DVD Picks & Passes 04.05.2009

If you’ve taken a pass on Disney cartoons for the last few years, Bolt is reason enough to give the Mouse another try. Now available on DVD, Bolt is Disney Animation’s best film since Lilo & Stitch, blotting out tepid memories of the likes of Chicken Little and Home on the Range.

Not convinced? Seen the lackluster trailers and marketing? Trust me. Bolt wasn’t effectively marketed and disappointed at the box office, but the movie is better than you think.

Pixar honcho John Lasseter — now head of Disney Animation and executive producer on Bolt — may be part of the reason. It’s not quite Pixar grade, but Bolt stands comfortably beside Kung Fu Panda and Horton Hears a Who! in the race for second-best computer-animated family film of 2008.

The premise: Bolt (John Travolta) is not a super dog, but plays one on TV — but he thinks it’s real. Every day he saves his screen owner Penny (Miley Cyrus) — until they shoot a cliffhanger. Frantic with worry, Bolt busts out of the studio and winds up lost and confused about his missing superpowers. Hilarity ensues.

Also new on DVD, Best Picture-winner Slumdog Millionaire has been praised as the “feel-good” film of 2008 and damned by skeptics as “poverty porn.” These misleading labels don’t capture this fable of desperate want, loyalty and love — and the vagaries of life that are sometimes cruel and sometimes sublimely kind.

Directed by Danny Boyle (Millions), Slumdog uses a Mumbai orphan’s appearance on the Indian edition of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” as a hook to illuminate his hardscrabble life, but also to set the stage for a turning point that’s less about money than love.

The movie opens with a question: How does uneducated Jamal (Dev Patel) know the answers that put him within one question of the big prize? Is he cheating? Or is it written? Slumdog finds hope and meaning in a twist of fate for those with eyes to see.

New on Blu-ray: Things We Lost in the Fire, Suzanne Bier’s poignant meditation on grief, loss and recovery with Halle Berry as a grieving widow and Benicio del Toro as her late husband’s drug-addicted best friend; and An American in Paris, a delightful Gene Kelly hoofer featuring Kelly as an ex-G.I., Nina Foch and Leslie Caron as the women in his life, and the timeless music of Gershwin.

CONTENT ADVISORY: Bolt: Cartoon action violence. Fine family viewing. Slumdog Millionaire: Mostly non-graphic treatment of horrific themes, including enslavement and abuse of children and prostitution; occasional foul language. Mature viewing. Mostly English with some subtitled Hindi. Things We Lost in the Fire: Depiction of long-term drug abuse and consequences; occasional objectionable language; sexual content. Mature viewing. An American in Paris. Romantic complications. Fine family viewing.