Video Verdict: ‘Paul,’ ‘Mars Needs Moms,’ ‘Jumping the Broom’

Gribble, left, introduces Milo to life on the Red Planet in “Mars Needs Moms.” The animated film is based on a picture book by author/illustrator Berkeley Breathed.

Two science fiction films, one that’s family friendly and one that’s meant for adults only, anchor this week’s home video releases.

Paul

3 stars (out of four)
The home video release contains rated and unrated versions of the film. The rated version received an R for language including sexual references, and some drug use
Universal
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and digital download

Paul isn’t your average movie alien. He’s got a huge, oblong head and pale, ectomorphic body like many of his forerunners, but he also speaks perfect, accent-free English and swears like an inner-city gangster.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that he was created by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, two guys who helped turn the zombie film on its ear with 2004’s “Shaun of the Dead.” These guys are good at twisting tried-and-true formulas into bizarre offshoots that feel inventive and familiar at the same time

Frost and Pegg not only wrote the screenplay, they star in the film, playing Clive Gollings and Graeme Willy, two middle-aged Brits who take a long-anticipated vacation to the United States. Because they are geeks, the holiday starts with Comic-Con in San Diego. Then, it’s off to a well-planned road trip to some of America’s UFO hotspots.

Not long into the journey, they meet Paul in the middle of the Nevada desert. He tells them he’s on the run from the government and Graeme and Clive agree to help.

This, of course, takes their road trip in unexpected directions and offers Pegg and Frost ample opportunities for humor. Sadly, those opportunities are never fully exploited because, despite a fantastic premise, “Paul” is a movie that feels like it should have been better. For one thing, director Greg Mottola allows the pacing to lag, giving the film a laid-back vibe that isn’t as absorbing as it should be.

On the up side, Pegg and Frost have terrific chemistry, and their interactions with the computer-animated Paul are wonderful. What’s more, Seth Rogen is spot-on as the voice of the alien. The actor is never seen in the film, but his voice work often steals the show.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include both rated and unrated versions of the film, a feature on how Paul was brought to life, photo galleries, a blooper reel and an audio commentary with an assortment of the filmmakers.

Mars Needs Moms

2½ stars
Rated PG for sci-fi action and peril
Disney
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D and on demand

Every parent and child have squabbles, and “Mars Needs Moms” is a pleasant reminder that such things pass and love wins out in the end.

Based on the picture book by author/illustrator Berkeley Breathed, the computer-animated movie is centered on Milo, a young boy who angrily suggests that he doesn’t need his mother … then discovers how wrong he is when she’s abducted by Martians.

Although the movie is essentially an ode to motherhood, it morphs into an action-adventure when Milo is presented with an opportunity to rescue his mom. As he sees her being toted away by strange creatures, he gives chase, ultimately winding up in a Martian spacecraft and landing on the Red Planet.

Upon arrival, Milo is imprisoned, but he is quickly freed by an Earthling named Gribble who has been secretly living on Mars and longing for a companion. Once freed, it’s up to Milo to convince Gribble to help him plan a rescue mission.

The movie’s message is valuable and director Simon Wells (“The Prince of Egypt,” “Balto”) tells his tale in workmanlike – if unremarkable – fashion. Young children will likely enjoy the colorful portrayal of Martians, whose personalities are largely dictated by sex. The females are generally shown as stern and demanding, while the males are portrayed as affectionate but slightly wild and irresponsible. What’s missing is nuance to the Martian characters, a fact that may trouble adult viewers even if their kids are unfazed.

The movie is available as part of multiple home video releases, including a four-disc Blu-ray 3D combo pack that also includes standard Blu-ray, DVD and digital copies of the feature. Extras vary.

Jumping the Broom

2 ½ stars
Rated PG-13 for some sexual content
Sony
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

With America’s economic downturn widening the country’s income gap, a film exploring social status is both relevant and well timed. That means “Jumping the Broom” gets an A for thematic material, even if it only musters a C for execution.

The movie is built around Sabrina Watson (Paula Patton) and Jason Taylor (Laz Alonso), a handsome young couple that decide on a lightning-fast marriage when Sabrina is offered an overseas promotion. Because they haven’t been dating long, their families meet for the first time on the weekend of the wedding, and they don’t exactly click.

Sabrina’s parents (Angela Bassett and Brian Stokes Mitchell) live in a palatial estate in Martha’s Vineyard, while Jason’s mother (Loretta Devine) is a widowed postal worker who makes her home in the inner city. Predictably, the two mothers clash, especially when Jason’s mom insists that the couple complete an old black tradition of jumping over a broom once married. Sabrina’s mom things the concept is tacky, and the argument creates a veritable class war on the eve of the wedding.

Director Salim Akil moves the story briskly and coaxes some nice moments out of his talented cast. Unfortunately, the good is countered by a number of clumsily constructed scenes that multiply as the film progresses. The end result is an off-kilter affair that has its heart in the right place but can’t find the groove that would make it a truly excellent romantic comedy.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include a behind-the-scenes featurette, a piece on the tradition of jumping the broom and an audio commentary with Akil, Patton and Alonso.

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

“Super”: Independent dramedy about a short-order cook (Rainn Wilson) who decides to become a superhero when his wife (Liv Tyler) falls under the influence of a drug dealer (Kevin Bacon). Written and directed by James Gunn.

“The Last Godfather”: Comedy written by, directed by and starring Korean comedian Hyung-rae Shim. The film centers on an aging mafia Don (Harvey Keitel) who tries to prepare his dim-witted love child (Shim) to take over the family business. Jason Mewes and Michael Rispoli also star.

“M.A.S.K.” – The Complete Original Series: Twelve-DVD boxed set containing 65 episodes of the 1980s animated show. The program delivers the adventures of a secret strike force that attempts to keep the world safe using high-tech vehicles and a collection of power-granting masks.

“The Fox and the Hound” I and II: Both of Disney’s animated movies about the unlikely friendship between a hound dog named Copper and a fox named Tod are being rolled onto Blu-ray for the first time. Although Disney is touting the fact that the movies are now available in high-definition, the three-disc set also includes standard-DVD versions of the films.

“Top Gear 16”: All six episodes from season 16 of the popular, British TV series. In the show, hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May tackle daunting automotive challenges with a sense of humor. Season 16 features guest appearances by a number of stars, including actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and tennis star Boris Becker.

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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