"The Love Bug" (Disney, 1969, G, $29.99, 2 discs). I had never sat through "The Love Bug" in its entirety before; I had only seen snippets when my children watched it oh so many moons ago.
In fact, one of my adult sons was visiting last week, saw the "Love Bug" box on my TV and said, "Oh man, I haven't seen 'The Love Bug' in years!" And he probably won't again until he has children of his own.
Although "The Love Bug" may not hold up well against the "Matrix" or "Terminator" films in this high-tech modern society of ours, it does have something in common with them: it's a story of machinery developing a life and mind of its own.
In this case, as it is named by Buddy Hackett, it's "Herbie," a Volkswagen Beetle that becomes an unlikely racing champ for driver Dean Jones and his mechanic-girlfriend Michele Lee. At least, Herbie's a winner when he's not being sabotaged by the villain and Lee's former employer, David Tomlinson.
All of this is broadly played, with silly slapstick and over-the-top shouting matches and lots of car chases. In other words, it's for very young children and they'll probably enjoy it, despite any "Pokemon"-style distractions.
Which begs the question, why was "The Love Bug" given the two-disc treatment, with so many extras (including an audio commentary)?
Who makes these decisions? "The Absent-Minded Professor" is released in a poorly colorized, bad pan-and-scan version, and "The Love Bug" gets all this? The mind boggles.
Oh, well. At least it's not in a box set with all three sequels! But I can see that marketing opportunity on the horizon.
"The Rescuers" (Disney, 1977, G, $29.99). This underrated Disney feature, made while theatrical animation was in a slump, is a bit skimpy on backgrounds (they're as static as anything on Saturday morning TV). But it remains a delightful yarn about two gentle mice (voiced by Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor) enlisted to rescue a little girl who's been kidnapped by evil Madame Medusa (Geraldine Page). The mice are joined by a goofy albatross (Pat Butram), a zany firefly and, eventually, an entire swampful of creatures.
The voice-cast is inspired and the film's innate sweetness and gentle humor make it an endearing chapter in the Disney animation canon. The disc is also loaded with extras; would that the sequel, "The Rescuers Down Under" had been added instead. (Or would that "The Water Birds" short film had been digitally restored; it's full of lines and scratches!)
"A Bug's Life: Collector's Edition" (Disney/Pixar, 1998, G, $29.99, 2 discs). This gussied up re-release will be on shelves next Tuesday, a two-disc set with loads of "special bonus features." But in the end, what really matters is the film itself, and as with all the Pixar pictures so far (to include the "Toy Story" movies and "Monsters, Inc."), it's an utter delight.
The story has an ant named Flik (voiced by Dave Foley) inadvertently hiring a circus troupe to help ward off a band of threatening grasshoppers. But what bumps it up a few levels is the constant flow of one-liners and sight gags, which are often hilarious, and which never let up. The all-star voice cast (Kevin Spacey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Bonnie Hunt) is another bonus.