Kids may not like this ”Secret”
The Secret of NIMH: Family Fun Edition
G, 82 min.
The cover art for this new 2-disc set of this animated feature (originally released in 1982 by former Disney animator Don Bluth), is rather deceiving. It shows a happy-go-lucky mouse and her family and a somewhat goofy looking blue crow in a field. But the movie is actually quite dark and scary, with very few happy-go-lucky moments.
Based on Robert C. O’Brien’s Newbery-award-winning book, it follows a mouse named Mrs. Brisby (in the book she’s known as Frisby) as she tries to figure out how to relocate her family when Farmer Fitzgibbons’ plow arrives much earlier than usual. Complicating matters is the fact that her son Timmy is bedridden with pneumonia. She seeks the advice of a great owl (voiced by John Carradine) who, in turn, tells her to contact Nicodemus (Derek Jacobi), king of the rats of at NIMH (the National Institute of Mental Health. Really). These last two characters could very well frighten the bejesus out of most kids (thanks to the moody animation and Jerry Goldsmith’s haunting score).
A teeny bit of comic relief is provided by a lovesick crow (Dom DeLuise), but with an ending that has Mrs. Brisby’s little ones nearly being consumed by mud, this is not the type of film that will have tykes clamoring for repeat viewings. Disney reportedly passed on doing this film because they felt it was too dark, and it’s clear why — this DVD is more suited for older kids or nostalgic adults. B- — Eileen Clarke
Recommended ages: 7 and up
Animaniacs: Vol. 3
Unrated, 750 min.
Animaniacs was one of my college-era touchstones: so slapstick-y funny, à la Bugs Bunny, that my friends and I all still felt like kids, but so chock-full of pop-culture references, that we felt totally in the know. With its variety-show setup featuring multiple characters, this Steven Spielberg production could go from burp jokes to a song about Hollywood industry jargon to a (mildly tweaked) history lesson, all in the blink of an eye. And even though the first season stands out for the sheer surprise and wonder of it all, this volume, presenting episodes 50 through 75, doesn’t diminish my memories. The havoc-wreaking black-and-white (and red-nosed) Warner siblings, Yakko, Wakko, and Dot, return to entertain us, along with their complement of side characters, including careless baby Mindy and her dutiful dog Buttons, as well as ex-cartoon star Slappy Squirrel and her eager nephew Skippy.
Bonus material: The music is such an integral part of the show that it almost qualifies as a character. Fittingly, there’s a featurette about it and a tribute to the late composer Richard Stone. There’s also a peek at the character designers and artists responsible for the look and style of the three Warner mice. A- — Abby West
Recommended ages: 5 and up
Pinky and the Brain: Vol. 3
Unrated, 470 min.
It always seemed to me that the Animaniacs spin-off Pinky and the Brain, also back with a third volume, lacked the total-package qualities of its parent show. The concept — an egomaniacal lab mouse trying to take over the world, with the help of his daft rodent pal — always seemed a little one-trick pony. But that was fine, because it was a good trick. The world-domination schemes were almost always really far-fetched (hypnotizing Freud, so he could hypnotize Emperor Franz Josef, who would then give the Brain the powers he craved), always ended in failure, with the Brain vowing to try again the next night. And who could beat the catchphrases? Narf!
Bonus material: There’s only a short fan tribute with a look at the voice-actors Rob Paulsen (Pinky, as well as Yakko Warner) and Maurice LaMarche (the Brain) at a recent comic book convention. It’s a slight extra, but it’s always interesting to see these two together. B+ — AW
Recommended ages: 7 and up