Charlotte’s Web & More!
Elsewhere in this issue, Alan and Kelly Taylor are encouraging families to set aside some together time by occasionally shutting off the television, a laudable ambition to be sure. But when you’re in the mood to fire up that boob tube, there’s probably no better family flick around than Charlotte’s Web (Paramount Home Entertainment; PG; April 3), one of two recent yuletide releases ready for their home-video close-up this month. Animatronic critters inhabit this adaptation of E.B. White’s barnyard classic, with timeless themes concerning life and death intact, and nice voice work from Julia Roberts as the web-slinging Charlotte and Steve Buscemi as Templeton the rat. Kids will eat up this one, while some adults are bound to get a little misty toward the end.
The other box-office bonanza hitting DVD shelves is Night at the Museum (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment; PG; April 24), with Ben Stiller as a graveyard-shift rent-a-cop who receives some living-history lessons when the seeming wax displays spring into action. An uncredited Owen Wilson turns up as a diorama’s pint-size cowpoke with a flair for ad libs (“Say hello to your little friend!”), a tip-off of what to expect. The movie will be available in single- and double-disc incarnations, the latter brimming with extras, with Mickey Rooney easily stealing this special-effects show as a pugnacious watchman.Walt Disney Home Entertainment will kick in Jump In! (April 3), the latest Disney Channel TV-movie hit, with teen heartthrob Corbin Bleu. Other April entries include a gaggle of TV cartoon collections, as Warner Home Video checks in April 10 with third-season sets of The Batman!: The Complete Third Season, Scooby Doo, Where Are You? and Teen Titans, along with Cartoon Network items such as Billy and Mandy’s Big Boogey Adventure (April 3) and a second season of Ed, Edd and Eddy (April 24). For vintage TV fun, check out the dolphin action in Flipper (MGM Home Entertainment; April 24), 30 episodes from the 1964-1965 first season with lots of glub-glub visuals from underwater auteur Ivan Tors. (By the way, Flipper was played by a dolphin named Suzy.)
April 24 is a big day for educational releases, too. Bugs! (WGBH Boston Video) packages three Nova documentaries on the insect world, while BBC Video weighs in with the four-disc Planet Earth documentary. (It’s pricey—retailing for $100, although shop around for discounts—but the movie’s budget was $25 million.) And for pre-schoolers, Paramount’s Nickelodeon Home Video division will issue Save the Wonder Pets!, while WGBH has Binky Goes Nuts, four episodes culled from the popular Arthur cartoon.
For teen couch potatoes with a PG-13 bent, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Spider-Man 2.1 (April 17), an extended cut of the 2004 comic-book spectacle with eight additional web-slinging minutes, and obviously timed for Spider-Man 3’s May multiplex release; Freedom Writers (Paramount; April 17) has Hilary Swank as an inner-city teacher making a difference with her knucklehead students; and the deliberately spelled Thr3e (Fox; April 24) offers mild thrills in a madman-oriented puzzler originally released by Fox Faith, a distributor of Christian-based movies.
April is also the start of baseball season, and there’s no better way to savor the opening pitch than with the flipper disc of 1950’s Kill the Umpire and 1962’s Safe at Home (Sony; April 3). Umpire is a slapstick farce with William Bendix, while Safe features the hapless acting debuts of home-run sluggers Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, both surely enduring some Yankees dugout ribbing for years afterward.