New arrivals on DVD and Blu-ray this week include The Day the Earth Stood Still with Keanu Reeves as the super-powered alien Klaatu, Yes Man starring Jim Carrey as a banker with a new attitude, and the animated Tale of Despereaux about a little mouse who isn’t afraid of anything.
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Keanu Reeves deserves some kudos if you ask me. Since the 90s he’s starred in some huge films, playing incredibly iconic characters that helped make him a household name. And yet, I’ll also admit that he hasn’t exactly been stretching his acting muscles throughout any of those films; a trend that continues in The Day the Earth Stood Still, where Reeves plays, what else, an emotionally detached Übermensch.
In this remake of the 1951 classic sci-fi film, Reeves stars as Klaatu, a human clone who has been infused with the essence of an alien sent to Earth for some huge, unknown purpose. Arriving in a gigantic, glowing ball, Klaatu meets Helen, played by Jennifer Connelly, a micro biologist brought in to assist the American government in what the U.S. considers to be a threat to national security.
Meanwhile, Helen is trying to protect her son, played by Jaden Smith, while also deflecting the oppressive intentions of the Secretary of Defense, played by Kathy Bates.
While it shouldn’t surprise anyone that a Keanu Reeves-fronted thriller-style remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still is a bit of a dud, I am a bit surprised by how weakly the film plays out.
Early on the mood is fantastic, and I actually liked the pairing of Reeves and Connelly. Connelly is brilliant as usual, and brings a lot of energy to the film, especially in light of how cool Reeves has to play nearly every scene. The environmental message is even surprisingly enjoyable, never going so far as to brow-beat you with the rather all-too-obvious message.
The problem comes half-way through with the introduction of the menace, which is supposed to instil us with fear for the future of the world. In opting for a unique menace, however, the filmmakers have essentially drained any real emotion from the ending. I cared about Helen and her step-son, but it was hard to feel anything for Klaatu, or the fate of humanity.
On the bright side, at least there is no ridiculous, tacked-on love story between Mr. Klaatu the alien and Helen the scientist.
On the other end of the acting spectrum comes the latest Jim Carrey comedy about a guy with a “n”o attitude to everything in his life.
Carrey plays Carl, a banker with a bad attitude who is still recovering from losing the girl of his dreams. When he meets up with an old co-worker, who is apparently living life to the fullest, Carl gets dragged into a cult-like group who convince him that from that point on he has to say yes to everything life has to offer.
Much like every other Carrey comedy, there are hijinks aplenty. Carl gets into a bar fight, sings a man out of killing himself, and makes a lot of funny faces. It’s kind of standard Carrey fair, except that Zooey Deschanel is a treat as Carl’s zany new love interest, Allison. Even though she plays the real oddball, she ends up being the grounding force that stabilizes the story, not to mention Carrey.
Director Peyton Reed, who previously gave us the wonderful comedy The Break-Up, turns an otherwise silly script into something quite charming. He reins in Carrey’s usual overabundance of energy to make Carl into only a mildly insane individual.
The Blu-ray edition of the film has a few notable features, my favorites being the bloopers, and the on-set tour with author Danny Wallace.
The Tale of Despereaux
A mouse with a gallant heart is shunned by his community, but forced into the life of action and adventure that he so dearly dreams of in The Tale of Despereaux.
Featuring the voices of Matthew Broderick, Robbie Coltrane, Dustin Hoffman, and Richard Jenkins, this is a sweet story for almost any age.
Although I can’t help but compare Despereaux to yet another recent animated movie involving a rodent, Despereaux is still a uniquely compelling fairy tale. It misses a number of opportunities to flesh out the characters in a more meaningful way, but the story is still cute, funny, and clever. The morale of the story, which is all about bravery and independence, also serves as a great lesson for kids, and maybe even a few grownups.
Features on the DVD are of course geared primarily toward the little ones, with a clever little game, an interactive map of the kingdom, and a cute “making-of” that looks at how the movie came alive.
Other new arrivals…
Philip Seymour Hoffman is a priest in the 60s who is accused of having an improper relationship with one of his students.
Walt Disney gives usual potty mouth Adam Sandler the starring role as a regular working man who discovers that the stories he is telling his niece and nephew are actually coming true.