DVD Summer 2003
I've been terrible. For over a month now, I've had a stack
of DVDs from Buena Vista Home Video (that's Disney to you
and me) and between Rocky Horror and San Diego, I simply hadn't
had time to review them all. Or at all, for that matter.
make up for it. Rather than the in-depth breakdown I normally
try to accomplish (and could woefully be falling short on),
here are quick rundowns of what Disney had to offer this summer,
and why you might want it.
2: Milo's Return
a lot of Disney's direct-to-video animation titles, this "movie"
is really cobbled together from television episodes of a series
that never got a full run. Unlike such failures like Cinderella
II, however, Atlantis 2 serves as a tribute to
a great idea never given a fair chance.
that includes the first Atlantis
-- it's fun and exciting, but as time has passed and we learn
what got cut from the budget, it could have been much, much
turned adventurer Milo Thatch (sadly, no longer voiced by
Michael J. Fox) and Kida join their old companions in search
of lost treasures and ancient mysteries. Along the way they
encounter monsters and threats that are surprisingly sophisticated
and almost Lovecraftian for a would-be weekday afternoon series.
A deleted scene (!) included on the disc plants it firmly
in the unlikely camp of Ctulhu For Kids.
even have a legitimately educational bent. Though the set-top
game tends toward repetition at each level, the rewards include
vignettes on lost cities throughout history - and dang if
I didn't learn a couple of new ones. My daughter, the junior
fangirl, was not as impressed, but dodging crumbling rocks
seemed enough for her, and for some reason her love of babies
overcame her natural revulsion toward krakens.
Jungle Book 2
you loved about The Jungle Book is here - and less.
All the characters return except for King Louie; it seems
there was an unwise lawsuit against Disney from Louis Prima's
widow, and therefore the character has been banished from
the jungle forever.
things out, the studio adds a couple of new children, a few
songs desperately failing to sound like "The Bare Necessities,"
and a new vulture voiced by Phil Collins. (Somehow appropriate,
as the original four birds were clearly meant to be The Beatles,
and Collins made his screen debut as an extra in A Hard
Days' Night. I've revealed I know too much.)
all this and more, this movie feels like it exists to maintain
a copyright and sell a few Happy Meal toys (got 'em) and not
much else. John Goodman more than adequately fills the pawprints
of Phil Harris as Baloo, but he's stuck in a tired rehash
of the original.
get off to a great start, however, with Mowgli retelling the
plot of the first using shadow puppetry. Even though it's
a quick summary of a classic film, it shows more imagination
than the entire sequel that follows.
time this film was made, gasoline cost forty cents a gallon.
on that, and then buy this DVD anyway. Former Disney regular
Dean Jones stars as a slightly arrogant racecar driver who
gets adopted by a sentient VW Beetle. Only the gentle Tennessee
Steinmetz (Buddy Hackett) truly understands what's going on,
and he manages to convince Michelle Lee just in time for the
climactic race against her former employer, an evil man played
to perfection by David Tomlinson.
sounds formulaic, and it is, but it was a Disney formula that
worked really well throughout the sixties because it was done
with respect for its audience. Through the extras on this
two-disc set, you'll see that Herbie earned a fandom that
is surprisingly large and dedicated. Disney's unofficial Love
Bug historian may know a little too much about the subject
(dare we attack Herbie Goes Bananas?), but we're okay
Hackett, and Lee provide commentary over the film, clearly
recording at different times. Lee takes her responsibilities
as a commentator very seriously, trying to point out different
acting and directing techniques. Jones and Hackett, however,
were together, and their reminiscences are of a rambling "wasn't
that fun?" nature. Sadly ironic that Hackett spends the entire
opening credits pointing out who's dead.
consider this a special edition that unexpectedly proved it
deserved the treatment.
here. Then decide for yourself. I just can't bring myself
to do it.
Leagues Under The Sea
a classic adventure film for attention spans they don't necessarily
make anymore. Richard Fleischer's 1954 adaptation of the Jules
Verne novel almost broke the studio - at a time when that
meant something. Of course, it wasn't the first time, nor
the last, that Disney would willingly go to the edge to make
sure they were giving their audience the best product possible.
it gets covered both in commentary from Fleischer and in an
86-minute behind-the-scenes documentary on the second disc.
My advice? Watch the documentary, and just enjoy the film
on its own. There's a lot more extras here, too, with a lot
of archival footage that makes me wish The Disney Channel
hadn't cancelled Vault Disney.
the movie? A little slower-paced than most of today's action
films, but extremely entertaining. Kirk Douglas does a little
singing, and it's not as painful as you might imagine. Peter
Lorre cringes, because, let's face it, it's what he was born
of the film remains James Mason, playing a Captain Nemo that
you just don't know whether to like, hate, or grudgingly admire
- nor does Douglas' character know. It's a performance, like
Basil Rathbone's as Sherlock Holmes, that indelibly linked
a specific actor's image to a classic literary character,
and the vision hadn't been tampered with on film until this
summer's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. (But then,
they were just borrowing from the comic book, which borrowed
from - gasp - the original novels.)