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DVDs In Brief: April 8, 2009


Playing a rigid, emotionless creature pretending to be human, Keanu Reeves finds one of his rare near-perfect vehicles in The Day The Earth Stood Still (Fox), a reboot of the ’50s sci-fi classic. Reeves’ alien visitor arrives on Earth with a giant CGI robot and a giant, swirly CGI sphere for a ship, but his frightening mission is muddied amid a bunch of chase scenes and action involving pouting cute kid Jaden Smith. The keen Cold War paranoia, boundless sadness, and clear Biblical metaphor of the original all disappear into a soulless focus on military nuts-and-bolts and adequate but unexceptional special effects…
In an unholy alliance, Disney and Adam Sandler joined forces for Bedtime Stories (Buena Vista), and the result is the worst of both worlds: A sub-Enchanted children’s fantasy about storybooks yarns come to life, and a defanged Sandler performance that’s light on edge and heavy on insincere sentiment. A gifted supporting cast—including Guy Pearce, Russell Brand, and Keri Russell—competes to see who can turn in the most embarrassing turn. Pearce wins…
After 28 years away, acclaimed playwright John Patrick Shanley returned to the director’s chair to helm the adaptation of his Pulitzer-winning play Doubt (Miramax), and he certainly makes his hand felt, via intrusive framing and oppressive close-ups. But the cinematography, the writing, and above all the acting are top-shelf, with Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, Amy Adams, and Philip Seymour Hoffman facing off over a possible church-pedophilia case. Only a thudding final scene breaks the mesmerizingly taut, tense spell that the rest of the film builds…
Blink and you’ll think it’s a remake of Liar Liar: In Yes Man(Warner Bros.), Jim Carrey is compelled to say “yes” to everything asked of him. Heartwarming pratfalls ensue in a sea of quirk made quirkier by Zooey Deschanel. Flight Of The Conchords’ Rhys Darby provides a few highlights, but not enough…
The Tale Of Despereaux (Universal) doesn’t fall prey to the usual hyper, spastic simplemindedness of bad CGI kids’ films, but it goes so far in the other direction that it still winds up being not much fun. Amid a hugely crowded and complicated plot, none of the characters get much depth or screen time—especially not the titular heroic mouse—and the chilly, nearly emotionless tone makes it hard to engage with those underdeveloped (and remarkably ugly) characters.