Argo: Extended Edition (2012)
Despicable Me / Despicable Me 2 (2010 / 2013)
Happy Feet / Happy Feet 2 (2006 / 2011)
Mary Poppins (1964)
Cannily celebrating its 50th anniversary a little early in order to coincide with the theatrical release of Disney’s Oscar hopeful Saving Mr. Banks — starring Tom Hanks as Disney himself and Emma Thompson as Mary Poppins creator P. L. Travers — Disney’s Mary Poppins makes her Blu-ray debut. (Spoiler: Tom Hanks convinces Emma Thompson to sell him the rights to make the film!)
Although I admit I’m mostly uncharmed by the classic family film, Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke soar effortlessly over my objections, so who am I kidding? Mary Poppins continues to enthrall generations of fans with its beloved songs and energetic dance sequences, its whimsical blend of live action and animation (oh, how Thompson’s Travers cringes at this!) and the vibrant, slightly unsettling presence of Andrews’ uncanny nanny.
In the worst year of family films I can remember, one of the summer’s more palatable offerings comes to home video in a two-fer with its predecessor: Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2, both starring Steve Carell doing a funny accent as Gru, a 007-style archvillian who’s redeemed by the inexorable cuteness of a trio of orphaned moppets.
While the original is fresher and funnier than the sequel, with a more interesting plot and better caper conceits, the sequel is sweet and likable, without the abrasiveness of many cartoons today. I appreciate the sequel’s awareness that moppets need a mother as well as a father, and I’m grateful that the yellow Minions — very funny in both films — never rap or breakdance.
On the other hand, I can’t recommend another family-film two-fer new on home video: Happy Feet and Happy Feet 2. Cute penguins aside, both films suffer from troubling themes, including sexual innuendo, racy song lyrics, coy "gay-culture" humor and anti-religious themes. No, I’m not kidding. See my full reviews at DecentFilms.com if you don’t believe me.
Finally, last year’s terrific "Best Picture" winner, Argo — one of my top five films of 2012 — is back on home video in a "Declassified Extended Edition," featuring 10 minutes of restored footage.
Belying the espionage-esque implication of the edition title, the new material doesn’t actually relate to the movie’s central plot about the CIA operation to rescue six Americans hiding in Tehran during the Iran hostage crisis. Instead, it offers more insight into Ben Affleck’s character’s troubled family life, i.e., his estranged wife and the young son he seldom sees.
Caveat Spectator: Argo: Frequent obscene language, often for comic effect; some profanity; a few violent images; a brief illustration depicting a nude woman. Mature viewing. Despicable Me / Despicable Me 2: Mild slapstick cartoon action; some mild rude humor. Fine family viewing. Mary Poppins: Nothing objectionable. Fine family viewing.