The difference between homage and in-joke is on full display in Paul, especially if you were (unfairly) to compare it to the two stars’ other ventures into tapping the essentials of genre for comedy Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. This is like sci-fi name-dropping, with allusions taking on the role of actual jokes (The funniest is to the E.T. knock-off Mac and Me). It concerns two geeks from England (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) who visit Comic-Con and then take a road-trip to famous UFO hotspots in the American West. They happen across an alien named Paul (voice of Seth Rogen), who’s being hunted by government agents. The characters are bland caricatures, though Kristen Wiig gets a lot of mileage out of her fundamentalist-Christian-turned-hedonist. My review is here. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Jumping the Broom does a commendable job of openly addressing class issues and divisions among two African-American families of different socioeconomic backgrounds. Then it just starts to get overly melodramatic as its characters fall into mandatory complications and convolutions. Sabrina (Paula Patton) and Jason (Laz Alonso) quickly fall in love and are about to get married at her mother’s (Angela Bassett) family estate. His family arrives. His mother (Loretta Devine) immediately dislikes her son’s fiancée and her family because of their obvious wealth, and Sabrina’s mother assumes Jason’s family is beneath her. It might have worked, except for a whole series of secrets and poorly timed revelations that undermine the real tension. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Mars Needs Moms is notorious for being the biggest bomb so far this year (Costing a reported $150 million and bringing in just under $39 million worldwide). It’s not as terrible as that reputation would suggest, but it is thoroughly odd. A kid’s mom is kidnapped by Martians, and he stows away on board the spaceship to rescue her. It’s a hybrid of adventure and simplistic allegory that introduces kids to fun questions about gender politics (Mars is run by female Martians as a totalitarian, anti-male regime, while the men-alien-folk live underground dancing all day) and evolution (After who knows how long living on the planet, its native inhabitants still can’t breathe in the atmosphere). Like I said, it’s odd. My review is here. Available on DVD, Blu-ray, and Blu-ray 3-D/Blu-ray/DVD Combo.
The funniest gag of Your Highness is right in the beginning, making your home viewing experience so much easier. After that, it becomes a plot-heavy comedy about heroes in a high fantasy world (that looks pretty good, by the way). The heroic Fabious (James Franco) and his hapless brother Tadeous (Danny McBride) must save the former’s betrothed (Zooey Deschanel) from an evil wizard (Justin Theroux) with the help a vengeful ranger (Natalie Portman). The jokes are either throwaways or painfully dragged out, and director David Gordon Green abandons all attempts at humor when the warriors get into a fight. My review is here. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.