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DVDs In Brief: August 11, 2010

The middling comedy Date Night (Fox) underlines a common problem in Hollywood today: There’s a wealth of talented performers in front of the camera, and a dearth of talented writers and directors behind it. Steve Carell and Tina Fey have terrific chemistry as a bored suburban married couple caught up in a wild urban misadventure, but they’re betrayed by a script stuffed with more contrivances than laughs, and a director (Shawn Levy, of Night At The Museum) who either misses jokes or plays them too broadly…

Neil LaBute faced an uphill battle in trying to update Frank Oz’s perfectly amusing 2007 comedy Death At A Funeral (Sony) for slightly more contemporary audiences. Working with original screenwriter Dean Craig, star-producer Chris Rock, and an overqualified cast (Tracy Morgan, Danny Glover, Zoe Saldana, and Peter Dinklage, pointlessly reprising his role in the original), LaBute made everything from the original louder, more obnoxious, and crasser. In the process, he transformed a sturdy farce into an exercise in bad taste…

The Joneses (Fox) blows a brilliant satirical premise: A glamorous “family” of viral marketers, headed by David Duchovny and Demi Moore, moves into an upscale neighborhood and subtly (or not) pushes products on their new friends, some of whom can’t afford them. In the early going, the film lands a few good jabs on the thoughtless, destructive nature of modern consumerism, but it goes soft and sentimental by the end…

The Bratt brothers, writer-director Peter and veteran actor Benjamin, no doubt meant well with La Mission (Screen Media), their drama about homophobia in San Francisco’s Mission District, but it looks like something that would have premièred at Sundance 25 years ago, not in 2009. Bratt’s performance as a single father who struggles to accept his gay son is all overwrought swagger, and his tardiness in coming around makes little dramatic sense…

How much did director Michel Gondry care about his late Aunt Suzette? A lot. How much will you? That’s a question The Thorn In The Heart (Oscilloscope), Gondry’s sweet-intentioned tribute to Suzette, doesn’t answer as satisfactorily as it should. Gondry employs some of his arsenal of stylistic tricks—toy trains to illustrate a change of location, a mix of different types of film and video, “behind the scenes” footage immediately prior to an interview, and so on—but his home movies don’t have universal resonance.