"Doubt," which John Patrick Shanley adapted and directed from his Pulitzer- and Tony Award-winning play and which stars Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams, leads the pack of this week's DVD releases.

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“Doubt,” the excellent movie John Patrick Shanley adapted and directed from his Pulitzer- and Tony Award-winning play, works on many levels. Like the play, the film is set in 1964 in a Catholic Church in the Bronx.

Most overtly, the film, out on DVD this week (Miramax, $29.99, rated PG-13), is a mystery concerning whether a young Catholic priest, Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman), is having an improper relationship with one of his students at the parish school. His principal accuser is the school’s principal, Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep), who eagerly jumps to that conclusion after one of her fellow nuns, a young teacher named Sister James (Amy Adams), confides in her that Father Flynn seems to have “taken an interest” in the 12-year-old boy who happens to be the school’s first and only African-American student.

“Doubt” is also a meditation on how quickly people make up their minds about things that are not as clear cut as they appear to be.

In addition, “Doubt” offers a richly detailed examination of a particular time and place both inside and outside the Catholic Church on the verge of cultural change.

Shanley’s multidimensional script, which earned an Academy Award nomination for best adapted screenplay, gets a brilliant reading from Streep, Hoffman and supporting players Adams and Viola Davis — all four of whom received Oscar nominations for their work.

Other new releases

“Doubt” received three-and-a-half stars from Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald. Star ratings below are by Seattle Times movie reviewers, freelancers or wire services (for full reviews, search the movie title atseattletimes.com).

3 stars “I.O.U.S.A.” (PG): Patrick Creadon’s documentary explores the rapidly growing national debt, with Jon Stewart, Steve Martin and former President George W. Bush providing comic relief.

2.5 stars “Not Easily Broken” (PG-13): Taraji P. Henson (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) and Morris Chestnut create chemistry in this drama about a marriage in trouble.

2.5 stars “Yes Man” (PG-13): Just say yes, if you’re in the mood for a Jim Carrey comedy with a top-notch supporting cast, including Terence Stamp, Rhys Darby and Zooey Deschanel.

2 stars “Bedtime Stories” (PG): Adam Sandler continues on his man-child trajectory in Disney’s family-friendly comedy about an uncle who tells bedtime stories that magically come true.

2 stars “The Day The Earth Stood Still” (PG-13): Alien Klatu (Keanu Reeves) and his robot Gort come to Earth for a not-so-excellent adventure in Scott Derrickson’s remake of Robert Wise’s 1951 sci-fi classic.

2 stars “The Tale of Despereaux” (G): This animated feature, based on the Newbery Honor-winning children’s book by Kate DiCamillo, concerns a series of unfortunate events following a royal screw-up by seafaring rat Roscuro (voiced by Dustin Hoffman).


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Compiled by Lori Taki Uno: luno@seattletimes.com