"ENCHANTED"


        MOVIE: **** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)

    STARRING
    Amy Adams as GISELLE
    Patrick Dempsey as ROBEERT PHILIP
    James Marsden as PRINCE EDWARD
    Timothy Spall as NATHANIEL
    Idina Menzel as NANCY TREMAINE
    Susan Sarandon as QUEEN NARISSA

    Rated PG
    Studio: Disney

    Directed by: Kevin Lima

Recently, there have been a lot of twisted fairy tales hitting the big screen. The obvious ones are the “Shrek” films, but there have been plenty of others, including “Ella Enchanted,” “Hoodwinked” and “Happily N’ever After.”

Some of these have been good. Others have been bad. Whichever the case, I thought I was done with them. Then “Enchanted” came out at the end of last year. While it looked decent, I was worried because the gene pool for these films had gotten pretty shallow. However, when I finally saw the film, I was completely wrapped up in the magic of the whole thing.

“Enchanted” is Disney’s love letter to itself and its fans. It starts off in the animated fairy tale land of Andalasia with Princess Giselle (Amy Adams) searching for her true love. The charming Prince Edward (James Marsden) comes along, and it’s love at first sight. However, Edward’s mother is none too happy about a possible new queen, so she banishes Giselle into the real world.

Here’s where the story really starts. Amy Adams brings the Disney princess to live perfectly as she struggles to deal with the challenges of New York City. She befriends a divorce mediator named Robert (Patrick Dempsey), who is struggling with the challenges of being a single dad. Soon, Giselle starts to learn the ways of the real world, and her future in Andalasia is in jeopardy.

It is rare for me to use a term like “magical” to describe a film, but this movie deserves it. The somewhat used premise rides on Amy Adams’ shoulders, and she manages a perfect mix of doey-eyed cheesiness and true empathy. And James Marsden really steals the show as the corny prince.

Any fan of the Disney films should love this movie, if not for the good-natured introspective ribbing, but also for the ridiculous number of in-jokes throughout the film. As a family film, this movie works perfectly. There’s plenty in there for the kids, and there’s also so many jokes for parents. Even though it’s basically a modern princess story, there’s also a lot for the boys to like. In fact, my four-year-old son demanded to watch it over and over again. I don’t know a better endorsement for a cross-generational and cross-gender family film than that.

The DVD comes with a selection of deleted scenes and on-set bloopers. There are also three short featurettes describing how the larger musical numbers and effects shots were achieved. Finally, for the younger viewers, there is a virtual pop-up story following Pip the talking chipmunk.



"TWITCHES TOO"


        MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5 stars)

    STARRING
    Tamera Mowry as CAMERYN
    Tia Mowry as ALEX
    Kristen Wilson as MIRANDA
    Patrick Fabian as THANTOS
    Pat Kelly as KARSH
    Leslie Seiler as ILLEANA

    Rated TV-PG
    Studio: Disney Channel

    Directed by: Stuart Gillard

Disney Channel movies have carved out a market for themselves. It helps to have an entire cable network to support them, and that is the business genius of the entire Disney empire.

One of the more recent Disney Channel movies to release on DVD is “Twitches Too,” the follow-up to the station’s hit movie “Twitches.” The story follows two teenage witches that were once separated but now are learning to live together as sisters. After facing the potential destruction of their world, they have moved back home with their real-world adoptive parents.

“Twitches Too” picks up where the first film left off. Alex (Tia Mowry) and Cameryn (Tamera Mowry) are getting ready to start college. Alex wants a relatively normal life, and Cameryn still wants the princess treatment. However, when a dark force threatens their magical home of Coventry, the girls try to help out. In the process, they discover their father might still be alive, and they also discover a little bit about boys in the magical world as well.

“Twitches Too” is very typical of the Disney Channel faire. It’s aimed at the tween and teen crowd, mixing the fantastic with the everyday issues of a teenage girl. While there’s an evil force threatening to destroy Coventry, the girls still have time to chase boys and shop. It’s a formula that has worked many times in the past for the Disney Channel, and there’s no reason to stop now.

Tia and Tamera Mowry are definitely likable on screen, and they are still working well as twin actors, which is more than I can say for the Olsen twins. Like most of the Disney Channel movies, there’s a small bit of peril in the plot, but it’s nothing too much that younger viewers can’t enjoy it.

Most of the cast and crew returns for another take on the Twitches, and this shows with the smooth, light-hearted nature of the film. There’ also a behind-the-scenes look at the filmmaking process that highlights the family nature of working on the second film. The only other special feature on the DVD is an alternate ending.



"CINDERELLA II: DREAMS COME TRUE"


        MOVIE: ** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5 stars)

    STARRING
    Jennifer Hale as CINDERELLA
    Tress MacNeille as ANASTASIA
    Rob Paulsen as JAQ
    Corey Burton as GUS
    Holland Taylor as PRUDENCE

    Rated G
    Studio: Disney

    Directed by: John Kafka

It’s been Disney’s business plan to strike direct-to-video sequels of its classic films over the years. While the theatrical releases are expensive to design and develop, these low-budget sequels tend to be huge money makers because everything’s packaged already, and the animation can be farmed out to smaller divisions.

Some of these sequels have been pretty good, like those following “The Lion King.” Others haven’t been so great. Several years ago, the sequel “Cinderella II: Dreams Come True” was made, and it was done at a time when the sequel department was still getting its footing. It ultimately struggles with the question of how to continue a story when the heroine lives happily ever after.

If you want a good sequel to “Cinderella,” you’d be better off catching “Cinderella III: A Twist in Time,” which came out last year. That one tells a unique story with a fresh angle. Unfortunately, “Cinderella II” is really just a slight step above the “Disney Princess” package releases.

Recently re-released on DVD, “Cinderella II” gathers three short stories from the Cinderella universe. The first shows how Cinderella struggles with being a princess. It’s a very typical, yet ultimately dull, story about the challenges of her new life. The next story (and probably the most unique) features Jaq the mouse getting the wish to be a human. The third story follows the wicked stepsister Anastasia, who defies her mother to fall in love with the town baker.

Families that have young daughters who are insanely into the whole Disney Princess phenomenon are the best bets for this DVD. It’s centered around Cinderella and her friends, and the stories are very soft but at least carry a decent message.

This DVD comes with a virtual storybook, a music video with Brooke Allison, a featurette about the new music on the DVD and two set-top games that provide some interaction best experienced by the younger viewers.



"POWER RANGERS: OPERATION OVERDRIVE"


        MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: *1/2 (out of 5 stars)

    STARRING
    Samuell Benta as WILL
    James Maclurcan as MACK HATFORD
    Caitlin Murphy as RONNY
    Rhoda Montemayor as ROSE ORTIZ
    Gareth Yuen as DAX LO
    Dwayne Cameron as MERCURY
    David Weatherley as SPENCER

    Rated Y7
    Studio: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

The latest incarnation of the Power Rangers is out on DVD in a complete five-disc set. “Operation Overdrive” follows the annual restart of Power Rangers. This time, the kids are brought together from various walks of life by a wealthy archeologist. He uncovers morphers and allows a new batch of kids to become the Power Rangers.

Like recent versions of the classic team, “Operation Overdrive” has five rangers. And if that’s not enough, as you get into the later volumes of this series, the Overdrive force is visited by several Rangers from past episodes.

The Power Rangers rely on formula, with an evil villain in a rubber costume creating havoc for the latest set of heroes. In the Operation Overdrive universe, they are fighting to uncover lost artifacts that will bestow great powers on the user. The team is taken on a global tour of ancient civilizations, from Egypt to Japan, in order to keep the balance of power in check.

Over recent years, my favorite Power Rangers team was the SPD version, although a lot of this has to do with my love of science fiction. The DinoThunder team was also pretty cool for the obvious use of dinosaurs. Operation Overdrive gives a nice blend of the more futuristic teams and the Mystic Force characters that rode the coattails of popular fantasy films.

“Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive” comes in five volumes highlighting a different precious stone, each with six episodes and bonus features that include lessons about the rangers and a set-top training course.

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