The pickings are a little thin this week, but one new DVD offering is a huge winner.
“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”; 3 1/2 stars: The film, just like the 1995 feature film “Jumanji” starring Robin Williams, is based on the 1981 book by Chris Van Allsburg, where it is win or game over for anyone who finds the mysterious board game. The big difference is while in the 1995 version, the board game came to life in the real world of the players, this version Jumanji is a video game. Instead of wild animals in the living room, four teens are pulled inside the Jumanji game that unfolds in a jungle world.
This is a brilliant move by the gaggle of screenwriters who worked on the script as it allows director Jake Kasdan (“Freaks and Geeks”) to take the action to a jungle setting. He can load the movie with everything from a knot of snakes to a crash of rhinos.
Don’t be surprised if you look for a reset button to start the film all over again.
“Pitch Perfect 3”; 1/2 star: “Pitch Perfect 3” is to movie comedy what fingers on a chalkboard is to singing. And, if given the choice between seeing the movie and the fingernails, take the chalkboard option.
It all starts so innocently. The Bellas have graduated from college and gone their separate ways. None have been able to find the same kind of success on their own that they had when they were an a cappella group. Even the standout of the group, Becca (Anna Kendrick), has hit an impasse when it comes to her music producing career. Because they are failing as individuals, the Bellas reunite to go on a USO tour.
Gone in the obvious effort to squeeze a few more bucks out of the franchise is all the charm that made the first film so sweet and endearing and gave the sequel enough comedy harmony to be generally entertaining. The third movie is based on a painfully thin story from Kay Cannon (“Pitch Perfect 2”), but the cast is so likable they could have raised the film to at least a tolerable level had they at showed any signs of trying. Even the usually dependable Kendrick looks like she would rather be on a real USO tour to Antarctica — without a coat — than be in this movie.
“Downsizing”; 1/2 star: Director Alexander Payne got our votes when he offered a brilliantly satirical look at politics and popularity with his insightful high school-based comedy “Election.” He showed with “Sideways” he could present a story as firm and dry as a prized red wine.
He’s done neither with his latest offering, “Downsizing.” All the Oscar-winning filmmaker has shown with the production is how he came up short whether trying to make social commentary, dealing with political satire or attempting just to be funny. The film is a massively muddled mess of ideas that might have made more of an impact if Matt Damon’s performance wasn’t so painfully bland. It probably wouldn’t have mattered with another actor, but it sure couldn’t have hurt.
“Downsizing” needed a smarter and lighter touch to make it a rich satire, but that doesn’t happen. Or, Payne could have just gone full-blown sight gags and made this a broad comedy. There are a few funny bits of physical humor — such as the moving van of mementos — but the moments are way to sparring.
ALSO NEW ON DVD MARCH 20
“Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In: The Complete Third Season”: Guest stars featured in the 26 episodes include Johnny Carson and Peter Sellers.
“When Calls the Heart: The Heart of Homecoming”: Love story blooming in Hope Valley continues with the television special.
“The Vanishing of Sidney Hall”: Mysterious disappearance of an author is examined.
“Archer: Season Eight”: Set in 1940s Los Angeles, “Dreamland” lands Archer on a quest to find his partner’s killer.
“Ichi the Killer”: The film returns in a digitally restored special edition debuting on Blu-ray.
“Small Town Crime”: Disgraced ex-cop looks for the killers of a woman as one last shot at redemption.
“The ‘Burbs”: The 1989 film by director Joe Dante starring Tom Hanks is available as a collector’s edition Blu-ray.
BEING RELEASED ON DIGITAL HD MARCH 20:
“Insidious: The Last Key”: Elise must face her past to confront the most personal haunting of her career — in her childhood home. Available on DVD April 3.
“Welcome the Stranger”: Two siblings reconnect in an attempt to mend their relationship, only to begin experiencing bizarre visions.
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