DVD Review: *batteries not included

*batteries not included is one of those movies that’s fondly remembered by those who have seen it. It’s a movie that does little wrong, providing wonderful entertainment, a colorful cast of characters, and a family-friendly tone that’s hard to find anymore. It’s hard not to like this one.

The draw here is the story, even if the focus is on the tiny alien spacecraft and their antics. It’s a basic “root for the little guy” film, featuring people who want nothing more than their homes to stay put instead of being run down by a corporation. When things look bleak and they become desperate, their hope is in the hands a quick fixer aliens.

What’s unique about *batteries not included is how little time is spent trying to explain the happenings. The creative and expressive alien crafts are there because of the story, and we don’t need to know anything else. They’re a masterfully done special effect. The human characters are the focus, and in a movie like this, that’s rare.

Yes, the aliens are featured extensively, but the actors have the opportunity to build their characters. Frank McRae (former NFL player) has three lines in the entire movie, and he’s as entertaining as anything else. There’s a budding romance, and Jessica Tandy portrays an Alzheimer’s patient with both a dramatic and comedic twist. Her on-screen and real life husband Hume Cronyn takes the lead in this one, running the gamut of emotions.

Most importantly though, *batteries is fun, imaginative, and unique. While it admittedly does fall into the “cute critter” genre of the 80s (Gremlins, E.T.), *batteries not included stands out with enough unique material to make it worthwhile. It’s a minor classic to those who remember it. (**** out of *****)

Sadly, the video treatment on this DVD is one step short of awful. It’s unbelievably blurry, and for a large portion of the film, you can see a light blue line surrounding objects. That’s just a bad transfer, and a good example of one at that. The print has also seen better days, though the colors are sharp and bright. This causes minor and brief moments of compression. (*)

This is a Dolby 5.1 mix, and this is a large step up from the stereo it was originally released in. The aliens buzz around the sound field, hitting every speaker at one point or another. A late fire sequence provides the films only bass highlight, but the strength of the remixed audio overall is superb. Dialogue comes through with no distortion, and it’s clear throughout. (****)

Extras include nothing more than some production notes. This multiple page text feature provides a small insight into the film. (*)

It’s surprising that there was no attempt to market the film with a toy line. The spaceships are pushing the cute factor hard, and the harmless tone of the movie is aimed squarely at a younger set. Trivia fans should also note this is one of Brad Bird’s (Incredibles, Iron Giant) earliest film works.

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