Geoff Cox’s DVD reviews: After Earth, The Big Wedding, Beyond The Candelabra

Will Smith and his boy Jaden team up in AFTER EARTH (12: Sony), but this plodding sci-fi adventure is far from out of this world.

Friday, 4th October 2013, 5:00 pm
Will Smith and Jaden Smith in After Earth

Apart from one or two effective sequences, it’s no more than a by-the-numbers survival story peddling contrived emotion, glittering sets and repetitive CGI.

Renowned war hero Cypher Raige (Smith Snr) and 13-year-old Kitai (Smith Jnr) are father-and-son astronauts whose spaceship crash-lands on Earth 1,000 years after humanity abandoned the planet.

Since mankind’s departure, Earth has become home to all manner of dangerous life-forms and the lad must make a desperate journey across hostile terrain to secure a rescue for his injured father.

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Will Smith wrote the story as the first part of a possible trilogy (let’s hope not!) and it’s clearly intended to elevate Jaden to star status.

But the youngster’s inexperience shows in the stilted delivery of his dialogue and hiring M Night Shyamalan, who has failed to live up to the early promise of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, to direct was a decent act of charity by Smith, yet one that ultimately fails.

> THE BIG WEDDING (15: Lionsgate), the comedy remake of a seven-year-old French film, goes down like an old vol-au-vent – puffed up, stale and unsatisfying.

Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton head a starry cast in this tedious yarn about a modern family trying to survive a weekend marriage celebration that has the potential to become a full-blown fiasco.

Years after their divorce, De Niro and Keaton are forced to play house to appease the strictly religious mother of their adopted son as relatives gather to see him hitched to a dull Amanda Seyfried.

An attempt to inject some colour into the proceedings finds Susan Sarandon as De Niro’s live-in lover, Topher Grace as the virginal brother of the groom, Katherine Heigl as the brassy big sister and Robin Williams as a cheeky vicar.

Sadly, writer/director Justin Zackham’s idea of funny is having senior citizens behave like kids and gags that rely on mix-ups which are so drawn-out and forced, they clang as loudly as church bells.

> Liberace biopic BEHIND THE CANDELABRA (15: Entertainment One) follows the rhinestone-encrusted pianist’s relationship with his young assistant and lover Scott Thorson, who was introduced into his hedonistic world at a Las Vegas show in 1977.

It sketches out the last seven years of the flamboyant entertainer, played by Michael Douglas, as seen through the eyes of Thorson (Matt Damon).

The film portrays Wladziu Valentino ‘Lee’ Liberace as a kind but desperately lonely man whose insatiable need for human contact turned out to be his downfall.

Director Steven Soderbergh’s picture drips with gold, silver, diamante and mink and it could so easily have descended into camp caricature.

But Douglas’s powerhouse central performance exquisitely captures the real Liberace’s peculiarly self-aware charm.

Although the sexual content would be considered strong even without the A-list names involved, it’s not a study in sleaze and excess.

What lasts longest in the mind is not the film’s bold gay love scenes. but its affectionate tip of the hat to a great, unapologetic American eccentric.