Picks of the Week
(R, 85 minutes, Warner Home Video): The excesses of partisan sniping, negative campaigning and pandering skullduggery are the comic equivalent of fish in a barrel, and every last minnow gets picked off in “The Campaign,” in which Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis play North Carolina candidates going head-to-head in a farcically conniving congressional election. If only because of the actors involved, “The Campaign” has its share of laughs. The film even possesses a whiff of topicality, in the form of two super-wealthy, sweatshop-owning brothers who try to rig the election by infusing a super PAC with scads of money. But with the exception of that timely echo – and Ferrell’s flawless John Edwards impersonation as a handsome, compulsively promiscuous Democratic politician – genuinely scathing satire is largely missing. It’s not that there’s no fun to be had in “The Campaign,” and the film can’t be accused of partisan bias: Democrats are as likely to take partisan glee in the film’s depiction of the amoral super PAC as Republicans are in Ferrell’s feckless, self-righteous hypocrisy. Still, there’s no escaping the sense that “The Campaign” missed a chance to be smarter and more stinging. Contains crude sexual content, profanity and brief nudity. Extras: deleted scenes. Also, on Blu-ray: extended cut, Line-O-Rama and gag reel.
(R, 104 minutes, Fox): Men are Pygs. That’s at least one potential take-away from this adroit, modestly inventive take on the Pygmalion myth from actress Zoe Kazan. Kazan wrote the screenplay for this alternately fizzy and cerebral romantic comedy in which she also stars. Paul Dano plays Calvin Weir-Fields, a novelist who had a hit book when he was 19 and now toils alone in a posh home office, suffering writer’s block as he tries to match his early promise. Inspired by a dream, he begins noodling with a character who, as he pecks away at his vintage typewriter, swiftly becomes a fictional romantic ideal: Ruby Sparks, a wide-eyed, hip, uncomplicated artist who, like all awesome girlfriends, reflects Calvin at twice his size, charm and intelligence. When Ruby unexpectedly comes to life – in the red-headed, azure-eyed form of Kazan – Calvin initially thinks she’s a figment of his needy imagination. But when other people can see her, too – including Calvin’s no-nonsense brother Harry (Chris Messina) – he’s forced into an increasingly provocative series of challenges having to do with projection, control and unconditional love. Contains profanity, including some sexual references, and drug use. DVD extras: behind-the-story featurette, plus “Real-Life Couples: Co-Stars & Directors” and “Be Careful What You Wish For.” Also, on Blu-ray: cast and location (Los Angeles) featurettes.
‘Safety Not Guaranteed’
(R, 85 minutes, Pictures Home Entertainment) : “Safety Not Guaranteed” takes its title and theme from an Internet meme: a purported newspaper classified ad seeking a partner in time travel. The story revolves around the efforts of a Seattle magazine writer (Jake Johnson of “New Girl”) and two interns (Aubrey Plaza and Karan Soni) to profile the guy who placed the ad. The risk in any quirky romantic comedy is cuteness overload. Fortunately, the film’s engaging and offbeat cast prevents that from happening. Although wryly comedic, the film is ultimately less about the mechanics of sci-fi time travel than about regret, mistakes and love. “Safety Not Guaranteed” is most vibrant at its edges, in the way that the characters interact with each other while waiting for something to happen. Contains obscenity and sexual references. Extras: “A Movie Making Mission” and “The Ad Behind the Movie” featurettes and a time-capsule Easter egg. TheWashingtonPost