Home Video Picks & Passes 10.18.2015

Ice Age (2002) — PICK
Robots (2005) — PICK
Horton Hears a Who (2008) — PICK
Witness (1985) — PICK


A truckload of family films has recently arrived on Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD, mostly from Fox, and mostly junk, but a few gems are in the mix.

Skip the Ice Age sequels. Skip the Alvin & the Chipmunks movies. Skip Marmaduke and Garfield. (You know all this, right?) Above all, even if you enjoyed reading the childhood near-classic Mr. Popper’s Penguins to your kids, at all costs avoid the 2011 Jim Carrey adaptation. (If you need convincing on this point, see my full review at NCRegister.com or DecentFilms.com.)

What’s worth checking out? Three of Blue Sky Studios’ best:

Horton Hears a Who is a jaunty, bright adaptation of the Dr. Seuss parable of principle vs. pragmatism and solidarity with the smallest and most helpless. “A person’s a person, no matter how small” — even at microscopic sizes, without voices that can be heard (unless you have an elephant’s ears). I won’t say Carrey’s remarkably un-Carrey-ish performance as Horton quite makes me forgive him for what he did to Mr. Popper, but it’s pretty close.

Robots, Blue Sky’s sophomore film, is a cheerful parable about youthful idealism and cold corporate reality, among other things. Starring Ewan MacGregor as a robot inventor, it combines the toy-box nostalgia of the Toy Story movies with the flair for gadgetry and gimmickry of old Fleischer cartoons. On the down side, the characters are more pleasant than interesting, and it comes off as more clever than heartfelt — but it’s a high grade of clever, and that’s worth something.

Finally, Ice Age, Blue Sky’s debut film, still holds up pretty well, despite rather dated animation, with its road-trip tale and odd trio — a wooly mammoth, a slapstick sloth and a sour sabertooth (Ray Romano, John Leguizamo and Denis Leary) — slowly bonding over a mission to return a human baby to its family.

Bonus pick for grown-ups: Peter Weir’s terrific Witness, starring Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis, is finally on Region 1 Blu-ray. Witness is a terrific film that works on many levels: It’s a smashing thriller and a smoldering love story, but it’s also a thoughtful study in comparative cultures and a respectful exploration of religious community and nonviolence. Not to be missed.


Caveat Spectator: All three Blue Sky cartoons: Mild rude humor and some mildly menacing scenes. Fine for all but the most sensitive youngsters. Witness: Some deadly graphic violence; brief nudity and a sexual reference; some objectionable language. Mature viewing.