This hasn’t exactly been a banner year for screen comedies, unless your name is Judd Apatow or Adam Sandler.
A prime example was the rather meager box office enjoyed by the Matthew McConaughey/Jennifer Garner flick Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (Warner Bros)., which comes to DVD this week. It featured McConaughey as longtime womanizer Conner Mead, who suddenly finds himself taking an emotionally tough trip down memory lane, courtesy of his recently deceased Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas), who takes him on a Christmas Carol-style journey, where he meets the “girlfriends of past, present and future.”
There’s only one woman Mead really loves, his childhood sweetheart Jenny Perotti (Jennifer Garner). She stands by him at all times, despite the fact Mead is both a jerk and unrepentant playboy who enjoys dangling multiple women and keeping them all at bay.
Despite Jenny’s warning, he attends his brother Paul (Breckin Meyer) and Sandra’s (Lacey Chabert) wedding. While there, Mead gets roped into his strange, gut-wrenching journey.
When Ghosts of Girlfriends Past opened, the thinking was it would provide a counter attraction that weekend to X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It had a decent opening weekend, then slumped badly the rest of the time before it ended its theatrical run. But McGonaughey and Garner displayed ample charisma on screen, and the slapstick and physical humor didn’t overwhelm good performances from Douglas, Meyer and others.
It’s not exactly a 21st century version of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, but it was entertaining and may do a bit better on DVD.
Apatow protégé Seth Rogen tried for something a bit darker than usual with his turn in Observe and Report (Warner), which also arrives this week on DVD. Rather than the hopeless goofball character that Kevin James epitomized in Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Rogen portrayed a creepy, in some ways scary figure who uses a gig as a mall security guard to openly flaunt newfound authority and harass people he doesn’t like.
Ronnie Barnhardt (Rogen) subsequently turns a routine incident into a major case, seeing the opportunity to convince a police detective (Ray Liotta) that he should actually become a real cop, and also show a cosmetics salesperson (Anna Faris) that’s he really something special.
Observe and Report still has its silly sequences and vulgar sections, but writer/director Jody Hill wanted something beyond the usual inane stunts and frat humor that’s usually Rogen’s specialty. There were actually some serious, heartfelt moments, and other times when the insertion of graphic violence added a terse and unsettling element.
Ultimately this wasn’t nearly the commercial blockbuster property that Rogen/Apatow projects enjoy, but it was a better than anticipated movie, and may be a surprise hit on DVD.
TV on DVD
Last year there was only one real hit (both commercially and critically) on network TV. It was The Mentalist, a CBS show that blurred the lines between procedural work and character study, serious mystery yarn and nonsensical spoof.
Simon Baker earned an Emmy nomination playing former fake psychic now turned legitimate investigator Patrick Jane. Each week Jane would use his skills (mainly powers of observation and ability to read people’s mannerisms) to crack tough cases for the California Bureau of Investigation.
But the show also has a running secondary tale that’s anything but light. It seems Jane insulted a serial killer while hosting his fake show. The killer took offense and eventually murdered his entire family. So while he’s assisting his comrades in solving various crimes, he’s obsessed with finding the one killer that¹s eluded him and bringing him to justice.
Unlike USA Network’s Psych, which most weeks is mostly about laughs and jokes, The Mentalist stays predominantly heavy, only dipping occasionally into the humor well. With a new season of the show set to debut Thursday night at 9 p.m. (WTVF-5), anyone who missed various episodes can get this week the six-disc boxed set The Mentalist: The Complete First Season (Warner) that contains all 22 episodes from the first year, plus various extras and other items and tidbits on what eventually became CBS’ third-rated scripted show (behind CSI and NCIS).