DVD Alternatives to This Weekend's Theatrical Offerings

Christmas Day is one of the busiest days of the year at America's multiplexes, as the cinemas are descended upon by all those who, I can only assume, can't bear to spend just one day with their families. But that's not you: You like your family. So gather them 'round the DVD player this Christmas night and share a movie experience virtually indistinguishable from the multiplex one...

INSTEAD OF: Gulliver's Travels, in which Jack Black visits the land of the teeny tiny Lilliputians and desecrates the memory of Jonathan Swift, one of the finest satirists in all of English literature, by basically urinating on it in a not-at-all metaphorical way...

WATCH: The equally terrible TV miniseries Gulliver's Travels (1996), starring Ted Danson as the traveler in lands exotic and fantastical ... though it is at least far more faithful to Swift's vision and intent. For a far more intellectual take on a journey that changes a man's mind about the world, don't miss the Preston Sturges classic Sullivan's Travels (1941) ... which also manages to update its satire for the modern world without resorting to displaying any giant belly flab in 3-D. For more Jack Black as a big clumsy guy surrounded by people far more graceful than him, check out the delightful animated flick Kung Fu Panda (2008), in which his roly-poly pseudo ursine learns martial arts -- and something about himself -- from masters of the discipline. If you truly must have more awfulness from director Rob Letterman, there's always the very bad Shark Tale (2004), about sharks who are also gangsters. It's even worse than it sounds.

INSTEAD OF: True Grit, a tale of the 19th-century Old West from Joel and Ethan Coen, about a teenaged girl (Hailee Steinfeld) who hires a U.S. marshal (Jeff Bridges) to hunt down and bring to justice the man who killed her father...

WATCH: True Grit (1969), the John Wayne classic the Coens update here; this one is less true to the original novel than the new film is, but it did garner Wayne his only Oscar. For another revisionist Western that disputes the idea that the wild frontier was a place of only glorious freedom and happy endings, don't miss Clint Eastwood's masterpiece, Unforgiven (1992), about an aging outlaw who plans to give up his life of violence after one last job. The Coens have done revisionism before, with their brilliant Miller's Crossing (1990), which makes gangsters look like the violent psychopaths they are, but through a blackly comedic eye. For more of Jeff Bridges as an iconically American character, see him as an innovative and ultimately misunderstood automobile designer in Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988).

INSTEAD OF: Little Fockers, in which the unfortunately monikered Gaylord Focker (Ben Stiller) continues to clash with his psychotic father-in-law (Robert DeNiro)...

WATCH: Meet the Parents (2000), which started it all when Focker met his then future father-in-law for the first time ... and should have run away screaming from the prospect of marrying into this family. For a comedy about the blending of two very different families that is genuinely funny and moving, check out The Family Stone (2005), about a guy (Dermot Mulroney) who brings his uptight fiancée (Sarah Jessica Parker) to meet his crazy, freewheeling family; as a bonus, it actually has a Christmas theme, which Fockers does not. If you'd like to see a comedy from director Paul Weitz that actually works, see American Dreamz (2006), a satire about pop culture revolving around a reality talent show and the American president who wants in on it. For a reminder that Ben Stiller was once both funny and possessed of creative integrity, revisit his brilliant -- and sadly short-lived -- Emmy-winning Fox TV sketch comedy series The Ben Stiller Show (1992-1993).

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MaryAnn Johanson has true grit at FlickFilosopher.com. (email me)