeter (Emma Stone) has finished college and aspires to be a writer. She begins clandestinely interviewing the underappreciated black maids that serve her high-society friends' families.

With the backdrop of the civil rights movement, an unflattering portrait of Southern traditions emerges in her tale.

I realize not every movie about race relations has to be "Do the Right Thing," but "The Help" feels too tidy.

There's an overly idealized white heroine in Skeeter and a painfully one-dimensional villainess in Hilly (a prissy and pissy Bryce Dallas Howard).

The black lead actresses give the film its heart, particularly Viola Davis, whose Abileen embodies a sweet and weary stoicism.

The movie captures a racism that exists a lot closer to the present than we're comfortable with. But in alternately playing for laughs and tugging at emotions, director Tate Taylor makes a crowd-pleaser at the expense of making us really think.