Video Verdict (Week of November 7)

Forrest Hartman

 

This week’s major home video releases include a raucous R-rated comedy starring Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds, and the final film in the Harry Potter franchise.

 

The Change-Up

3½ stars
Rated R for pervasive strong crude and sexual content and language, some graphic nudity and drug use
Universal
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and digital download

 

Film lovers have seen plenty of body-swap comedies over the years, but “The Change-Up” offers a fresh and irreverent take on the genre. The action revolves around the relationship between Dave Lockwood (Jason Bateman) and Mitch Planko (Ryan Reynolds), childhood pals with drastically different approaches to adult life. Mitch is a freewheeling single guy who spends his days smoking pot and playing video games. Dave is a successful lawyer with a wife and three kids.

 

After a night of drinking, each man expresses envy for the life of the other, Dave wishing for more freedom and less stress and Mitch expressing appreciation for the stability of Dave’s life. The next morning, they wake up to discover that they’ve switched bodies.

 

What at first seems like a blessing grows complicated, as Mitch and Dave are forced to keep each other’s lives on track, despite having significantly different personalities and skill sets. Dave has the most at stake, as he’s in the midst of a major legal deal that Mitch is ill-prepared to close. What’s more, he’s stressed that his wife (Leslie Mann) now believes that the womanizing Mitch is her husband. Mitch, on the other hand, is terrified that the ultra-conservative Dave will mess up his social life, which includes a regular hookup with an attractive blonde. 

 

Director David Dobkin embraces the film’s R-rating, delivering enough off-color gags and gross-out humor to make Judd Apatow proud. Bateman and Reynolds seem to revel in the material, and they both deliver outstanding performances. In body-swap films, the leads essentially play two roles, and the success of the project depends on how well they can mimic one another. Bateman and Reynolds get the transition between characters right, and their excellent comedic timing helps them make “The Change-Up” one of the best comedies of 2011.

 

DVD and Blu-ray extras include an unrated cut of the film, a gag reel, deleted scenes, a commentary by Dobkin and two behind-the-scenes features.

 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

4 stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images
Warner Brothers
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and digital download Nov. 11

 

When Harry Potter made his way to the silver screen in 2001, nobody knew if the movie franchise could replicate the immense success of J.K. Rowling’s novels. After all, too many great books have been reduced to cinematic rubble. But the Potter franchise started strong and, against all odds, got better as it moved forward.

 

“Deathly Hallows: Part 2” is the final chapter of the saga, and, as such, it’s bittersweet. It is, after all, hard to say goodbye to a movie franchise that’s been as consistently outstanding as this one.  

 

Director David Yates, who helmed the previous three films, is back in control, and he operates under the assumption that his audience knows the Potter universe. Because of this, “Part 2” doesn't waste time or effort catering to newcomers. This may frustrate viewers who haven’t seen the first seven movies, but this film isn’t for them. It’s for the legions of hardcore fans that have been following Harry’s exploits for a decade.

 

In the first seven movies, viewers watched as Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) struggled to come of age in an unfamiliar world, learning not only that he is a wizard but that that he is inextricably connected to the wizarding world’s greatest evil, the powerful Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). It was obvious from the earliest films that a showdown between Harry and Voldemort was imminent, and “Part 2” delivers the goods. More than anything, this is a war story, an ultimate clash between good and evil. It’s also the film that reminds viewers just how noble and brave Harry is.

 

The picture starts where “Part 1” ended, with Harry and his devoted pals Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) searching for mystical items known as Horcruxes. Each is said to contain a bit of Voldemort’s soul, and each is crucial to defeating the evil wizard. The movie focuses on the quest for these items while building up to the battle between Harry and Voldemort.   

 

All the Potter films have been exciting, but “Part 2” is the bloodiest and most dramatic of all. That means the movie earns its PG-13 rating, a fact parents of small children should heed.  “Part 2” is not, however, gratuitously violent or dark. The battle sequences are necessary to establish the ferocity of Voldemort and his followers, and adult viewers will appreciate that Yates didn’t dumb the books down.

 

Too often, great movie series close with a whimper, but Yates avoids that pitfall, producing a film that is exciting, dramatic and infinitely entertaining. In other words, it’s the ideal exclamation point to a wonderful series.  

 

DVD extras include a conversation with Rowling and Radcliffe, a bit on the creation of the goblins in Gringotts Wizarding Bank, a short on the women of Harry Potter and a collection of deleted scenes.

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

 

“Atlas Shrugged: Part 1”: Film adaptation of the first section of Ayn Rand’s futuristic epic about influential industrialists and artists who go on “strike,” thus reinforcing the importance of capitalism. Directed by Paul Johansson, the movie stars Taylor Schilling, Matthew Marsden and Grant Bowler.

 

“Band of Brothers” / “The Pacific” Special Edition Gift Set: In preparation for the holidays, HBO Home Entertainment is delivering this impressive collection housing every episode of both “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific.” Combining the two World War II-era miniseries into a single set works well, and the boxed collection includes all the extra features available on previous releases, plus a new documentary film. 

 

“Mr. Magoo” – The Television Collection, 1960-1977: Boxed set packed with many animated adventures from the bumbling, nearsighted character Mr. Magoo. The collection, which has more than 30 hours of content, includes episodes of “The Mr. Magoo Show,” “The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo” and “What’s New Mr. Magoo?” Also included is the 1970 TV movie “Uncle Sam Magoo.”

 

“A Better Tomorrow”: Remake of writer-director John Woo’s 1986 action film about a former gangster who has a hard time extricating himself from his past. Directed by Song Hae-Sung. Presented in Korean, Thai, English and Russian with subtitles.

 

“The Perfect Age of Rock ’n’ Roll”: Story of a struggling rock star who tries to convince a former songwriting partner to help him revive his career. Peter Fonda, Jason Ritter, Taryn Manning and Kevin Zegers star. Written and directed by Scott Rosenbaum.

 

“Barbie – A Perfect Christmas”: Animated holiday film featuring Barbie and her sisters Skipper, Stacie and Chelsea. The girls are forced to alter holiday plans when their flight is diverted, depositing them in a small town instead of New York City.  

 

“1 in the Gun”: Crime thriller centered on a homeless artist who finds himself in a dangerous situation when he’s hired to paint the house of a wealthy couple. Steven Man, Katherine Randolph and Steven Bauer star. Written and directed by Rolfe Kanefsky.

 

Author Bio: 

Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation's largest publications. For more of his work visit, www.ForrestHartman.com. 

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