How to Eat Fried
Superman: The Theatrical Serials Collection: PICK
Pirates: Much stylized swashbuckling
action violence and menace; moderately scary and gross imagery; some gross-out
humor; mild sensuality and innuendo; a soothsayer/witch. Teens
and up. Fried
New this week on DVD, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest follows the middle-movie template established by The Empire Strikes Back, with a darker, more sprawling story, bigger threats and a cliffhanger finale. Where the original Pirates offered a ghost-story twist on the Errol Flynn-style seafaring swashbuckler, the sequel is a pastiche of everything from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to King Kong to The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad.
At the same time, Dead Man’s Chest takes the slapstick swashbuckling to a new level, evoking the ingenious physical comedy of Buster Keaton or Jackie Chan crossed with Looney Tunes. A slight spiritual vibe runs through the film: A sailor clutching rosary beads chooses death and judgment over spiritual slavery, and a comic pair of pirates debates the efficacy of Bible study for the illiterate.
Also new on DVD, How to Eat Fried Worms marks a new low for Walden Media, transforming Thomas Rockwell’s cheerfully disgusting tale of boyhood bravado and rivalry among friends into an unpleasant endurance test about coping with bullying by humiliating yourself before bullies do it for you. Jettisoning nearly everything about the book except for the gross-out subject matter, the film replaces Rockwell’s ode to 1950s rural American boyhood with modern suburban trappings.
The inversion of self-humiliation as triumph reaches its height in the climax, as previously violent enemies embrace a self-imposed penalty as a badge of honor. It’s one of the most aggressively phony happy endings in recent memory.
Did you know George Reeves wasn’t the first live-action Superman — and Christopher Reeve wasn’t the first big-screen Man of Steel? Kirk Alyn beat them both in serialized adventures in 1948-50, now available on DVD in Superman: The Theatrical Serials Collection.
Despite limited production values
— including an animated Superman in
the flying sequences! — these early adventures have
their charms. Noel Neill, the TV series’
Long unavailable on DVD, Holiday, the lesser-known sister film
to the celebrated The
Where Philadelphia Story is more satiric,