Chris Hicks: Nicholas Sparks collection leads DVDs as Valentine’s Day approaches

Published: Thursday, Jan. 30 2014 3:35 p.m. MST

Dora Madison Burge puts Scout through his competitive paces in "My Dog the Champion," a new G-rated family film on DVD exclusively at Walmart.

Anchor Bay

Seven movies based on Nicholas Sparks novels have been pulled together for a new DVD release just in time for Valentine’s Day.

“Nicholas Sparks Limited Edition DVD Collection” (Warner, 1999-2013, PG/PG-13, five discs, $69.97, seven movies, deleted/alternate scenes, alternate endings, audio commentaries, featurettes, screen tests, music videos, trailers; movie postcard set). Whenever a trailer for a new adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel shows up, I always wonder which major character will die.

That’s because it seems to be part and parcel of the romantic, sentimental, schmaltzy Sparks formula — a formula that fans love, perhaps because it’s sort of cinematic comfort food: beautiful actors, soap-opera stories on the rocky road to romance, fabulous remote locations, lyrical direction, pop-song soundtrack.

Included here are seven of Sparks’ eight films (so far): “Message in a Bottle,” with Kevin Costner, Paul Newman and Robin Wright; “A Walk to Remember,” Mandy Moore; “The Notebook,” Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, James Garner, Gena Rowlands; “Nights in Rodanthe,” Richard Gere, Diane Lane; “Dear John,” Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried; “The Lucky One,” Zac Efron; and last year’s “Safe Haven,” Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel. (Missing is Miley Cyrus in “The Last Song,” which was made by a different studio.)

“My Dog the Champion” (Anchor Bay, 2014, G, $24.98). I had to do a double take on this one: A live-action movie rated G? Now that’s a welcome rarity. (Heck, G ratings are rare for animated films these days!)

Sixteen-year-old Texas city girl Maddy (Dora Madison Burge) is forced to move in with Grandpa (Lance Henriksen) on his cattle ranch in the middle of nowhere. As she humorously assimilates to country life, Maddy also bonds with Scout, a depressed cattle dog destined for rescue — until the pooch reveals an unexpected aptitude for competition. Life lessons will be learned.

There’s nothing unexpected in this warm, spirited picture. The low budget shows, but the film is bolstered by excellent performances from Burge and Henriksen, resulting in an enjoyable girl-and-her-shaggy-dog story the family can enjoy together. (Exclusively at Wal-Mart.)

“Last Vegas” (Sony/Blu-ray, PG-13, $40.99, audio commentary, featurettes). Four friends since childhood, now senior citizens — and two holding a yet-to-be-dealt-with grudge — come together for one last blast in Sin City when the confirmed bachelor among them announces he’s marrying a woman several decades younger. The presence of five older stars (Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, Mary Steenburgen), all still at the top of their game, makes this comedy worth a look, but it’s too bad it isn’t a classier effort. The script too often falls back on the lazy, sleazy gags that most movie comedies suffer from these days. (Also on DVD, $30.99)

“Bonnie & Clyde” (Sony, 2013, not rated, two discs, $45.99, featurettes). If you seem to remember a new remake of “Bonnie and Clyde” on DVD just a couple of months ago, you’re right. Yet here comes another, a two-part miniseries starring Emile Hirsch and Holliday Grainger as the notorious 1930s robbers. Can’t top the Warren Beatty film, of course, but it’s fairly entertaining — especially when William Hurt as the Texas Ranger on their trail or Holly Hunter as Bonnie’s mother shows up. (Also on Blu-ray, $55.99)

“Snow Babies” (BBC Earth, 2014, not rated, $19.98, bonus two-part miniseries: “Polar Bear: Spy On the Ice”).

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