The A-Team (2010)
Despicable Me (2010)
Nanny McPhee Returns (2010)
Legend of the Guardians (2010)
True Grit (1969)
A couple of solid new family films are among the latest crop of DVD picks, starting with Despicable Me, a charming computer-animated tale of a Dr. Evil-like supervillain named Gru (Steve Carell of Horton Hears a Who!) who winds up adopting three adorable orphan sisters as part of a scheme to steal the moon (no time to explain).
It’s a familiar twist on the “Ransom of Red Chief” scenario, only instead of merely driving Gru to distraction, the trio get to him in other ways. The moppets’ relationship with Gru slowly becomes genuinely lump-in-throat-inducing.
Then there’s Nanny McPhee Returns, a sequel that improves on the original 2005 Nanny McPhee by more than a nose. Emma Thompson reprises her role as the magical-but-alarming-looking nanny who methodically teaches out-of-control children five significant lessons, such as saying “Thank you” and doing what they’re told.
The story, in which wartime bombing drives two spoiled London children to the farm with their three country cousins whose father is away at war, delivers pleasures along with the formulas. There’s a lot of typically British low humor, but the emotional climax is a surprisingly effective pro-family moment.
Also new on DVD, Legend of the Guardians is a family fantasy-adventure improbably starring computer-animated owls. Despite stunning animation and promising themes, the hero’s-journey storyline is thoroughly generic and uninspiring — and watch out for the terrifying first act, in which two young owl brothers are kidnapped by menacing owl raiders, thrown into a captive parliament of owls and “moon blinded” into a hypnotic state. Not recommended.
Also not recommended: The new A-Team movie, pretty much an archetypal example of everything that’s wrong with Hollywood today. Despite some nostalgic affection for the 1980s’ TV series and effective casting of three of the four members (sorry, Bradley Cooper, you’re no Dirk Benedict), it’s chaotic, overwrought, violent and incoherent. Was the show this dumb? Does it matter? A movie’s job is not to live down to its source material.
Oh! Oh! Among new home editions of older films, don’t miss the Blu-ray release of the original True Grit, starring John Wayne as U.S. Deputy Marshal Rooster Cogburn. Timed to coincide with the new version from the Coens, True Grit is a Western classic brimming with crackling dialogue (faithfully adapted from the Charles Portis novel), terrific performances (including an uncharacteristically caustic Wayne) and spectacular scenery. If you haven’t seen it, check it out — you won’t be sorry.
Content advisory: Despicable Me: Recurring rude humor; slapstick violence and animated excitement. Nanny McPhee Returns: Lots of poop jokes, belching, etc.; references to divorce and the death of a parent; slapstick and mild menace. True Grit: Death of a parent; heavy drinking; Western violence and menace. All fine family viewing.