DVD 11/4/08: Get Smart, Reaper S1, Hank and Mike, Futurama: Bender's Game, Henry Poole is Here, Swing State

Get Smart: 2-Disc Special Edition (PG-13, 2008, Warner Home Video)
So, how seriously do you take your classic TV shows? If your answer hovers somewhere in the neighborhood of “very,” you probably should just move on to the next review. As tributes go, “Get Smart” isn’t much of one. The names are the same and some iconic elements of the show make their requisite appearances. But the characters certainly don’t act as one might remember, certain back stories have been changed, and Steve Carell more closely resembles Michael Scott with a government-issued I.D. than the great Maxwell Smart. If you either don’t care or can just accept that, though, there’s an upside: “Smart” is really quite funny, complementing the predictable blast of slapstick and gadget-gone-wrong humor with moments of actual bona fide wit. Similarly, while storyline is generic enough to come courtesy of a book of secret agent Mad Libs, it suffices plenty as an excuse for both the surprisingly high-brow humor and almost shockingly credible action sequences. “Smart” leeches off its source material more than it pays homage, but that is neither here nor there. It’s funny, it’s entertaining, and considering how many movies of this sort absolutely shred the memory of the shows that inspired their creation, it could have been so much worse. Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Alan Arkin, Terry Crews, David Koechner, Terence Stamp, Masi Oka and Nate Torrence, among others, also star.
Extras: Special “Comedy Optimization Mode,” which allows you to integrate more than 20 minutes of outtakes into the film. Not ideal for your first viewing, but a pretty ingenious way to enjoy a second go-round. Also: Three behind-the-scenes features, bloopers, feature on Bruce (Oka) and Lloyd (Torrence), who previous starred in their own straight-to-video spinoff.

Reaper: Season One (NR, 2007, Lions Gate)
You think your parents set you up for failure? Please. Sam Oliver’s (Bret Harrison) parents sold his soul to the devil (Ray Wise) before he was even born. Now, upon turning 21, Sam is contractually obligated to help catch escaped souls and return then to Hell before they resume wreaking havoc in our realm. A premise so alternately dark and absurd demands a dark sense of humor to match, and as “Reaper” demonstrates in its brilliant opening episode, it is wholly and distinctly up to the task. What’s more, as soon as the show appears to be falling prey to routine — learn about soul, banter with devil and slacker sidekicks (Tyler Labine and Rick Gonzalez), catch soul — a handful of multi-episode plotlines kick in and rearrange the gears. That sends that goofy premise down some very clever avenues, which cross paths and culminate with a terrific finale. “Reaper’s” future isn’t entirely bright: A 13-episode second season is in the works, but nothing beyond that is guaranteed. Until the plug is officially pulled, though, this is as much an underrated gem as anything on network TV right now.
Contents: 18 episodes, plus commentary, deleted scenes and bloopers.

Hank and Mike (R, 2008, Magnolia)
Who knew? The Easter Bunny is real. In fact, in “Hank and Mike,” being an Easter Bunny is akin to pursuing any other career endeavor. Easter is a corporation, and the bunnies simply deliver the product one Sunday a year. Rather, that’s what our titular characters (Thomas Michael as Hank, Paolo Mancini as Mike) used to do until corporate downsizing and some regrettable antics put them out of a job. If that reads like a blueprint for an odd comedy, you have no idea. “H&M” takes its ridiculous premise to the house and beyond, laying waste to subtlety en route to what happens when “American Beauty,” “Office Space” and the Cadbury Bunny join forces and make an egg. That means a lot of dark humor for the sake of it and no shortage of completely asinine scenes that may prove too much for anyone ill-equipped to play along with the illusion. For those who can suspend disbelief, rest assured that “H&M,” despite its borrowed sensibilities, is like no other movie you’ve ever seen. That, along with its eagerness to lob everything but the kitchen sink at the wall, gives the film all the ammo it needs to entertain in spite of a script that, to be kind, is pretty transparently imperfect. Chris Klein and Joe Mantegna also star.
Extras: Filmmaker commentary, the original “Hank and Mike” short film, deleted/extended scenes (with commentary), alternate ending, bloopers, audition footage, image galleries, Easter Eggs (naturally).

Futurama: Bender’s Game (NR, 2008, Fox)
It seems weird too say this so soon as “Futurama’s” triumphant return, but perhaps it’s time for another break. It doesn’t have to be another hiatus of indeterminate length — just a breather that allows the writers the time they need to come back with something better than this. Like the previous film, “The Beast With a Billion Backs,” “Bender’s Game” isn’t completely bereft of laughs. Unfortunately, also like “Backs,” “Game” feels like a hastily-written collection of partial episodes awkwardly balled together to make a movie. The subject matter, which culminates in a send-up of “Dungeons and Dragons” and “Lord of the Rings,” is thoroughly uninspired in light of all that’s possible (and previously achieved) in the “Futurama” universe, and the humor mostly feels stale coming so soon after another less-than-spectacular “Futurama” film. A longer, thoughtful break before movie No. 4 might do wonders for that next film, but considering the trailer for that very movie appears on this very DVD, it probably is best not to get your hopes up.
Extras: Cast/Matt Groening commentary, storyboard, genetics lab game, deleted scene, Bender PSA, three behind-the-scenes features, bloopers, preview of the next “Futurama” movie.

Henry Poole is Here (PG, 2008, Anchor Bay)
Henry Poole (Luke Wilson) is, by all appearances, not a very neighborly guy. So when a stain resembling Jesus Christ appears on the exterior of his new house and word of its arrival engulfs the neighborhood, it’s either a life-changing turning point or one cruelly ironic twist. That, in fact, is the topic of the day in “Henry Poole is Here,” which deftly mixes dry comedy while paying smart, evenhanded respect to a subject matter rarely explored to serious satisfaction in movies, much less comedies. Problem is, “Poole” telegraphs early on where its titular character is headed. When Henry finally arrives at that moment, the foundation begins to wobble, and a film that was piling intrigue with each passing minute gets sloppy and lets fantasticality get the best of it. That doesn’t mean “Poole” suddenly becomes unlikeable: Given how much care is invested into the characters by that point, such a stark turn pretty much is impossible. It also doesn’t mean you can’t just buy into the fantasy and enjoy it for what it is. Just don’t be surprised if, after Poole’s” far more absorbing first half, playing along proves more challenging than you might expect. Adriana Barraza, Radha Mitchell, Morgan Lily and George Lopez also star.
Extras: Writer/director commentary, behind-the-scenes feature, two music videos.

Swing State (NR, 2008, Morningstar Entertainment)
The state of Ohio’s importance as a bellwether state in presidential elections is excessively documented at this point, and as we touch down in “Swing State,” we’re thrown smack into the middle of the 2006 gubernatorial race, the outcome of which could determine Ohio’s political temperature in 2008. Heavy stuff, huh? On paper, certainly: When “State” isn’t reminding you of Ohio’s importance, the famous faces (John Kerry, Barack Obama, Jerry Springer) who contribute their two cents often repeat the message. Problem is, “State” — which follows the campaign primarily from the perspective of would-be Democratic Lt. Governor Lee Fisher, whose son is the film’s director — is better at verbalizing this importance than actually showing it to us. Bits and pieces of campaign intrigue seep through, but after 16 months of having the 2008 race crammed down our throats, that isn’t so much a selling point as a point of aversion for anyone experiencing election fatigue. “State” is most effective as a behind-the-scenes home movie, and Fisher and his family do make for an intriguing cast of characters, to say nothing of the other candidates. But when the movie itself constantly reminds you that this isn’t supposed to be the point, it’s hard not to hear it, especially when the point it wants to make lands without impact.
Extras: Deleted scenes, tribute to Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones.