- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Sylvain Chomet’s cheerfully surreal Oscar-nominated animated feature The Triplets of Belleville, new from Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment ($24.96), rates as a sublimely original work that successfully crosses just about every genre line. It’s our…

DVD pick of the week

From its knockout black-and-white 1930s musical opening, wherein Mr. Choment brilliantly channels the style of animation pioneers Max and Dave Fleischer, to its bittersweet conclusion, “The Triples of Belleville” takes us on an enchanting human (and canine) odyssey that samples the entire tonal palette, from light comedy to dark suspense.

At the film’s center are single-minded French cyclist Champion, his tiny but determined cheerleader grandmother and their fat, faithful fido Bruno. When Champion is kidnapped in the middle of the Tour de France by sinister Mafia types, Grandma and Bruno embark on a transatlantic rescue journey to the mysterious metropolis of Belleville, a reimagined amalgam of Paris, Montreal and (mostly) New York City. There, the pair receives unexpected help from the elderly titular Triplets, an eccentric (to put it mildly) femme musical trio, who pitch in to rescue the snatched cyclist.

Virtually free of dialogue, “Triplets” bounces along on the strength of its superbly inventive visuals — including a noirish, anime-influenced extended chase sequence — rapid-fire but often subtle sight gags, and generous doses of heart and soul.

Disc extras include two highly informative “making-of” featurettes, in which Mr. Choment elaborates on his influences and techniques, select scene commentaries, a music video and theatrical trailers.

Worthy of repeat viewing, “Triplets” rolls in as an essential addition to any quality DVD library.

The ‘A’ list

While “Triplets” may be rated PG-13, younger viewers can sample a duo of new family-oriented titles: P.J. Hogan’s Peter Pan (Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment, $26.98), starring Jason Isaacs and Lynn Redgrave, arriving in a bonus-laden edition; and Steven Ramirez’s fable The Legend of Johnny Lingo, set in the South Seas (MGM Home Entertainment, $25.98).

In indie news, an Irish family seeks to settle In America (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, $27.98), writer-director Jim Sheridan’s acclaimed semi-autobiographical drama, co-starring an Oscar-nominated Djimon Hounsou, while Toni Collette headlines in the cross-cultural adventure Japanese Story, set in Australia (Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment, $24.95).

Veteran comedy director David Zucker lends an air of “Airplane!” anarchy to an extras-enriched Scary Movie 3 (Dimension Home Video, $29.99), a frequently broad and gross but just as often honestly funny sequel spoofing spook shows ranging from “Signs” to “The Ring.”

In a more sober-minded vein, director Gus Van Sant examines a tragic day at an American high school in the Columbine-inspired drama Elephant (HBO Video, $27.95).

Tele-video

In fresh TV-to-DVD developments, Warner Home Video introduces a pair of animated series via its “Hanna-Barbera Collection.” The Jetsons: The Complete First Season contains all 24 first-season episodes of the futuristic cartoon sitcom, along with featurettes, character bios and select audio commentary by Janet Waldo, voice of the family’s mechanical maid Rosey the Robot.

Joining “The Jetsons” this week is Jonny Quest: Season One, featuring the vocal talents of a young Tim Matheson as junior detective Jonny in an animated series that conjures the live-action cliffhangers of yore. In addition to all 26 premiere-season episodes, the collection sports a featurette, trivia and an original commercial. The four-disc sets are tagged at $62.96 each.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment goes the digital route with the more recent sitcom The Bernie Mac Show: Season 1 ($49.98), a four-disc affair that includes 22 episodes, audio commentary by Mr. Mac, and more.

Collectors’ corner

In vintage disc news, MGM Home Entertainment revives the 1972 musical Man of La Mancha, with Peter O’Toole and Sophia Loren, and the 1992 romance The Playboys ($14.95 each), set in Ireland and featuring Albert Finney, Aidan Quinn and Robin Wright.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment introduces the oft-requested, hitherto elusive 1961 historical epic The 300 Spartans ($14.98), starring Richard Egan, Sir Ralph Richardson and Diane Baker in an earnest re-enactment of the battle of Thermopylae.

Hammer horrors

For a couchside creepfest, scope out Warner Home Video’s “Hammer Horror Collection,” debuting the Christopher Lee vampire sequels Dracula Has Risen From the Grave and Taste the Blood of Dracula, plus the intense Peter Cushing Frankenstein follow-up, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed ($19.97 each).

The titles are also available in a six-disc collection ($68.92), with the 1950s Hammer horrors Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula and The Mummy.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Can’t seem to find a ‘50s horror movie called “The Black Sleep” that had John Carradine, Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr.

Donald Radler, via e-mail

That 1956 chiller is now available, under its alternate title Dr. Cadman’s Secret, from Sinister Cinema ($16.95 DVD/VHS, sinister cinema .com).

Send your video comments and queries to Phantom of the Movies, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002 or e-mail us at: [email protected] Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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