Farce of a Champion

OnDVD: Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

This cut of Will Ferrell's NASCAR comedy runs 13 minutes longer than the theatrical version, and that doesn't take into account the deleted and extended scenes, outtakes, phony commercials, public-service announcements, and gag reel. A movie that already seemed to be constructed from deleted scenes is well served by a DVD overflowing with them; watch 5 or 10 minutes, eject, rinse, and repeat till Ferrell and John C. Reilly and Sacha Baron Cohen become constant companions in the fast lane to nowhere fast. The excised footage is at least as funny as anything that actually made the final cut; how funny you find that depends upon your tolerance for Ferrell's delivery of every line like he's on the verge of cracking himself up. (Robert Wilonsky)
 

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The Fox and the Hound 2. Here's a DVD for parents looking to pass along some traditional values. No, not hard work, determination, and loyalty (though they're here, too)—but the traditional values of animated characters who aren't rendered in 3D and don't spew pop-culture catch phrases at every turn. Yeah, the original Fox and the Hound wasn't exactly a classic of Disney animation, and so a sequel three decades later runs the risk of feeling superfluous. And so it is—but it's also refreshingly old-fashioned, a tonic to the toxic irony and hipness of movies like, oh, Barnyard, which lumbers onto shelves this week. The closest Fox 2 comes to pop-culture pandering is the group of singing dogs who dream of performing at the Grand Ole Opry. There's nothing here that wouldn't have fit into a sequel had it been made 25 years ago. And that's a pretty good thing. (Jordan Harper)

The Devil Wears Prada. No surprise that the commentary track for this adaptation of Lauren Weisberger's chick-lit best-seller features pearls of wisdom from the costume designer—this is the Project Runway crowd's idea of a summertime blockbuster, after all. But the disc could be shorn of its 15 deleted scenes and its mini-docs and its chit-chat track and still be essential; fact is, David Frankel's film is among the year's best and easily one of the finest movies about working and the price of success. And the acting's superb: Anne Hathaway charms as the put-upon assistant who blossoms in the blinding sunshine of boss Meryl Streep, who's not entirely unsympathetic in the role of cruel, contemptuous editrix. Best of all, though, is Stanley Tucci as the lone and lonely voice of reason, the caricature who refuses to crumble beneath the weight of silk that cuts like barbed wire. (RW)

Miami Vice: Unrated Director's Edition. The first thing writer-director Michael Mann tells you in his commentary is that the title of this DVD's misleading; he would have preferred "The director's extended version of the film," which would have been cumbersome and also misleading; it's been reedited too, so how's that for confusing? Not so much, actually: Mann's made a meaner and leaner version, and he figures we know enough about Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) to narrow his focus on the action. So it's bang-bang drug deals hither and yon (mostly yon—Haiti, Cuba, Colombia), with only scant attention paid to the private lives of cops who live every second as phony public figures. There's even footage of Farrell getting punk'd by undercover-cop advisors who scared him shitless and then some. Just to keep it, ya know, real. (RW)

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Let's just put it to you straight: You don't make enough money to fully enjoy Dead Man's Chest on DVD. Unless you pony up for a high-def TV and Blu-ray player, the small screen sucks away a lot of the charm from this summer blockbuster. And while there are plenty of delights—from Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow, to creepy-crawly villain Davy Jones—many of the action scenes are just chaotic eye candy. The plot is similarly nonsensical, and the thing drags out over an unbelievable two and a half hours. (And speaking of eye candy, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley offer nothing but cheekbones.) Still, fun is fun, and if you've got the setup to truly absorb the madness of all the flying swords and cannonballs, you're in for quite a ride. (JH)

Rocky: 2-Disc Collector's Edition. An old TV commercial for Rocky included here compares Sylvester Stallone to Pacino, De Niro, and Brando—and though we now know this to be pure madness, it's easy to see what inspired it. Sure, Stallone (who also wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay) slowly destroyed Rocky's legacy during his rise and fall as a bloated megastar, but this is a truly great film. Among the extras is a full-length making-of doc, during which everyone involved but the moldy bones of Burgess Meredith gets on their knees to praise the movie. There's also three commentary tracks and mini-docs about the awesome score, the makeup, the Steadicam—the docs just keep coming, till you're ready to call Rocky the best film since the Lumière brothers set up shop. Of course, the Lumières never made Arrival of a Train Part VI. (JH)

World Trade Center. Oliver Stone's retelling of the events of September 11 is too conventional for its own good—a standard-issue disaster pic featuring protagonists who can do little more than lie in rubble and the rescue that finally came for real-life New York City Port Authority cops Will Jimeno (Michael Pena) and John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage). Which is not to discount its ambition or intentions. But upon second viewing, I wish WTC was more than just a movie about heroism, uplift, and optimism in the face of despair—all noble things, but also too constraining during those moments when the movie wants to reach out and roar. United 93, a superior film about the day, was a cathartic memorial. Down to the whispered DVD extras, this is almost too reverent—an Irwin Allen movie told with restraint and solemnity. (RW)

 
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