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DVDs In Brief: August 10, 2011

Paul (Universal) isn’t anywhere near as dire as a film centering on a wisecracking, pot-smoking space alien should be, but it seldom lives up to the potential of a Simon Pegg and Nick Frost-penned, Greg Mottola-directed science-fiction road comedy, either. Paul is at its best when it simply follows affable geek protagonists Pegg and Frost around a science-fiction-inspired American road trip; the alien stuff feels stock and overly familiar by comparison…

David Gordon Green was once deemed the Terrence Malick of his generation. Then something went agreeably awry, and he somehow wound up directing raunchy comedies with buddy Danny McBride, like Pineapple Express and McBride’s badass HBO vehicle Eastbound & Down. The dynamic duo’s winning streak ends abruptly with Your Highness (Universal), a special-effects-intensive fantasy-comedy co-starring James Franco and Natalie Portman: It’s less a proper film than the product of a bunch of talented people fucking around. Everyone here is too gifted to get away with this kind of half-assed foolishness…

James Gunn rarely tries to score points for subtlety, which served him well with the B-movie homage Slither, but gives him trouble with Super (MPI), an ordinary-guy-tries-to-be-a-superhero film that requires a little more psychological shading than protagonist Rainn Wilson or the film around him seem capable of providing. Still, there’s something to be said for bluntness, and the scenes of Wilson administering vengeance with a wrench deliver some queasy thrills…

Jumping The Broom (Sony) is aimed at a fairly narrow audience, one that can get emotionally invested in whether two beautiful people—spoiled rich girl Paula Patton and blue-collar Brooklyn-boy-made-good Laz Alonzo—can complete their hasty wedding plans and finally consummate their relationship after five months, in spite of their families’ resentful interference. Some of the lighter comedic touches and many of the performances are fun, but there’s an awful lot of melodrama here, focused on mighty low stakes…

The (most likely) final Robert Zemeckis-shepherded film to feature his favored brand of motion-capture animation, Mars Needs Moms (Disney) flopped mightily at the box office. Which is weird: The animation isn’t bad, the production design has a slick appeal, and the story—taken from a Berke Breathed book for kids—moves briskly toward a touching climactic scene. Maybe audiences burned by A Christmas Carol and Polar Express didn’t want to sign up for another ride, but they could have done a lot worse.