Weekly DVD/Video Picks

The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie  (2004)

Forget the recent trumped-up controversy in the news. Media hysteria notwithstanding, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson has not accused SpongeBob of being a “gay rights” spokesman. So relax, turn off CNN and, if you and/or your kids enjoy SpongeBob’s gonzo absurdist humor, put Nickelodeon back on. You may also enjoy S.B. in his first feature-length film, where he remains almost as goofy as in small doses on his TV show, which is about as much as could be hoped.

For the uninitiated, SpongeBob doesn’t just wear square pants, he is square, in more ways than one. In theory, he’s a sea sponge — though he looks like a kitchen sponge — who lives on the sea floor, works at the Krusty Krab fast-food joint and dreams of making manager. The film sends S.B. and his starfish pal Patrick on a road-movie quest to find King Neptune’s crown and save S.B.’s boss Mr. Krabs. As usual, the world above the surface is live-action, and David Hasselhoff has a cameo that must be seen to be believed.

Content advisory: Menacing situations, mild crude humor, and a rock-concert sequence that might be stressful for sensitive kids.

Hoosiers  (1987)

Newly released in a two-disc DVD Special Edition, Hoosiers is widely regarded by fans and non-fans alike as one of the all-time best sports movies. Sports movies broadly fit into one of three categories. The worst are made by non-fans for non-fans. Better, but of limited interest, are those made by fans for fans. But the best, like Hoosiers, are made by fans for both fans and non-fans. Hoosiers is more than a sports film — it’s a rousing story of redemption.

The film is set in a small, poor 1950s Indiana town where high-school basketball is everything, though there are scarcely enough players to man the court. Enter Gene Hackman as the tight-lipped, stern new coach who is clearly overqualified for this job and must have his reasons for taking it, and doesn’t care whom he alienates by insisting on doing things his way. Dennis Hopper has a rare touching role as the father of one of the players and the town drunk who is also offered a chance at redemption.

Content advisory: Mild crude language; depiction of alcoholism; brief sports roughness. Okay for kids.

Bambi  (1942)

Newly released in a Platinum Edition DVD, Bambi is one of the most timeless and universal coming-of-age stories ever filmed. The animated feature is loosely based on the unsentimental novel by Felix Salten and, while it regrettably omits the religious element in its source material, it reflects the same sense of reverence and wonder at the splendor of nature and life itself. Unlike plot-driven coming-of-age films like The Lion King, which often gloss over the process of growing and learning, Bambi is about nothing else. With the patient single-mindedness of a child learning to walk or talk, it focuses on Bambi’s repeated attempts to prop himself up on his stilt-like legs, to hop over a log, to say a word, to distinguish one flying thing or boldly-colored thing from another. We see Bambi make friends, cower at a thunderstorm, discover girls and face crushing tragedy. We watch him go from perplexed ambivalence at the mysteries of the opposite sex to falling head over heels, and we see him confronted with the implacable necessity of fighting for love.

Content advisory: Some menacing sequences and stressful themes, including the off-screen death of a mother. Could be stressful to very sensitive kids.