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Giving Steve Carell the boot in 'Crazy, Stupid, Love'

TelevisionBlu-ray DiscsMoviesFictionWalt DisneySteve Carell

Both have already given at "The Office," but Steve Carell and Jenna Fischer have more to offer movie-lovers in the digital domain this month. Carell's romantic comedy "Crazy, Stupid, Love" and Fischer's single-mom drama "A Little Help" arrive separately on disc and primed for media download.

Carell's screen characters often come off as something of a sadsack, but he is a wet dishrag as well in "Crazy, Stupid, Love" (Warner Home Video, rated PG-13, DVD $28.98; Blu-ray Disc $35.99). He can't even find a word to say when wife Julianne Moore announces their marriage is over because she has moved five or six degrees too close to Kevin Bacon.

Carell seems resigned to letting her go without a fight until a smooth-talking "player" from a neighborhood bar (Ryan Gosling) steps forward to offer emergency manhood lessons.

Gosling doesn't strum any ukuleles like he did in "Blue Valentine," but the role he was given is nearly as out-of-tune. Eventually we learn that behind all that suave super-confidence lies the quivering demeanor of a puppy dog.

Many of the scenes could have fit in an old Jack Lemmon marital comedy, but the good news is that there's a refreshing lack of vulgar and off-color material. A subplot romance between Gosling and the delightful Emma Stone is totally forced but the actors make it appear natural with an infusion of their personal charm.

The DVD and Blu-ray editions come with only minimal extras — deleted scenes, a couple of short features and an "Ultraviolet" digital copy for portable devices.

While Carell is playing the put-out hubby, Fischer, his TV series co-star, is bringing her own considerable charm to the role of a put-upon wife in "A Little Help" (Image Entertainment, rated R, DVD $27.97; Blu-ray Disc $29.97).

Why do so many filmmakers these days view the death of a husband as a course correction? In any case, that's what happens when Fischer's unfaithful spouse (Chris O'Donnell) keels over from a heart attack early on and leaves her to deal with the detritus of their miserable Long Island life. Anyone with dense relatives and a sullen, unreachable 12-year-old child may find comfort in the company of "A Little Help."

Cartoons with track records

Some animated characters with proven family appeal are competing for new viewers this month. The lineup begins with the highly anticipated sequel to Disney/Pixar's "Cars" and includes other popular favorites:

"Cars 2" (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, rated G, DVD $29.99; Blu-ray Combo $39.99). "Cars" got off on the wrong track for me, but millions of other viewers found the tale of computer-animated race cars exciting and amusing enough to make up for its lack of warmth and humanity. This sequel will likely please the same crowd, even as the focus of the action shifts to Europe for the first-ever "World Grand Prix." All the old gang returns (in 3-D, too, for those who can avail themselves of it), and the Blu-ray even includes an interactive "world tour" map that takes viewers to the nine exotic locations in the story.

"The Essential Daffy Duck" (Warner Home Video, not rated, two-disc DVD $26.98). This new "Duck tour" of Daffy's career includes most of the highlights, from his first starring roles to more recent appearances. The 21 cartoon shorts include three that are new to DVD, and all look minty fresh. A brand new short documentary titled "Ridicule Is the Burden of Genius" provides a biographical overview, plus there are two Daffy TV specials to sweeten the offering. Also look for great comic support from the likes of Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam and Porky Pig!

"Happiness Is ... Peanuts: Snow Days" (Warner Home Video, rated G, DVD $14.97). Just in time for the cold weather, TV's "She's a Good Skate, Charlie Brown" has been remastered for its DVD debut in this latest entry in Warners' popular Peanuts franchise. The vintage special finds Peppermint Patty taking Snoopy as her coach for training to enter a big figure-skating contest. The DVD also includes three related shorts from TV's "Snoopy Show."

"Tom & Jerry: The Golden Collection Volume I" (Warner Home Video, not rated, DVD $26.99; Blu-ray Disc $34.99). The world's most famous animated comedy team arrives on high-def Blu-ray Disc with this initial volume of vintage cartoon shorts. Among the 37 classics assembled for collectors are the Oscar-winners "Yankee Doodle Mouse," "Quiet, Please!" and "The Cat Concerto." Fans will find many of their other all-time favorites as well, and even on standard DVD their colors pop off the screen like never before. Among notable extras is the retrospective special "Vaudeville, Slapstick and Tom and Jerry," plus there are commentaries on nine of the key shorts and a pair of previously released featurettes.

"Winnie the Pooh" (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, rated G, DVD $29.99; Blu-ray Combo $39.99). This handsome 2011 theatrical release captures most of the storybook charm of the classic Disney shorts and should please the nursery-school set without boring their parents too much. Voices are done with such care that you probably won't mourn too much the loss of Sterling Holloway as Pooh, although the new Tigger sounds less like the delightfully daffy Ed Wynn than a stock cartoon cabbie. The original songs by the Sherman Brothers have been retooled and don't come across as crisp and as well articulated as their forerunners, but new additions by Zooey Deschanel are welcome and fitting. Some clever integration of text copy into the animated action and a new "Fantasia"-like sequence on the mischievous creature dubbed a "Backson" also elevate the adventure into classic entertainment territory. The two-disc edition has enough bonus extras to easily dwarf the 63-minute main feature.

For 'Chocolate' lovers

Attention, holiday shoppers: Warner Home Video just released on Blu-ray Disc its Johnny Depp-Tim Burton adaptation of the Roald Dahl children's story "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (rated PG, Blu-ray Disc $19.98). It's a gentle, but twisted retelling of the cautionary fantasy about youthful desire and the perils of selfishness. The Blu-ray comes loaded with bonus features that will make any movie fan feel like — well, a kid in a candy factory.

And now here comes the Dahl mother lode: A giant, high-def four-disc box set of the original 1971 Gene Wilder star vehicle, "Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory" 40th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition (Warner Home Video, rated PG, $64.99; and on a new single DVD edition for $12.97).

Besides the tuneful tale of a mysterious "Candy Man" (Wilder) and a good-hearted boy named Charlie (Peter Ostrum) who must pass through his sticky gauntlet of greed, the box contains new behind-the-scenes features, a 144-page collectible book of photos, candy-wrapped tins and a world of extras to explore.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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