This week’s home video releases include a trite horror film, the second season of an excellent TV dramedy and a charming adaptation of a classic children’s book.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
3½ stars (out of four)
Rated PG for brief mild language
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
Typically, film adaptations of children’s picture books suffer because they require massive rewrites just to bring them to feature length. The resulting films often feel padded and rarely capture the magic that made the books special. That considered, it’s a tribute to directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller that they were able to turn Judi and Ron Barrett’s “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” book into a fast-paced and exciting adventure that is not only entertaining but ranks among the best animated movies of 2009.
The plotting strays from the Barretts’ book, but it’s still centered on a small town that sees food fall from the sky. In the movie, the food comes courtesy of Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader), a young inventor who accidentally sends one of his creations into the atmosphere, turning normal precipitation into hamburgers, ice cream and steaks. In so doing, he becomes a town hero and something of an international celebrity as a pretty weather girl named Sam (Anna Farris) reports on the strange phenomenon. At first, everything seems dandy, but a turn of events teaches Flint that it may not always be good to have food falling from the sky.
“Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” is gorgeously animated, with much of the visual appeal coming from the ultra-rich colors that permeate every scene. The movie also gets points for its attention to detail and some great recurring gags. Because this year also brought the incredible “Up,” I doubt “Cloudy” will win the Oscar for best animated film, but it at least deserves to be in the forecast.
The movie is available as part of multiple home video releases, including a two-disc set that includes Blu-ray, DVD and digital copies of the film. Extra features vary.
The Final Destination
Rated R for strong violent/gruesome accidents, language and a scene of sexuality
New Line Cinema
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
As if we needed reinforcement, the fourth entry in the “Final Destination” horror franchise proves that the series has played itself out.
Just like in the previous entries, “The Final Destination” revolves around a central character who has a premonition that saves lives. This time, it’s a handsome young man named Nick O’Bannon (Bobby Campos) who foresees a racecar crash and sets events in motion that prevent the deaths of a handful of people who should have been killed in the aftermath. These people include his girlfriend, Lori (Shantel VanSanten), and their friends, Hunt (Nick Zano) and Janet (Haley Webb).
Within days, the friends learn that two people who would have died at the track have fallen victim to bizarre accidents. It doesn’t take long for them to figure out that death is stalking the people that escaped it, one by one. By Googling supernatural occurrences on the Internet, Nick and Lori become convinced they can change their fate by preventing the demise of another would-be victim. So, aided by a security guard named George (Mykelti Williamson), they race from place to place trying to save souls.
Because this is a horror movie, their efforts are seldom successful, leaving viewers to the film’s only true selling point: A bird’s eye view of numerous character deaths, all perpetrated by everyday events that become deadly after falling together in odd, Rube Goldberg-esque ways. In theaters, the movie had added cache because it was presented in 3D, and the home video release has a 3D option as well. Sadly, home video viewing using cardboard 3D glasses like those packaged with the DVD and Blu-ray is not particularly good.
The Blu-ray disc has a small assortment of extras, but DVD special features are limited to additional scenes.
Chuck: The Complete Second Season
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
By the time the second season of “Chuck” came to a close on NBC last year, it had become my favorite current television show. Now, everyone who missed it on the tube can see just how great it is.
Zachary Levi stars as Chuck Bartowski, an everyday computer nerd who accidentally uploads his brain with the only remaining copy of America’s greatest intelligence secrets. Because he’s so valuable, the government turns him into a spy under the constant watch of two veteran agents, the super sexy Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski) and by-the-book John Casey (Adam Baldwin). Chuck isn’t into the superspy thing, but he is into Sarah … who just might be into him as well.
“Chuck,” the show, gets points for its adept blend of comedy and drama and its exceedingly well-drawn characters. Levi is so likable in the title role that it’s impossible not to root for him, and Strahovski infuses Sarah with the perfect blend of compassion and professionalism. Even better, they have fantastic chemistry.
Ideally, new recruits should watch season one of “Chuck” before plopping this set into a DVD/Blu-ray player because there are big plot twists toward the end of this 22-episode arc. That said, season two is more engaging than season one, and it’s better to start here than miss out on the series altogether.
DVD extras include an assortment of making-of and behind-the-scenes features, shorts created for the Web, deleted scenes and a gag reel.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
“Trucker”: Michelle Monaghan plays a carefree truck driver forced to alter her freewheeling lifestyle when her estranged 11-year-old son shows up unexpectedly. Monaghan’s performance won her best actress honors in the San Diego Film Critics Society Awards.
“Lorna’s Silence”: French drama about a young Belgian woman who gets sucked into a diabolical underworld scheme. Ultimately, her participation will lead to a man’s death unless she decides to speak out. The film won best screenplay and was nominated for the Golden Palm at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.
“Big Love” – The Complete Third Season: All 10 season-three episodes of the HBO drama about a modern-day polygamist (Bill Paxton) juggling three wives and eight children. Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny, Ginnifer Goodwin and Harry Dean Stanton also star.
“10 Things I Hate About You” — 10th Anniversary Edition: The late Heath Ledger made his American screen debut in this enjoyable teen remake of William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.” Julia Stiles, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gabrielle Union, Larisa Oleynik and David Krumholtz also star.
“Winnie the Pooh — A Valentine for You”: Three animated Winnie the Pooh stories with Valentine’s Day themes: “Un-Valentine’s Day,” “A Valentine for You” and “My Hero.” The latter story – about what happens when Piglet saves Tigger’s life – is making its DVD debut.
“The Circuit”: ABC Family movie starring Michelle Trachtenberg as a teen racecar driver making her mark on the profession while facing typical coming-of-age difficulties.
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