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New on DVD: ‘Big Miracle,’ ‘Jeff, Who Lives at Home’

Rick Bentley
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

This week’s DVD selections range from stories of trapped whales to talking dogs.

—“Big Miracle” Grade B: A group tries to save three whales trapped by ice. The film is a whale of a tale that rings of sentimental nostalgia and is schmaltzy enough to bring a tear to anyone who’s ever owned a pet.

This family-friendly film is based on the true story that unfolded on national television in 1988. Three whales — dubbed Fred, Wilma and Bamm-Bamm — get trapped five miles from the ocean as ice in northern Alaska freezes faster than usual. Without assistance, the three whales will die when the last hole in the ice closes.

Despite a simplistic structure and melodramatic acting, “Big Miracle” works because it goes directly for your heart.

—“Jeff, Who Lives at Home” Grade C: Jason Segel and Ed Helms bring little energy to their work. It’s like watching two men sharing their disjointed thoughts as they are on the verge of nodding off to sleep.

This passive approach is OK with Segel’s character. His Jeff, a middle-age loser who still lives with his mother, has become obsessed with the M. Night Shyamalan film “Signs” and is waiting for the cosmos to tell him his destiny. He takes a wrong number telephone call as that sign. At the same time, his brother, Pat (Helms), is dealing with a marriage that is falling apart. His attempts to find out about his wife’s cheating ways and Jeff’s quest to find out what the call is all about have them continually crossing paths.

The problem is the interaction between the brothers is so low-key, there are never any emotional sparks.

—“Project X” Grade B: A group of friends wants to throw a wild 17th birthday party. It’s “Superbad” on crack.

This tale of three high school losers, who watch their birthday plans go completely out of control, zips past being a cautionary tale of teenage vices to reach the stratosphere of comic absurdity.

—“Wilfred: The Complete First Season” Grade C-minus: Elijah Wood plays Ryan, an introvert with serious emotional problems. He is asked by his attractive neighbor to watch her dog, Wilfred. The world sees the canine as a typical four-legged creature but Ryan sees him as a man (Jason Gann) dressed in a dog suit.

Gann is more than the guy in the suit. The cable series is based on the Australian series that he co-created. He came up with the idea while talking with a friend about a dog who terrorized his owner’s boyfriends.

The weird series is best if you watch it late, late at night when most things seem just a little funnier than they are.

———

Also new on DVD this week:

“The Sarah Silverman Program: The Complete Series”: The box set contains all 32 episodes from the show’s three seasons.

“Charlie’s Angels: The Complete Series”: Three female detectives battle crime. Annie Ilonzeh, Minka Kelly and Rachael Taylor star.

“Franklin and Bash: The Complete First Season”: Cable law drama starring Breckin Meyer.

“Super Why: Around the World Adventure”: Preschool series designed to help kids ages 3-6 with the critical skills they need to learn to read.

“Dark Blue: The Complete Second Season”: Dylan McDermott stars.

“Cat Run”: Two young detectives must protect a high-end escort (Paz Vega) who has evidence of a government cover-up.

“This Is Civilization”: Matthew Collings travels from London to Beijing to look at non-Western art.

“Web Therapy: The Complete First Season”: Lisa Kudrow plays a psychiatrist who sees patients via the Internet.

“The Legend of Hell’s Gate”: A young boy falls in with two desperate outlaws. Eric Balfour stars.

“The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea”: Sarah Miles and Kris Kristofferson star in the new Blu-ray release based on the Yukio Mishima novel.

“Trial & Retribution: Set 5”: Gritty British crime series starring David Hayman.

“Reel Love”: A city girl (LeAnn Rimes) returns home to be with her sick father.

“Wanderlust”: A couple (Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston) end up at an idyllic community.

“Hey Dude: Season 3”: Benjamin Ernst wrangles up his crew for another summer of adventure.

“Tyler Perry’s House of Payne Vol. 9”: Includes 24 episodes of the TBS series.

“Empire of the Sun”: The coming-of-age World War II drama debuts on Blu-ray to mark the 25th anniversary.

“Down for the Count”: A boxer ends up at a Muay Thai boxing camp.

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