Powerful Pooch DVD Releases
Pooch power is evident in the latest round of DVD releases. Topping the list is a double-disc “platinum edition” of 101 Dalmatians (Walt Disney Home Entertainment; G), the 1961 animated feature that’s been spruced up with a colorful restoration. Plenty of extras grace the package, such as the jaw-dropping factoid that Disney himself wasn’t a fan of the film’s modernist animation, which went against his fondness for lushly traditional cartooning.
Toon time continues with A Pup Named Scooby-Doo: The Complete First Season (Warner Home Video), a two-disc set with 13 episodes from the Hanna-Barbera spinoff. And since every dog has its day, the popular live-action Air Bud franchise will still keep cranking out more direct-to-video sequels populated by cute, chatty curs. The awwww-factor is pushed to the max for Snow Buddies (Disney; G), as a puppy platoon gets dropped into a frozen tundra for sled-dog antics. With celebrity voices from Molly Shannon, Kris Kristofferson and Whoopi Goldberg, it’s an easy-to-take family flick that says “Mush!” without getting too mushy.
Fresh out of Fido flicks, let’s turn now to others in the cinema critter kingdom. Computer-generated animation merges with the on-screen human buffoonery of My Name is Earl star Jason Lee for Alvin and the Chipmunks (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment; PG; April 1), a millennial updating of the 1950s-era singing rodents. Special effects also enhance the emotional glub story of The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; PG; April 8), about a boy and his pet sea creature. Another interspecies relationship takes place in Moondance Alexander (Fox; G; April 29), which concerns a girl (Kay Panabaker), a pinto pony and the inevitable big race. Don Johnson and Lori Laughlin co-star in this amiable yarn.
Riding the coattails of a current multiplex smash featuring the voices of Jim Carrey and Steve Carell, a deluxe edition of Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who (Warner) offers the 1970 30-minute cartoon version directed for television by Chuck Jones. The package also includes the 1942 Merrie Melodies short subject Horton Hatches the Egg and the 1980s TNT cartoon specials Daisy-Head Mayzie and Butter Battle Book. And the direct-to-video Dr. Dolittle: Tail to the Chief (Fox) fields Kyla Pratt as the daughter of the unseen doc; she has inherited dad’s gift for talking to the animals, which comes in handy when interacting with the U.S. president’s persnickety pooch.
Several holiday movie releases from just a few months back have already made the transition to DVD shelves. Enchanted (Disney; PG) features Amy Adams, Susan Sarandon and James Marsden in a snappy send-up of the Mouse House’s princess-movie cliches. Phantasmagoric visuals deliberately overwhelm the performances of Dustin Hoffman and Natalie Portman in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium (Fox; PG). And yada-yada comic relief lends some satiric sting to Bee Movie (DreamWorks Home Entertainment; PG), with Jerry Seinfeld as the world’s most unlikely animation auteur.
While many family films have done well at the box office, others belatedly find their audience with DVD releases. The pleasant modern-day revision of Nancy Drew (Warner; PG) didn’t draw enough of the tween-girl demographic to ensure more sequels, although Emma Roberts is a delight as the spunky sleuth. The Golden Compass (New Line Home Entertainment; PG; April 29) was planned as a Lord of the Rings-styled trilogy—until the disappointing box-office returns (partly as a result of well-publicized squabbles between the Catholic Church and author Philip Pullman) pretty much finished off New Line Cinema as a viable studio. Still, this lavish, eye-filling spectacle features performances from an eclectic cast that includes Nicole Kidman, Ian McKellen and Daniel Craig.
Even Robin Williams’ casting couldn’t lure enough folks to see August Rush (Warner; PG), a sentimental tale about a musical prodigy (Freddie Highmore) in search of his parents. Williams’ fans, however, will doubtless embrace Mrs. Doubtfire (Fox; PG-13), a “behind-the-seams special edition” of the 1993 comedy, with interviews, deleted scenes and photo galleries galore. Williams also turns up amid the lunatic fringes of 1989’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (Sony; PG; April 8), which includes a new documentary on the making of director Terry Gilliam’s wild fantasy.
Making the short leap from TV to DVD, Archie’s Funhouse: The Complete Series (Genius Products) has 16 episodes from the 1970 Saturday-morning cartoon show spread across three discs. The characters also perform bubble-gum rock singles with immortal titles such as “Bang Shang a Lang.” Genius has also issued several permutations of cable’s Discovery Kids series Flight 29 Down, a Lost meets Survivor adventure for tweeners. A three-disc set with 13 episodes and another edition with a four-part season finale are available.
Meanwhile, Warner Home Video gets old school with the double-disc Pebbles and Bam-Bam Show, and also gets down with the Cartoon Network hit Ben 10: a two-disc set with all of the third season’s 13 episodes is now on the shelf, and April 8 sees the release of the feature-length Ben 10: Race Against Time. Upcoming titles from Paramount’s Nickelodeon Home Entertainment include SpongeBob SquarePants: Pest of the West (April 15), featuring East Syracuse voicemeister Tom Kenny, and Nick Jr.’s Wonder Pets!: Save the Beetles and Sleepytime Stories (both April 22). And the small fry currently being raised on Playhouse Disney entertainment already know the potential amount of fun to be had from My Friends Tigger and Pooh: Friendly Tails, Johnny and the Sprites: Meet the Sprites and Handy Manny: Fixing It Right (Disney).
Older children addicted to both ice skating and Disney Channel starlet Christy Carlson Romano should enjoy The Cutting Edge 3: Chasing the Dream (MGM Home Entertainment; April 1). Just in time for baseball, The Final Season (Fox; PG; April 15) offers Sean Astin, Powers Boothe and Tom Arnold in a fact-based crowd-pleaser about the hits and misses of an Iowa high school team. Video gamers are the best audience for In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (Fox; PG-13; April 15), with Jason Statham, Leelee Sobieski and even Burt Reynolds caught up in a fantasy world of sorcerers and warriors.
Fans of classic family movies will note the release of The Shirley Temple Collection, Vol. 6 (Fox; April 22), with the Depression-era moppet headlining 1936’s Stowaway, 1940’s Young People and director John Ford’s 1937 action movie Wee Willie Winkie And timed to the May 5 Cinco de Mayo celebration, Disney weighs in with The Classic Caballeros Collection (G; April 29), yoking together the cartoon travelogues The Three Caballeros (1945) and Saludos Amigos (1943), co-starring Donald Duck, Jose Carioca, Panchito and Goofy as excitable tour guides in Latin America. Ole!