DVD Picks & Passes

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008)

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

Casablanca (1942)

New on DVD, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian goes beyond its 2005 predecessor, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, both in visual spectacle and revisionistic liberties.

The plot of Lewis’ faith-inflected fairy tale has been retained in spirit, if not always in detail, with early events conflated to get the story moving faster, a spectacularly staged siege sequence on the villain’s castle and romantic sparks between Susan and a heartthrobbish Caspian.

Yet, Lewis fans will chafe at the mischaracterization of two of Lewis’ best characters. Trumpkin is introverted and phlegmatic rather than extroverted and sanguine, while Reepicheep is ironic and sarcastic rather than gallant and chivalric. Worse, the crucial theme of the triumph of mythic imagination over Enlightenment rationalism and skepticism is eviscerated.

The result is a good-looking fantasy film with appealing eye candy — and little to do with the book. On that level, if you can put Lewis aside, it’s a pretty good ride.

Also new on DVD, the sci-fi fable The Day the Earth Stood Still is now available in a two-disc special edition, released to capitalize on the upcoming remake by Christian director Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose).

In contrast to the paranoia sci-fi cinema inspired by War Between the Worlds, The Day the Earth Stood Still imagines a heavenly visitation by a supremely enlightened and peaceful alien civilization — one that weighs mankind in the balance and finds us wanting.

With his message of peace, death-and-rebirth story arc and ascent into the heavens, Klaatu is a sci-fi type of Christ — a parallel underscored by Klaatu’s pseudonym “John Carpenter” (though ironically weakened by an explicit caveat about resurrection belonging only to the “Almighty Spirit” added at the behest of Production Code head Joseph Breen, a devout Catholic). Decades later, it’s still a thought-provoking, worthwhile parable.

Finally, for serious lovers of Casablanca who simply must have it on Blu-ray — or who can’t live without such Casablanca collectibles as a 48-page photo book, reproduction passport holders, luggage tags and much, much more — this week’s “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” is for you.

Most others will be happy with the two-disc special edition of the world’s favorite Hollywood romance — a movie that’s all the more romantic because it doesn’t assume that love conquers all and doesn’t exalt romance above all other considerations.

The sparkling script balances wittily cynical dialogue, weepy sentimentalism and clear-eyed idealism. The characters are credibly flawed, yet remain sympathetic and open to redemption. The top-notch cast is at the top of their games, and the timeless score accents a classic wartime melodrama that hasn’t lost a thing as time goes by.

CONTENT ADVISORY Prince Caspian: Much fantasy action and violence and some menace to children, including fairly intense battle sequences; mild adolescent flirtation and a brief kiss. The Day the Earth Stood Still: Mild menace and stylized violence. Casablanca: Some menace and gunplay; oblique sexual references and depictions of womanizing. All three might be okay for older kids.

The Earth is Not Our Mother

“The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate.”—G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy