- - Sunday, September 18, 2011

New Releases


Universal Studios Home Entertainment


“Saturday Night Live” long has been a fertile training ground for comedy performers who go on to major stardom in films. Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler, Mike Myers and John Belushi have been just a few of the breakout stars.

The women of “SNL,” however, haven’t fared as well. Despite the tremendous platform the program has provided, few of the female talents have found big-screen success.

This summer, “SNL” cast member Kristen Wiig and former cast member Maya Rudolph scored a box-office smash with a female equivalent of the “buddy comedy” “Bridesmaids.”

The question the movie’s success presents is this: Is it really a step forward for actresses to be seen being as crude and stupid as men?

The film stars Miss Wiig (who co-wrote the film with Annie Mumolo) as Annie. Her best friend since childhood, Lillian (Miss Rudolph), has just announced her engagement and she’s planning to have Annie serve as her maid of honor.

But this wonderful request has come in the midst of one of the worst streaks of bad luck in Annie’s life.

Her passive-aggressive fling (Jon Hamm of “Mad Men”) has decided he wants to see other women. The brother-and-sister pair she rooms with wants her to move out, even though she’s the only one who regularly pays the rent. Annie’s job is no picnic, and she’s close to losing it through no fault of her own.

The one thing Annie desperately wants to do is be the best and most supportive maid of honor she can be. But fate places yet another roadblock in her way in the form of Helen (Rose Byrne).

Helen is married to the hard-charging businessman who runs the company where Lillian’s fiance works. Helen also feels compelled to take a hand in the planning of Lillian’s bridal shower and wedding with or without Annie’s help or input.

Soon, the lead-up to the wedding becomes a battle of who can top whom, as Helen uses her wealth to outshine Annie’s plans and create a rift between the two longtime friends.

Anyone who’s seen Miss Wiig’s work on television knows she’s a talented comic performer, but she and her co-writer have done her a disservice in creating Annie. The character is a sad sack of the worst kind, someone who seems constantly in denial and allows herself to be stepped on by nearly everyone she meets.

That element of her personality drowns out any rooting interest an audience might develop for her and makes the laughs she creates more from pity than humor.

Miss Rudolph, a talented comedian in her own right, primarily is used as a straight woman here and as the butt — pardon the expression — of what many consider the movie’s signature joke, involving a gown fitting and the aftereffects of a bad ethnic meal.

All this doesn’t mean “Bridesmaids” is totally without laughs. Melissa McCarthy (“Mike & Molly”) delivers a memorably funny performance as Megan, the most offbeat of the bridesmaids. Her broadly funny performance includes some crude moments, but the script gives her the room to balance those with some gentler scenes near the movie’s end.

Chris O’Dowd also offers a winning turn as a police officer who stops Annie on a minor traffic charge and becomes a friend and supporter.

Director Paul Feig never seems to know what kind of tone to strike, though he manages to get things right from time to time. A sequence that involves the bridal party traveling to Las Vegas and Annie’s attempt to cover her nervousness over flying by accidentally getting drunk allows her to do some of her best work in the movie.

Extras and special features on the Blu-ray edition of the film include two versions of the movie, the theatrical cut and an unrated version. Also on the Blu-ray are a gag reel, a making-of feature and “Battle of the Maids of Honor: Annie vs. Helen.” Also included are deleted, extended and alternate scenes.

“Bridesmaids” may be the best proof that, when it comes to comedy, one person’s meat is another person’s poison. Or, in this movie’s case, another person’s bad Brazilian meal.

MPAA rating: R for profanity, sexually related humor, gross jokes about bodily functions and mild drug content.

Dumbo: 70th Anniversary Edition

Disney Studio Home Entertainment/Buena Vista


The delightful tale of a baby elephant who finds the courage to fly has been given the full “from the Disney Vault” treatment in this new edition marking the 70th anniversary of the animated classic’s premiere.

The story of the brave baby elephant and his friend Timothy Q. Mouse comes in a combo pack with DVD and Blu-ray discs. Yes, the scene with the crows’ sarcastic song about how they’ve “never seen an elephant fly” still rankles some viewers as racial stereotyping, but the overall message of the film — to celebrate who you are and all the unique elements that make you who you are — is not lost, crows or no crows.

Extras in the edition include deleted scenes, a visual journal on the making of the film, Walt Disney’s introduction to the film (which aired as part of the “Disneyland” TV series), two games and two animated shorts.

Sweetly entertaining, “Dumbo” is a delight for the entire family. Add this excellent anniversary edition to your collection.

MPAA rating: G for general audiences.

Joe Barber is the entertainment editor for WTOP-FM and a critic-panelist for WETA-TV’s “Around Town.”

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