'Mall Cop' full of belly laughs (and jiggles)
By G. Michael Dobbs
Three comedies are featured in this week's DVD review column.
Russell Brand in New York
This DVD of the recently aired Comedy Central special starring British comic Russell Brand - best known in this country for his turn as the randy pop star in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" - proved to be a disappointment to me. I liked Brand's loopy rock/sex god performance and had heard good things about him, but this performance seemed to be a bit forced.
Part of the problem is that Brand spent a good part of the act stressing to his audience that he was indeed famous. He seemed to forget that his job was to entertain, not impress.
I also couldn't quite make out his comic persona. At times he was the loopy sex god, while at other times he seemed to a social observer. His style of moving on stage in very exaggerated silly walks certainly was at odds with his rock star fashion statement.
The performance is uncensored and would carry an R rating if it was a movie. The extras include his supposedly notorious MTV Video Awards monologue in which he made fun of the Jonas Brothers - ooh, edgy! - and outtakes from the show as well as footage of Brand tooling around New York City.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop
While watching this comedy starring Kevin James, two comedians came to mind: Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and Buster Keaton.
Now, I'm not saying that James is in the league of either man - especially Keaton - but his film follows the format established by Keaton and, like Arbuckle, he crafts his character around his body shape.
James' character, Paul Blart, is a mall cop who yearns to join the New Jersey State Police, but always fails due to his hypoglycemia. Instead, his law enforcement career consists of being a mall security officer - a well-meaning but fairly incompetent one at that.
Abandoned by his wife, Blart is also looking for love as he lives with his daughter and mother. He has a crush on a mall shopkeeper.
Blart's devotion to the mall and to his would-be girlfriend is tested when a gang of thieves takes over the mall to steal the access codes to the credit card machines there.
Like Arbuckle, James embraces and uses his size for comic effect. He clearly does a bunch of his own stunts and shows a hidden athleticism. By the way, he was on his high school wrestling team with WWE superstar Mick Foley.
The plot of the film resembles several of the features made by Keaton: the fumbler who must become a man through adversity.
I didn't expect much from this film, but I was pleasantly surprised by it. There were quite a few laughs in it and Blart was an agreeable buffoon who saved the day.
Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog
Writer and director Joss Whedon produced this very entertaining superhero musical - which is also quite a serious meditation on the impact of actually getting what you want - during the 2008 writers strike for distribution on the Internet. It was a huge hit and subsequently Whedon released the 42-minute film on a DVD exclusive to Amazon.com.
The new release from New Video NYC has the extras from the first Amazon disc, but will be sold in venues other than on Amazon.
Shot for a reported $200,000 fronted by Whedon, the film has gone into profit and represents a potentially new business model for filmmakers. Of course, Whedon's large fan following undoubtedly helped him to reach his financial goal, but Internet distribution followed by a DVD release might be the way for some low budget productions to go.
The film centers on one aspiring super villain, Dr. Horrible, who has applied for admission to the Evil League of Evil. He is having problems with fulfilling his application thanks to superhero Captain Hammer, who regularly thwarts his plans and beats him up.
The film boasts of great performances from Neil Patrick Harris as Dr. Horrible and Nathan Fillion as Captain Hammer and is funny, moving and sad.
This is great stuff from the man who brought us "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Firefly" and the current "Doll House" television series.