Video Verdict: ‘Nine,’ ‘Leap Year,’ ‘Tooth Fairy’

Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis), a blocked writer-director, agonizes over starting a new film during a musical number in “Nine.”

This week’s home video releases are anchored by a romantic comedy starring Amy Adams, a family feature with Dwayne Johnson and a flashy musical from the man who brought us “Chicago.”

 

Nine
2½ stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for sexual content and smoking
Sony
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Director Rob Marshall propelled the 2002 movie musical “Chicago” to a best picture win at the Oscars, creating high expectations for his 2009 adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical “Nine.” Sadly, he wasn’t able to replicate the magic.

“Nine” is based on Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini’s semi-autobiographical movie “8½,” and Daniel Day-Lewis was tapped to play the central character, a womanizing director named Guido Contini. The man is distraught because he is yet to write a screenplay for his current film, and shooting begins in days. It doesn’t help that he’s having an affair with a beauty named Carla (Penelope Cruz in an Oscar-nominated role) while trying to maintain the love of his wife, Luisa (Marion Cotillard).

“Nine” has plenty of failings, but one can’t fault its star power. Along with the previously mentioned players, Sophia Loren, Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench and Kate Hudson have supporting roles. All are good and the film’s cinematography and art direction are gorgeous.

The movie also has several impressive song-and-dance numbers, the most noteworthy coming from Cruz. Trouble is, a feature-length musical needs more than a few great numbers, and “Nine” feels flat overall. In part, that’s because composer Maury Yeston’s songs aren’t as punchy and vivacious as those in “Chicago,” but Marshall deserves much of the blame as well. His pacing is sluggish, and he allowed Day-Lewis to sing each of his songs with an accent that sounds like it came straight out of Transylvania. Dracula anyone?

Blu-ray and DVD extras include numerous making-of featurettes, several music videos and a commentary by Marshall and producer John DeLuca.

 

 

Leap Year
1½ stars
Rated PG for sensuality and language
Universal
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Once upon a time in the distant past, a psychologically impaired screenwriter decided that only couples who start out fighting can achieve true, cinematic love. He wrote a movie reinforcing the theory and it must have been popular because people have been copying it ever since.

The latest incarnation is “Leap Year,” the story of a perky young woman named Anna (Amy Adams) who learns of an Irish tradition allowing women to propose to men on Feb. 29. Since her cardiologist boyfriend is in Dublin for a conference, she decides to surprise him with a ring. Alas, bad weather forces her plane down on the wrong side of Ireland, prompting her to ask a handsome tavern owner named Declan (Matthew Goode) to drive her to the other side.

Of course, Declan and Anna have nothing in common. He’s into the simple life and she likes designer clothes. He likes to relax and she’s go, go, go. That means viewers are treated to about 90 minutes of bickering designed to convince us that Declan and Anna are perfect for one another. Whether they ultimately get together is inconsequential because it’s hard to imagine anyone caring.

“Leap Year” is so predictable and dull that not even Adams adds much to it, and she’s one of the most radiant and exciting actresses working today. I’ll give her a pass this time because even great talents find themselves trapped in bad projects. Here’s hoping it only happens to her on leap years.

DVD and Blu-ray extras are limited to deleted scenes.

 

 

The Tooth Fairy
2 stars
Rated PG for mild language, some rude humor and sports action
20th Century Fox
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Dwayne Johnson has never been a great actor, but he has natural charisma that’s allowed him to win fans even with questionable projects. “The Tooth Fairy” proves there’s a limit to viewer generosity, and it comes about the time Johnson sprouts wings and threatens to punch a fairy named Tracy (Stephen Merchant) in the nose. You see, “Tooth Fairy” is the sort of family comedy that finds great humor in having Johnson flex his biceps and introduce them as the Hammer Brothers. It’s not offensive, per se, it’s just dumb.

Johnson plays Derek Thompson, a former hockey star who has been demoted to the minor leagues where he does nothing but check other players against the boards. His career isn’t what it used to be but, hey, it’s stable and it’s a living. That stability disappears, however, when Derek tells his girlfriend’s (Ashley Judd) daughter that there’s no such thing as the Tooth Fairy, prompting the head fairy (Julie Andrews) to make him join their ranks.

Suddenly Derek finds himself balancing hockey with emergency runs to collect teeth, and he doesn’t have the option to back out because he sprouts wings that don’t go away until a job is successfully completed. It’s possible to imagine an incarnation of this film that would be funny, at least in a juvenile way, but director Michael Lembeck and his screenwriting team weren’t able to find it. Once the novelty of watching Johnson run around in a tutu and wings wears off, it’s all downhill, and that (forgive the pun) is a fairy bad sign.

DVD extras include a Fairyoke segment featuring Johnson and Merchant butchering a version of Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings” and a short exercise video that was reportedly shot at the Tooth Fairy Training Center.

 

 

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

“Tetro”: The story of Italian immigrant brothers who reconnect after a decade of separation. The film was written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and it stars Vincent Gallo, Alden Ehrenreich and Maribel Verdu.

“Iron Man Armored Adventures – The Complete Season One”: Animated series about Tony Stark, a 16-year-old billionaire who moonlights as the superhero Iron Man. It’s no coincidence that this four-disc set – featuring the first 26 episodes of the show – is being released the same week “Iron Man 2” hits theaters.

“Marcus Welby, MD – Season One”: This television medical drama aired from 1969 to 1976 and starred Robert Young as Dr. Marcus Welby and James Brolin as Dr. Steven Kiley. The two docs were quite a pair because Welby, older and wiser, had an unconventional approach to medicine while Kiley strictly followed procedure. This seven-disc boxed set includes one episode directed by a young Steven Spielberg, plus a made-for-TV movie.

“Honeymooners” specials: The 1956 comedy television series “The Honeymooners,” about two wacky couples living in Brooklyn, lasted only one regular season, but star Jackie Gleason would often revive it in sketch form. Also, in the late-1970s, the cast was reunited for four TV specials. MPI Media Group is releasing two of those this week: “Second Honeymoon” and “Valentine Special.” Art Carney, Audrey Meadows and Jane Kean star alongside Gleason.

“Saturday Morning Cartoons 1980s”: Selections from 11 different animated shows are presented on 2 discs. Titles include “Goldie Gold & Action Jack,” “Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos,” “The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley,” “The Flintstones Kids,” “Mister T” and “Monchhichis.”

“Dirty Dancing – Limited Keepsake Edition”: This boxed set, featuring the wildly popular film about naïveté and young love plus a commemorative book, is available on Blu-ray and DVD. Patrick Swayze stars as a handsome dance instructor and Jennifer Grey plays his pupil/lover.

“California Dreamin’ ”: Set during the conflict in Kosovo in 1999, this dark comedy looks at how Americans are perceived in other parts of the world. The story focuses on an Army platoon led by Captain Doug Jones (Armand Assante) and what happens when it’s held up in a small Romanian town.

“The Dukes”: Dramedy about a group of washed-up musicians dealing with their loss of fame. In an effort to revitalize their careers, they plan to break into a safe and steal the cash needed to start their own night club. Stars Chaz Palminteri, Robert Davi, and Peter Bogdanovich.

 

 

Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. E-mail him at Forrest@ForrestHartman.com

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Video Verdict: ‘Nine,’ ‘Leap Year,’ ‘Tooth Fairy’

  1. smilingldsgirl

    Your review of leap year made me laugh. I am so tired of the cliche of hate at first turning to love. It’s like everybody has taken the brilliance of Taming of the Shrew and Pride and Prejudice and copied the formula again and again but to much less effect each time.
    What usually happens is that the characters are so hateful to each other throughout the film that you feel nothing when they get together. This describes every Matthew Mcconaughey movie.
    One that I like with this formula is You’ve Got Mail but I think that is because Tom Hanks is just so darn likable!

  2. Glad I made you laugh. Obviously, I agree. It works now and then, but not very often.

    One thing “You’ve Got Mail” has going for it is that the characters were at odds in large part because of their business concerns. That makes a lot more sense than the romances where the two leads literally seem to hate each other and then the director flips a switch and they’re in love.

  3. smilingldsgirl

    Good point. Plus, they don’t really know that they hate each other and are in love with each other. (if that makes sense!). In these romantic comedies they are hateful towards each other and supposedly in love at the same time.

  4. That does make sense, and it rarely works for me. I can handle the movies where the two leads get off on the wrong foot and then start to see each other’s true colors. That certainly happens in real life.

    But the ones where they bicker and fight for 90 minutes are just annoying.

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