This week’s major home video releases include an Anne Hathaway romance, a big-screen take on the Smurfs and two offbeat comedies.
30 Minutes or Less
3 stars (out of four)
Rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity and some violence
Available on: Blu-ray and DVD
If Jesse Eisenberg has an acting superpower, it’s his ability to deliver pitch-perfect representations of the Generation Y everyman. His unassuming charm goes a long way in “30 Minutes or Less,” an entertaining comedy that is completely reliant on his ability to make the audience care.
Eisenberg plays Nick, a hard-working pizza deliveryman who pushes his beat-up Ford Mustang to its limits in an ongoing quest to get pies to customers on time. It’s an ordinary existence, but Nick seems comfortable in the routine. Then, his life takes an extraordinary turn when two professional slackers, Dwayne and Travis (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson), order a pizza just so they can knock him unconscious and strap a bomb to his chest. Their goal? To force the frightened Nick rob a bank for them.
Horrified, Nick does the only thing he can think of and runs to his best friend, an elementary school teacher named Chet (Aziz Ansari). Together, the pals hatch a plan to stick up a bank, get the money to Dwayne and Travis, and hopefully get out of the predicament alive.
Eisenberg and Ansari have excellent chemistry and that allows the film’s many gags to hit more often than they miss. McBride and Swardson also play off one another nicely, an important fact since director Ruben Fleischer (“Zombieland”) relates his story with a two-pronged approach. Nick and Chet deliver the film’s emotional center, but Dwayne and Travis get nearly as much screen time, and viewers get an insider’s look at their scheming.
The plotting in “30 Minutes or Less” is clearly ridiculous, but that’s forgivable because it never pretends to be anything other than a lark. What’s more, the cast sells the material with zest, earning a lot of laughs along the way.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include deleted scenes, outtakes and a featurette on the cast and crew.
Our Idiot Brother
Rated R for sexual content including nudity, and for language throughout
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and digital download
It’s nice to see Paul Rudd getting increasingly substantial film roles because he’s one of the most likable and talented actors in the movie business. In “Our Idiot Brother,” Rudd takes a broadly comic turn as Ned, a kindhearted free spirit who does a stretch of jail time after selling marijuana to a uniformed police officer.
Upon release from jail, Ned is reunited with his mother and three sisters, Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), Natalie (Zooey Deschanel) and Liz (Emily Mortimer). Despite sharing genes, the sisters are as different as Ned is dim. Miranda is a driven career woman trying to make it in the magazine business, Liz is a devoted wife and mother, and Natalie is a freewheeling bisexual.
Since Ned has nowhere to stay, he bounces from the house of one sister to another, slowly driving them crazy with his eccentric ways. Funny thing is, viewers are more likely to identify with Ned than with any of the supposedly “smarter” characters surrounding him.
Ned may not be bright, but he is kind, and it would be stretching to apply that adjective to any of his sisters. They aren’t evil, but they are overly concerned about things like work and satisfying carnal desires, even when the price tag for these things is extremely high.
Director Jesse Peretz may well see Ned’s sisters as stand-ins for society at large, as there’s no question that Americans place undue importance on instant gratification. Ned, on the other hand, knows there’s more to life.
Many comedies unsuccessfully attempt to balance humor with heart, but “Our Idiot Brother” gets the formula right, contrasting solid-and-consistent laughs against moments of genuine emotion.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include deleted and extended scenes, a making-of feature and an audio commentary by Peretz.
Rated PG for some mild rude humor and action
Available Dec. 2 on DVD, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D and digital download
Visually, director Raja Gosnell’s take on the Smurfs is impressive. In fact, the film’s blend of live-action footage and computer generated imagery is considerably more appealing than the mix he mustered in two earlier movies: “Scooby-Doo” and “Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed.” Alas, Gosnell has room to grow in terms of storytelling.
As someone who grew up with the Smurfs – small blue creatures who resemble gnomes and take their names from traits they possess – I was looking forward to a big-screen update. Sadly, Gosnell’s film loses the charm of earlier Smurf incarnations, leaving viewers with pretty pictures but little more.
In an attempt to modernize the Smurf universe, the film introduces its tiny protagonists in their traditional woodland setting. Then, through a few plot twists, sends them through a strange vortex with their arch enemy, a wizard named Gargamel (Hank Azaria), in tow. The vortex deposits the brood in New York City, where the Smurfs work to find a way home while Gargamel relentlessly pursues them. The Smurfs also find allies in Patrick and Grace Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays), a progressive New York couple who are expecting their first child. Their inclusion doesn’t seem necessary, but it did allow the filmmakers to sell the film based on Harris’ surging popularity.
Along with the human cast, Gosnell lined up a solid collection of actors to give voice to the Smurfs. The most noteworthy are Jonathan Winters as Papa Smurf; Alan Cumming as Gutsy Smurf; George Lopez as Grouchy Smurf; Anton Yelchin as Clumsy Smurf; Jeff Foxworthy as Handy Smurf; and Katy Perry as the sole female, Smurfette. Unfortunately, all that talent is squandered because the story is as predictable as a snowstorm in January. A snowstorm, however, is more exciting.
Home video extras include a short on bringing the Smurfs to the silver screen, a Find the Smurfs game, a blooper reel and two audio commentaries.
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, partial nudity, language, some violence and substance abuse
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand
Director Lone Scherfig (“An Education”) has crafted a likable, if unremarkable, adaptation of novelist David Nicholls’ “One Day.” The film, like the book, tells the tale of a stormy love affair developed over two decades.
The movie begins by introducing Emma Morley (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter Mayhew (Jim Sturgess), attractive twenty-somethings who celebrate their college graduation with booze and a never-consumated one-night stand. Although they share an instant attraction, Emma and Dexter have different outlooks on life and, thus, agree to part as friends. This is only the beginning of their interactions, however, and Scherfig walks us through their developing relationship by presenting the happenings of a single calendar day, one year at a time.
Early on, Emma spends those days struggling to make a living as a waitress while Dexter finds success as a popular TV host. Despite their disparate situations, they remain in contact, commiserating and drifting through various stages of physical and emotional attraction.
Hathaway and Sturgess are strong in the title roles, with each actor building a character that audiences can empathize with even when they are making poor decisions. Both actors also do a believable job of aging during the course of the film, an important feat in a movie that spans 20 years.
Scherfig’s storytelling – built on a screenplay that Nicholls adapted from his own novel – is less refined. Tracking two characters’ lives by following them through the events of a single calendar day is inventive, but it leaves many holes, some of which fracture the narrative. What’s more, a number of sequences feel as though they would require more than a single day to play out, calling the setup into question.
That doesn’t mean “One Day” is a disaster. On the contrary, the film has a number of nice moments, including a finale that is both poignant and satisfying.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include several making-of features and an audio commentary by Scherfig.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
“Smallville” – The Complete Series: This substantial boxed set may be the perfect Christmas gift for superhero fans. All 10 seasons of the CW drama about Superman’s early years are packaged with an episode guide and a collectible issue of the Daily Planet newspaper. The series, which was strongest in its early years, faltered occasionally but never fell apart. What’s more, season 10 offered an enjoyable and appropriate wrap up to the entire project. Tom Welling stars as Clark Kent (aka Superman). Other key cast members include Allison Mack, Kristin Kreuk, Michael Rosenbaum, John Schneider and Erica Durance.
“Another Earth”: Science-fiction story centered on two people brought together by a tragic accident at the same time a second Earth is discovered in our solar system. Brit Marling and William Mapother star.
“The Art of Getting By”: Coming-of-age film about dissimilar teens who form a connection. Emma Roberts, Freddie Highmore, Michael Angarano, Rita Wilson, Sam Robards, Alicia Silverstone and Blair Underwood star.
“The Future”: Indie film about a thirty-something couple suddenly catapulted into adulthood when they decide to adopt a cat. The movie – written and directed by Miranda July – was named a special Selection at the Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for the Golden Berlin Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival.
“Cave of Forgotten Dreams”: Werner Herzog documentary focused on wall paintings found in Chauvet Cave in France. The well-preserved works date back more than 30,000 years. The film is available on DVD and as part of a Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray combo pack.
“Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil”: Film festival hit about sweet-natured hillbilly pals (Alyn Tudyk and Tyler Labine) who are mistaken for psychotic killers and attacked by a group of coeds. Co-written and directed by Eli Craig.
“Dinosaur Train – T.rex Tales”: Collection of episodes from the PBS animated show about a young dinosaur embarking on educational adventures.
– Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.