Christmas Vacation 2008
days left with the kids home, and maybe some of these found
their way under your tree already. But just in case, there's
some good stuff released for family entertainment over the
last month, and here's the best of it -- and one you might
try to avoid.
Hears A Who
Released last Spring in one of the dead zones, this Blue
Sky Studios production came as a great surprise. A faithful
if fattened adaptation of Dr. Seuss' classic children's
book, the movie does everything a good family film should,
plus revels in the talents of Jim Carrey and Steve
Carell without depending on them. (Full
movie review here)
DVD release adds some extras that make a fine divide. And
this is just on the single disc edition! On the first menu,
the featurettes focus on behind-the-scenes items. How do
you expand the story while remaining faithful to the book?
Perhaps the makers of The Grinch (hmmm…also starring
Carrey) should have watched this. It's also one of the few
animation DVDs I've seen that shines a light on newcomer
character animators, letting them talk about their development
course, that stuff might not fascinate every child, or simply
be lost on the younger ones. So the second extras menu includes
the educational items, discussing the film's themes, how
fragile our own dust speck really is, and probably the most
riveting for the kids - facts about actual elephants.
Sky also adds in a short film featuring Sid the Sloth from
the Ice Age movies, and though it's fairly amusing,
with a rather subversive punchline, it would have been nice
if they could have kept to the Seussiverse for the DVD.
Sure, there's a third Ice Age coming this Summer,
but you know, Horton also hatched an egg…
An inspiration to plus-sized men everywhere, Kung
Fu Panda was absolutely worth a second look on my
part. Featuring clever fight scenes and much more dignity
for James Hong than his Burger King commercials, the story
holds up surprisingly well in repeats. Again, it's great
for family viewing, though the same can't quite be said
for the companion DVD (available in several outlets), Secrets
of the Furious Five.
supplementary movie features Jack Black and Dustin Hoffman
reprising their characters in framing sequences. The meat
of it is actually 2D animation, with sound-alikes. It's
aimed more squarely at kids, which seems appropriate since
the "secrets" are moral stories being told by Po the Panda
to a group of primary age kung fu wannabes. Honestly, I
thought it would get more viewing in my house, but Kung
Fu Panda itself has been the one that kept the four
year old's attention.
he hasn't even gotten to the extras, which are great. At
least, I can say I learned a lot. Alton Brown hosts a look
at how Chinese noodles are made, and what the proper etiquette
would be for eating noodle soup.
course, there's a featurette on the different fighting styles,
though take it from me, what you learn here will not actually
help on the street. But it might help if a small child comes
spinning and kicking at you.
your more socially conscious child, there's also some information
about the dwindling panda habitats, and what kids can do
to help. After going through the whole package, I found
myself agreeing with Jack Black in this featurette - nobody
can say, "pandas…nope, really don't care for them."
Despite a lot of hype ahead of time, this movie just couldn't
seem to find its audience, at least in the way needed for
today's cutthroat box office. Nor has it been doing that
well in DVD sales, to the point that Disney has decided
not to adapt the third Chronicles of Narnia book.
that's a shame, because this is a stronger entry than the
first film in the series, and just a lot of fun.
including it here because the family will like it - I still
haven't gotten to the extras. I just think it's a shame
that Disney won't be going forward with the franchise.
"Like you've never seen it before!" True. This Platinum
Edition DVD doesn't just have all the whistles and bells
that Disney usually puts in their premium releases, it also
literally redoes the animated classic by making it a widescreen
experience. Perhaps this is what Walt wanted to have done,
but it's hard to make up your mind as a purist when it comes
down to, that's just not the original film.
it's still lush, somewhat avant garde in its character design,
and intriguing in its adaptation of Tchaikovsky's ballet
score. Thanks to Disney's pushing of Aurora in the "Disney
Princess" brand, however, boys may shy away from this, forgetting
that Prince Philip has one heck of a great fight scene against
Disney aficionados, the disc includes a tour of Disneyland's
Sleeping Beauty's Castle, an attraction that was closed
in the wake of 9/11, though that's not the way the Imagineers
cast it in their narration. Actually, it turns out that
the attraction closed then wasn't the original version,
and once again I found myself learning something. Would
these DVDs please stop doing that?
the Platinum Edition recreates is an installation from 1956
that ran until 1978, a far more visually exciting, interesting
and flat-out more creative show than the dolls that took
their place. Rumor has it that thanks to the production
of this featurette, the Disney powers that be have decided
to re-open the castle, and are currently restoring it to
its former glory. That's the power of television.
Long delayed, this may be a better movie than it was before
John Lasseter stepped in, but it still falls into the unnecessary
prequel trap. In order to create a sassy tween-age franchise,
this movie undercuts not just Tinkerbell's characterization
by making her talk - okay, that could have been fixed if they'd
said something about only other fairies understanding them
- but also flat-out contradicts events in the classic Peter
it's a reasonably well-made movie that follows a terribly
predictable pattern. The animation is a cut above the Barbie
movies, but the story could have just as easily been in
the blonde doll's Fairytopia. And perhaps I know
too much about that.
It's a far more
naked sales piece than any of the other DVDs on this list,
and thus it was my least favorite. But of course it worked.
I'm predicting that Disney Fairies are going to be a hot
merchandising franchise for years to come.
The cream of the crop here. As I write, there's a lot of
rumbling (pointless, as no rumblers are actual Academy members)
that this could get a nomination for Best Picture. Like
the Harry Potter books, however, animated films have been
given their own special category, which this poignant Pixar
movie should win hands - or waldoes - down.
a tremendous package, and that includes a packaging design
that was kind of fun to open. On the discs, of course, are
loads of behind-the-scenes featurettes, and a short cartoon,
Burn*e, that's a brilliant spin on the Rosencrantz
and Guildenstern Are Dead approach.
movie itself, though, is why this one's a keeper. Fascinating,
heartfelt and a little ominous in its warning, it's also
one that absolutely captures the imagination of everyone
in the family, no matter how young or old.