DVD 12/30/08: Ghost Town, Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget, Baghead, Eagle Eye, An American Carol

Ghost Town (PG-13, 2008, Dreamworks)
Dentist Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais) isn’t much of a people person. Which is a shame for him, because, following a mishap at the doctor’s office, his ability to see and communicate with the dead — including one particularly needy guy named Frank (Greg Kinnear) who wants to sabotage his widowed former wife’s (Téa Leoni) new romance — finds him in the company of more people than ever. The unfortunate thing about introducing “Ghost Town” is that most of the film’s biggest surprises lie in the premise. By the time you reach the jump-off point, you pretty well know exactly where this thing is going. But that’s no matter. The best antidote for a predictable comedy is a funny comedy, and while “Town” isn’t particularly bold in the plot twist department, it’s supremely gifted at the art of well-written, inventively funny characters who credibly can deliver line after line of sharply funny conversational brilliance. If a movie can do that, everything else falls in line, and by the time “Town” takes you down that obligatory road toward life-changing sincerity, the film has so deeply endeared itself that it’s completely fruitless to object. Aasif Mandvi and Billy Campbell also star.
Extras: Director/Gervais commentary, three behind-the-scenes features.

Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget: Uncensored (NR, 2008, Comedy Central)
If you know the Comedy Central Roast drill by now, then you also know this particular happening — a blue celebration of one of comedy’s most perfectly-orchestrated good-to-evil career turns — was inevitable. “Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget” adheres to the franchise formula: It trots out some of the usual roasters (Greg Giraldo, Jim Norton, Jeffrey Ross), mixes in some long-overdue returns (Jeff Garlin, Gilbert Gottfried, Brian Posehn), adds a few first-timers (Jon Lovitz, Norm MacDonald, Susie Essman), and tops it off with some novelty (John “Uncle Jesse” Stamos as the roastmaster and Cloris Leachman just because). Also per usual, not all is what it first appears, and the runaway stars of the night aren’t who you might expect them to be. (Or perhaps they are, given how this seems to happen every single roast.) Most importantly, though, somebody bombs. But in stark contrast to the usual bomb, the bomber (no names to protect spoilers) becomes so self-aware that a horrible bit magically transforms into a work of art. As usual, the easily offended should run and hide: Saget is a lewd comic, Comedy Central’s roasts are lewd events, and when you mix the two together, the mix of vulgarity and hilarity is practically nuclear.
Extras: Pre-roast, post-roast and Saget interviews.

Baghead (R, 2008, Sony Pictures)
Four not-quite-but-somewhat-but-its complicated friends (Ross Partridge, Steve Zissis, Greta Gerwig and Elise Muller) have booked it to a lonely cabin in the woods to write a quickie script they hope will kick-start their struggling showbiz careers. They get drunk, one of them stumbles outside and thinks she sees a stranger with a bag on his head, and the idea for a horror film is born. It wouldn’t be fun to spoil what happens next, but from here, “Baghead” cleverly turns into a movie within a movie, mixing the story about the story, the story within the story about the story, and a healthy helping of peripheral character sketching into a film that’s a lot more coherent than it reads on paper. That doesn’t necessarily mean “Baghead” is accessible, however. This is not a typical horror comedy, these aren’t typical horror comedy characters, and it’s highly debatable whether the detached, overly talky script even remotely warrants the comedy tag. “Baghead” comes to us courtesy of a rock-bottom budget, and you’d best believe it looks like it, with shaky camerawork and shoestring production values joining the improvisational-style dialogue to form a shoestring budget trifecta. The production doesn’t hamper “Baghead” at all, but if meandering narratives aren’t your thing, appreciating what it’s doing could prove a trying experience.
Extras: Filmmakers commentary, real baghead scares (and non-scares), filmmakers interview.

Eagle Eye: 2-Disc Special Edition (PG-13, 2008, Dreamworks)
There’s a reason one of the scariest films of all time was about a dumb hungry shark: It resonated, and viewers felt there was some remote chance what they were watching could happen to them. So here’s some good news for the easily rattled: In spite of the “it could happen to you” overtones, this story of a copy shop employee (Shia LaBeouf) and single mom (Michelle Monaghan) who find themselves employed as unwilling pawns in some ridiculously convoluted act of domestic terrorism poses no such concern. Between the god-like manipulation of everything from construction cranes to train station marquees to completely coincidental passengers’ cell phones, none of this could possibly happen to anyone. “Eagle Eye” shatters the plane of believability very quickly, and the hailstorm of eye-pleasing ludicrousness that follows makes it fun, if you’re willing, to enjoy as some bizarre work of genre-bending science fiction. But between the faux climaxes, obligatory “character” moments, excessive need to explain itself and never-ending assault of stock thriller music, even that works for only so long. “Eye,” despite taking disbelief to new heights, seems to want you to take it seriously, even tossing in a bit of preaching right before the credits. Unless your favorite hat is stitched from foil instead of wool, it’s not going to happen. Billy Bob Thornton, Rosario Dawson and Michael Chiklis also star.
Extras: Deleted scenes, alternate ending, five behind-the-scenes features, bloopers, photo gallery.

An American Carol (PG-13, 2008, Vivendi)
Liberal America is as ripe for a good send-up as anybody, and for a little while, “An American Carol” — which finds a documentary filmmaker (Kevin Farley as Michael Moore’s dead ringer) unwittingly helping a group of terrorists record a propaganda video — seems to have some inkling of what it’s doing. Unfortunately, brief early promise gives way to unintended terror as the same tired joke (Liberals hate America! Get it?) gets beaten senseless while the plot careens wildly out of control. What started as a comedy soon reveals itself as a badly-disguised agenda with two audiences in mind. For the mouth-breathers on the far right who inject politics into every facet of their lives and think “liberal” is a dirty word in any context, this one’s for you, because you’ll likely laugh whether you find the film genuinely funny or not. For the oversensitive far leftists who inject politics into every facet of their lives and won’t let a registered republican past the threshold of their front doors, this is for you as well: You can watch it, stew incessantly, and boycott the work of every person who had any involvement in “Carol’s” creation. Fortunately, the vast majority of the country isn’t so easily played. They’re rational, a bit tired of the bickering, and prefer their comedies stick to being funny rather than preachy. This isn’t remotely for them.
Extras: Director commentary, deleted scenes.