National Catholic Register

Arts & Entertainment

DVD Picks & Passes

BY Steven D. Greydanus

July 1-7, 2007 Issue | Posted 6/26/07 at 10:00 AM

 

The Secret of Nimh (1982) - Pick

Pinky and the Brain, Vol. 3 (1995) - Pick

Animaniacs, Vol. 3 (1993) - Pick

The Iron Giant (1999) - Pick

Rats! As Pixar’s Ratatouille comes to the big screen, animated rodents are also coming to the small screen in new DVD releases.

Newly available in a two-disc set is The Secret of NIMH, based on Robert C. O’Brien’s excellent Newbery Award-winning 1971 novel Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.

The 1982 Don Bluth cartoon retains the book’s fascinating premise, in which scientists create a strain of super-intelligent rats that learn to read and set out to create their own civilization.

Unfortunately, for fans of the book the film is something of a disappointment, most of all due to the out-of-nowhere deus ex machina climax bearing no resemblance to the book’s ending.

Still, the film has its fans, in part due to its lush, atmospheric visuals and some strong characterizations, and might be worth a look. Either way, don’t let your kids miss out on the superior book.

Another rodent-related recent DVD release, Pinky and the Brain, Vol. 3, is the third and final DVD collection of the popular spin-off series about two lab mice plotting to take over the world. The four-disc collection includes the last 22 episodes of the show, plus a featurette, “It’s All About the Fans,” with interview footage of voice actors Rob Paulsen (Pinky) and Maurice LaMarche (Brain).

Also new on DVD is Animaniacs Vol. 3, the third (but not the last) collection of “Animaniacs” shorts. The five-disc set includes 25 new-to-DVD episodes and a pair of featurettes, one on the work of late composer Richard Stone in the series and one on the character design. (The species-ambiguous Warner kids — who bear a striking resemblance to the early Mickey Mouse — were almost cast as ducks!)

Finally, as a non-rodent alternative, you may be familiar with Ratatouille director Brad Bird’s The Incredibles — but have you seen Bird’s first feature, The Iron Giant?

One of the pinnacles of non-Disney American animation, The Iron Giant is a nostalgic fantasy in the spirit of E.T., about a young boy growing up in a fatherless house, whose unusual friendship with a being from outer space — here a giant metal-eating robot — has to be hidden from his mom and the federal government.

Remarkably, despite an action-packed finale, The Iron Giant manages an anti-violence message that’s more than mere lip service, and goes beyond the non-redemptive christological resonances of E.T. (note: spoilers ahead) as the misunderstood, persecuted title character willingly sacrifices himself to save others, then is miraculously reborn.

Content advisory: Pinky and the Brain, Animaniacs: Much slapstick humor; some mild innuendo and crude humor. Fine family viewing. The Secret of NIMH: Some dark and scary imagery; brief mild profanity. Might be scary for sensitive kids. The Iron Giant: Large-scale animated violence; some rough language and profanity. Might be too scary for younger kids.