Buena Vista Home Ent., $29.99
CAN A GENIUS be stupid? Yes, as M. Night Shyamalan proved by following the uncanny The Sixth Sense and the comic booky Unbreakable with the brain-dead Signs (on disc Jan. 7). Mel Gibson badly plays an Episcopal minister who hangs up his collar after losing his wife (Patricia Kalember) to a dozing driver (badly played by Shyamalan). Her dying words make a wonderfully eerie, prophetic scene. Then crop circles show up in Gibson's Pennsylvania cornfield, and the movie becomes a plotless pastiche of War of the Worlds. Shyamalan is good technically: His aliens —who use crop circles as airfield landing signs—are scary as long as we don't actually see them. Then they become silly.
There has never been a more Mystery Science Theater 3000-worthy alien movie than Signs. Joaquin Phoenix blows it as Gibson's ballplayer brother; the E.T.-perceptive kids (Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin) and the sensitive cop (Cherry Jones) who finds the minister's soon-to-die wife are great, though their dialogue mostly stinks. Cinematographer Tak Fujimoto, who deserves more credit than he gets for The Sixth Sense's unearthly goodness, creates lovely colors and virtuoso compositions here. He offers the only sign of genius in Signs (the fourth highest grossing film of last year, with $227 million).
Shyamalan's commentary frighteningly displays the dumbness of his ideas—it's incredible that he found the film's comic-relief scenes funny. The deleted scenes are worthless, and the DVD extras skimpy.
MORE SUBSTANTIAL drama, if not DVD extras, can be found on Our Song (also Jan. 7), a heartfelt teenage girls' coming-of-age story set in Brooklyn and featuring three lively breakout performances from its young lead actresses. The disposable gay-party-circuit melodrama Circuit also arrives on disc, as does Nancy Savocca's superior 1989 indie romance True Love (with Annabella Sciorra as the ambivalent Italian-American bride). Secret Ballot is a worthwhile if minimalist Iranian electoral comedy that played here in August. Less worthy is XXX, which snuck onto disc Dec. 31; and, no, Vin Diesel doesn't do a commentary—since that would require learning English. Then there's The Good Girl (Jan. 7), with not-yet-nominated-for-anything Jennifer Aniston providing a chat track. (But a girl can still dream, can't she?)