Video Verdict: ‘Grown Ups,’ ‘Scott Pilgrim,’ ‘Ramona and Beezus,’ ‘Charlie St. Cloud,’ ‘Love Ranch’

David Spade, rear, and Adam Sandler have some childish fun in “Grown Ups.”

Movie studios are rolling a bunch of theatrical releases onto home video this week. Among other things, we’re getting an adaptation of a classic children’s book, a supernatural romance starring Zac Efron, a dark drama with Helen Mirren and a broad comedy featuring a host of today’s hottest comedians.

 

Grown Ups
2½ stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for crude material including suggestive references, language and some male rear nudity
Columbia Pictures
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

When Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider get packed into the same cast, it’s pretty obvious that star power is going to overshadow everything including the script. Fortunately, these stars are awfully bright.

The movie has five guys – played by the aforementioned comedians – gathering in their hometown to mourn the passing of their high school basketball coach. As one would expect, life has led the men in wildly different directions. Lenny (Sandler) is the most successful, having carved out an impressive career as a Hollywood agent. Rob (Rob Schneider) has taken the oddest path, having become a new-age hippy and married an elderly woman. The other guys have landed on points between.

As the men rediscover each other, they explore their old haunts and even run into the players they beat in the high school basketball championship. Of course, they wind up in a rematch.

The plotting is thin but Sandler and company – under the direction of Dennis Dugan – make that less obvious than you’d think. “Grown Ups” isn’t brainy and the storytelling is haphazard, but the cast delivers many funny moments, even when dealing with subpar material.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include gag reels and a featurette on the cast.

 

 

Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World
1½ stars
Rated PG-13 for stylized violence, sexual content, language and drug references
Universal
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and digital download

With 2004’s “Shaun of the Dead,” director Edgar Wright delivered an inventive and funny zombie film geared for the hip, modern viewer. With “Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World” he targets the same audience, but his movie isn’t nearly as engaging.

The story, based on graphic novels by Lee O’Malley, focuses on Scott (Michael Cera), a twenty-something slacker living in Toronto, Canada. When viewers meet Scott, much is made of the fact that he’s dating Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), a high school girl five years his junior. He doesn’t seem concerned, though, because all they do is hang out. Besides, Scott is trying to get over the girl who broke his heart.

Soon, however, Scott meets Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), an ultra-cool alt-rock darling who is literally the girl of his dreams. Although he doesn’t have the guts to break up with Knives, he is smitten by Ramona. This holds true even when Scott learns that to be with her he must defeat her seven evil exes in video game-style combat. From that point forward, the movie essentially becomes a video game, Scott duking it out in ultra-stylized combat sequences that don’t seem to have rules.

Wright’s film is visually impressive, and he deserves credit for its engaging action sequences. Unfortunately, he put so much effort into those elements that he forgot about basics, like storytelling. Just like the videogames it pretends to be, “Scott Pilgrim” is big, bombastic and pretty but there’s not much going on beneath the surface.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include deleted and alternate scenes, bloopers, photo galleries, a trivia track and multiple audio commentaries.

 

 

Ramona and Beezus
3 stars
Rated G
20th Century Fox
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Inspired by writer Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby novels, “Ramona and Beezus” is a sweet family film that’s tame enough for young viewers yet smart enough to put a smile on the faces of adults.

The film’s focus is on Ramona (Joey King), a precocious elementary school student whose vivid imagination has a knack for landing her in trouble … especially in school. Ramona and her older sister Beatrice (Selena Gomez) – nicknamed Beezus – have plenty going on at home, too. Their father (John Corbett) lost his job and is trying to adapt to life as a house husband while their beloved Aunt Bea (Ginnifer Goodwin) is rekindling a love affair with her high school sweetheart, Hobart (Josh Duhamel).

Director Elizabeth Allen moves the multi-tiered plot along nicely while allowing viewers to see the world through Ramona’s wonderfully creative eyes. As with most family films, the storytelling is predictable, but the winning cast makes it palatable nonetheless. King and Gomez are particularly likable – and believable – as sisters who know how to annoy one another but understand the importance of family.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include a gag reel, deleted scenes and a short about Cleary’s books.

 

 

Charlie St. Cloud
2½ stars
Rated PG-13 for language including some sexual references, an intense accident scene and some sensuality
Universal
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and digital download

Charlie St. Cloud (Zac Efron) is a talented sailor with a bright future when he and his brother, Sam (Charlie Tahan), are involved in a devastating car accident. Both siblings die at the scene, but a valiant paramedic (Ray Liotta) refuses to stop working on Charlie, eventually bringing him back to life.

Charlie is devastated when he learns that Sam didn’t make it, but he soon discovers that his venture to the afterlife gave him the ability to commune with the dead. So, he passes on a sailing scholarship to Stanford and takes a job at the cemetery where Sam is buried, promising to meet with his brother each night.

Although Charlie’s supernatural abilities are a gift, his promise to commune with Sam prevents him from leading a full life, and this dilemma comes to a head as the film crashes forward.

The plotting is maudlin and predictable and the screenplay – by Craig Pearce and Lewis Colick – has some holes, but that doesn’t ruin the project. Director Burr Steers does a reasonably good job with pacing and that should allow viewers who like sentimental dramas to overlook the flaws. Also, Efron is solid in what can reasonably be called his first outing as a traditional leading man.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include deleted scenes, two features about Efron’s work on the film and an audio commentary by Steers.

 

 

Love Ranch
2½ stars
Rated R for sexual content, pervasive language and some violence
National Entertainment Media
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Prior to making “Love Ranch,” director Taylor Hackford (“Ray,” “Dolores Claiborne”) and his wife, Helen Mirren, hadn’t worked together on a feature film for more than two decades. Sadly, their reunion is underwhelming.

The film is loosely based on the story of Joe and Sally Conforte, former owners of the Mustang Ranch brothel, located just outside Reno, NV. Because of the fascinating subject matter and the talented filmmakers dealing with it, “Love Ranch” has moments, just not enough of them.

Joe Pesci – in his first leading role in more than 10 years – is likable playing Conforte-like brothel owner Charlie Bontempo, and Mirren is outstanding as his wife/madam, Grace. The main problem is writer Mark Jacobson’s script, a soapy affair that relies heavily on melodrama and doesn’t sell the character relationships aggressively enough.

That’s important because – despite the gritty brothel setting – “Love Ranch” is a character drama at heart. It considers what happens when a bruising boxer named Armando Bruza (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) falls in love with Grace.

Unfortunately, the relationship between the fighter and madam develops so rapidly that its tough to believe in, and if viewers don’t buy that, the rest of the film unravels. On an up-note, the movie looks great and does a nice job capturing the feel of Reno circa 1975.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include deleted scenes and an audio commentary with Mirren and Hackford.

 

 

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

“Antichrist”: This 2009 psychological thriller stars Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg as a couple who lose their child in a tragic accident and struggle to cope. The film, directed by Lars von Trier, received a limited theatrical run in the U.S. last year, and it’s hitting DVD and Blu-ray courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

“The Dry Land”: Story of an Iraqi war vet (Ryan O’Nan) who, suffering from severe memory loss, has trouble adapting to civilian life. America Ferrera, (Ugly Betty”), Wilmer Valderrama, (“That ’70s Show”), Jason Ritter (“The Event”) and Melissa Leo (“Frozen River”) also star. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.

“Hunt to Kill”: Action thriller starring Steve Austin as Jim Rhodes, a U.S. Border Patrol agent and single dad. Already reeling from the loss of his partner, Jim’s life takes an even darker turn when he and his daughter are kidnapped by a group of heavily armed fugitives.

“Mystery Science Theater 3000” – Volume XIX: The crew of the Satellite of Love watch and lampoon more old-time science-fiction and horror films on this four-DVD set. Included is their take on “Robot Monster” (1953), “Bride of the Monster” (1955), “Devil Doll” (1963), and “Devil Fish” (1984).

“Men of a Certain Age” – The Complete First Season: This TNT television drama focuses on three 40-something men and the challenges they face in their personal and professional lives. Ray Romano, Andre Braugher, and Scott Bakula star. This release allows you to catch up with the action before season two begins airing Dec. 6.

 

 

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.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Video Verdict

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s