Weekly DVD/Video Picks

The Incredibles (2004)

The Incredibles is exhilarating entertainment with unexpected depths. It’s a bold, bright, funny and furious superhero cartoon that dares to take sly jabs at the culture of entitlement — from the shallow doctrine of self-esteem that affirms everybody to the litigation culture that demands recompense for everyone if anything ever happens. Like Spy Kids, The Incredibles is a romantic celebration of marriage and family as an act of heroism. It pays tribute to how far a mother will stretch to hold her family together, and how deeply a father wants to protect his family and how inadequate he feels to the task, even if he is Mr. Incredible.

The Incredibles does all this and more — and it does it in a colorful family cartoon in which super powers, giant robots and monologuing villains with remote underground lairs coexist with trips to the principal’s office, sibling rivalry and the funny faces parents make to get babies to take a bite.

Content advisory: Intense action violence including a few off-screen deaths; a fleeting appearance of romantic complications; minor language. Fine for most kids.

King Solomon’s Mines (1950)

Alas, there has never been a remotely faithful movie adaptation of H. Rider Haggard’s African adventure tale King Solomon’s Mines. Recent versions have been especially lame. The best remains this classic 1950 version with Stewart Granger as safari guide Allan Quatermain. Technicolor location shooting in east Africa turns the African landscape and wildlife to maximum advantage and, even in these Discovery Channel days, the film remains worthwhile as sheer spectacle.

Granger makes a rugged, aloof Quatermain, and Deborah Kerr has more than average complexity as Elizabeth Curtis, the conflicted Englishwoman who hires him. The towering Siriaque, with his asymmetrical Watusi hairstyle, is exotic and dignified as Umbopa, the exiled African prince with whose fate the heroes’ own becomes entwined.

Content advisory: Jungle violence including the shooting of an elephant and a duel to the death; romantic complications. Fine for most kids.

King Solomon’s Mines (1937)

C.S. Lewis, a fan of H. Rider Haggard since boyhood, cordially disliked this film adaptation by director Robert Stevenson. Among its offenses, Lewis listed “the introduction of a totally irrelevant young woman” (Haggard’s tale explicitly states at the outset that there are no [European] women in it!) and the revisionism of the finale at the mines, where Haggard’s chilling deathtrap becomes a swashbuckling obstacle course with collapsing cliff walls and volcanic eruptions.

Lewis would have been left equally cold to subsequent screen versions of Haggard’s story, all of which give Haggard’s hero Allan Quatermain a female foil (who is always, except here, a love interest), and none of which capture the deathly spell of the mountain tomb (though the classic 1950 version is the least objectionable on this point). But the 1937 version still holds interest for fans of vintage Saturday-matinee fare. Though dated, it boasts impressive production values and special effects and, like the 1950 version, makes good use of authentic African locations and performers. Top-billed Paul Robeson, son of a former slave and a celebrated performer and activist, is an impressive presence as Umbopa, singing several songs in his powerful baritone.

Content advisory: A large-scale tribal battle scene; fleeting ethnographic nudity. Not family-unfriendly, but unlikely to hold kids’ attention.