Video Verdict: ‘Olympus Has Fallen,’ ‘The Big Wedding’

Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton star in “The Big Wedding.”

Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton star in “The Big Wedding.”

This week’s biggest home video releases have a lot of star power, but they are unfortunately light in more important areas.

Olympus Has Fallen

2½ stars (out of four)
Rated R for strong violence and language throughout
Sony
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and on demand

It’s strange how often Hollywood latches onto a single idea, releasing multiple movies on a given topic within months of one another. In early 2013, the Dream Factory fixated on the idea of a presidency under siege, releasing “Olympus Has Fallen” into theaters on March 22 and “White House Down” on June 28. Both movies imagine a world where the White House falls under the control of enemy terrorists, and both are equal parts ridiculous and entertaining.

The best of the two is “White House Down,” a picture that balances wild action sequences with a healthy sense of humor. “Olympus Has Fallen,” on the other hand, takes things deadly serious. It centers on Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), a U.S. Secret Service agent who loses favor by failing to save the first lady (Ashley Judd) in the aftermath of an automobile accident. Mike gets an opportunity to redeem himself when the White House is taken over by well-organized attackers. As the only survivor of the initial assault, Mike becomes America’s best hope of not only rescuing the president but preventing the attackers from executing a plan with deadly global consequences.

Butler is typically likable in the lead role, and his rugged good looks and imposing physique make him a perfect action hero. Because of this, it’s fun to watch him pick off assailants one by one, bucking insurmountable odds in a quest to recapture the U.S. Capitol. Very little of what’s shown on screen could actually happen, and that’s sure to leave purists scoffing. Those willing to suspend disbelief, however, should enjoy Mike’s spectacular feats despite their implausibility.

Looking past plot flaws requires even more forgiveness. During the course of the film, U.S. officials, led by acting president Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman), have numerous opportunities to end the siege. Alas, they lack the intestinal fortitude to make difficult decisions and instead allow the terrorists to hold America hostage. Perhaps director Antoine Fuqua is making a statement about the wisdom of American politicians. It is more likely, however, that he and screenwriters Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt realized that a realistic ending would lack drama. So, viewers get a movie where the entire fate of the country lies in the hands of Mike Banning.

“Olympus Has Fallen” has excellent action sequences, and Fuqua does a terrific job making Washington, D.C., look like a battleground. For indulgent viewers, this will be enough. Those who prefer action films with more finesse should opt for the equally ridiculous but likably lighthearted “White House Down.”

The DVD release of “Olympus Has Fallen” has no extra features. The Blu-ray contains a blooper reel and five featurettes on the making of the film.

The Big Wedding

2 stars
Rated R for language, sexual content and brief nudity
Lionsgate
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand

Writer-director Justin Zackham’s English-language remake of the 2006 French comedy “Mon frère se marie” boasts a remarkable ensemble including Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams, Katherine Heigl, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace and Ben Barnes. Unfortunately, the spectacular collection of actors is the only selling point.

Like the equally star-studded “New Year’s Eve,” “The Big Wedding” is predicated on the belief that all it takes to satisfy moviegoers is a parade of big-name stars. This isn’t true.

As the title suggests, the story is set during a wedding celebration. Recent Harvard Graduate Alejandro (Barnes) is preparing to marry his love, Missy (Seyfried), at the home where he grew up. His situation is complicated, however, because he has three mothers.

When he was a boy, Alejandro’s biological mom, Donna (Patricia Rae), sent him from Colombia to live a more privileged life in America. The plan worked, but Alejandro’s adoptive parents are considerably more liberal than Donna… especially in terms of sexuality and religion. Among other things, Alejandro’s adoptive father, Don (De Niro), cheated on his wife, Ellie (Keaton), with her best friend, Bebe (Sarandon). This led to divorce, but Alejandro never told his birth mother.

When Donna shows up for the wedding, everyone is faced with a predicament because she believes Don is still married to Ellie despite the fact that Bebe replaced her years ago. Zackham does his best to make the situation funny, but laughs are infrequent.

“The Big Wedding” also features a number of subplots, including bits with Alejandro’s adoptive siblings, Jared (Grace) and Lyla (Heigl). The former is a 29-year-old doctor who has chosen to remain a virgin. The latter is experiencing marital problems. Since viewers also get multiple appearances by a goofy priest (Williams) and Missy’s bigoted parents (Christine Ebersole and David Rasche), Zackham seems to have the makings of a fast-moving farce. But he doesn’t put the pieces together properly. The goofy characters waltz through plenty of offbeat situations, but that’s not enough because quirky and funny are not synonymous.

DVD and Blu-ray extras are limited to a featurette about the making of the film.

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

“The Company You Keep”: Political thriller directed by and starring Robert Redford. The focus is on a former Weather Underground militant (Redford) forced to flee when a young reporter (Shia LaBeouf) exposes his true identity. The film received mixed reviews during a limited run in theaters.

“The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec”: Writer-director Luc Besson’s film adaptation of the like-titled French comic book series. The movie, presented in French and English with English subtitles, focuses on Adèle (Louise Bourgoin), an adventurous novelist living in Paris during the early 20th century. Her thirst for action leads her to many fanciful situations, including a run in with a pterodactyl.

“Emperor”: Military drama set immediately after Japan’s surrender to the United States in World War II. As the dust settles, General Douglas MacArthur (Tommy Lee Jones) gives his expert on Japanese culture (Matthew Fox) just 10 days to determine whether the Japanese emperor should be executed for war crimes.

“The Mindy Project” – Season One: One of the better-reviewed TV shows of the fall 2012 season receives its home video debut. Creator Mindy Kaling stars as a single OB/GYN struggling to find love while maintaining a busy professional schedule.

“Once Upon a Time” – The Complete Second Season: This fairy tale drama has performed so well for ABC that the network is delivering a spinoff – “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” – in October. The plotting centers on classic fairy tale characters, including Snow White and Prince Charming, who have been transported into the modern world.

“Enlightened” – The Complete Second Season: Despite receiving significant critical acclaim, this HBO dramedy struggled in the ratings and was ultimately canceled. That makes the eight episodes in this set the last of its brief run. Co-creator Laura Dern stars as a do-gooder who, after a stint in rehab, is determined to end corruption at the corporation she works for. Series co-creator Mike White also has a starring role.

“Southland” – The Complete Fifth and Final Season: Last 10 episodes of the TNT drama about fictional members of the Los Angeles Police Department.

“Seconds”: Freshly restored Criterion Collection release of director John Frankenheimer’s 1966 science-fiction thriller about a middle-aged banker who allows a mysterious organization to erase his identity and insert him into an entirely new life. Rock Hudson stars.

“Family Ties” – The Seventh and Final Season: Actor Michael J. Fox is returning to TV with a self-titled show in September. No matter how that production turns out, he will always be remembered for his portrayal of Alex P. Keaton in “Family Ties.” The show centers on ex-hippie parents (Meredith Baxter-Birney and Michael Gross) attempting to raise their children, including a young Republican (Fox), in an era of conservatism.

“Perry Mason” – The Ninth and Final Season – Volume 2: Final 15 episodes of the classic legal drama featuring Raymond Burr as a hard-nosed trial attorney with a knack for getting clients out of difficult spots. Barbara Hale and William Hopper also star.

“Girls” – The Complete Second Season: Ten episodes of writer-director-actor Lena Dunham’s Emmy Award-winning HBO series about 20-something women facing life struggles in New York City. Adam Driver, Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke, Zosia Mamet and Alex Karpovsky also star.

“The Damned”: DVD and Blu-ray debut of French director Réne Clément’s 1947 drama about Nazis attempting to flee Europe during the closing days of World War II. Presented in French with English subtitles.

“The Amazing World of Gumball – The Party”: Twelve episodes of the Cartoon Network animated series about animal friends attending a junior high school.

 

– Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. For more of his work visit http://www.ForrestHartman.com. E-mail him at forrest@forresthartman.com.

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