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DVDs In Brief: August 31, 2011

The innate charm of the artist formerly known as Lil’ Bow Wow is wasted as he plays one of Tyler Perry’s signature saintly strivers in Madea’s Big Happy Family (Lionsgate). Bow Wow leads a sprawling ensemble cast as a man torn between the street life and the godly path, but the film fails to distinguish itself from previous Perry efforts, beyond a pervasive looseness that suggests even Perry is tiring of his shtick…

The winner of last year’s Best Foreign Language Oscar, Susanne Bier’s In A Better World (Sony) extrapolates from an incident of schoolboy violence to indict violence around the globe. The film works fine enough when it details the friendship between two boys with troubled home lives and bully problems at school, but gets sillier the more it widens the lens. When it finally settles on a refugee camp in Africa, it’s hard to swallow how it got there… 

A bit of two-character thriller gamesmanship along the lines of Sleuth or Deathtrap, The Perfect Host (Magnolia) follows a Los Angeles bank robber (Clayne Crawford) who lays low at the home of a dapper aesthete. Though the plotting doesn’t work out as ingeniously as it might, David Hyde Pierce is an ideal choice as the host, playing the role with a gusto that suggests a deranged variation on his prissy Frasier character…

Not enough innocuous, tween-focused entertainment for you on television? Then check out Prom (Disney), a harmless, colorful, dull comedy in which a lot of kids talk about, prepare for, then go to prom in a squeaky-clean small town.