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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Don Bluth
Cast:
Derek Jacobi, Elizabeth Hartman, Arthur Malet, Dom DeLuise, Hermione Baddeley, Shannen Doherty, Wil Wheaton, Jodi Hicks
Writing Credits:
Don Bluth, Will Finn, Gary Goldman, Robert C. O'Brien (novel, "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH"), John Pomeroy

Tagline:
Right before your eyes and beyond your wildest dreams.

Synopsis:
Get ready to meet some runaway rodents with an earth-shattering secret! Suspenseful and heartwarming, this beautifully animated odyssey stars Mrs. Brisby, a mild-mannered mother mouse with a plan to move Heaven and Earth (or at least her house and home) to save her family from Farmer Fitzgibbon's plow! Along the way she gets some help from a lovelorn Crow, a busybody neighbor mouse and a fearsome Great Owl. Unfortunately, Mrs. Brisby will need an engineering miracle to hoist her home, and for that she must face a mysterious rat, fend off a ferocious cat and claim a magic amulet! But when Mrs. Brisby discovers the astounding secret of NIMH ... it could change her life forever! This timeless tale of love, courage and determination will transport the whole family into an enchanting world where the bravest hearts live in the meekest of mice.

Box Office:
Budget
$7 million.
Opening Weekend
$386.530 thousand on 88 screens.
Domestic Gross
$7.028 million.

MPAA:
Rated G

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Spanish Dolby Surround
French Monaural
Portuguese Monaural
German Monaural
Italian Monaural
Castilian Monaural
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 82 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 3/29/2011

Bonus:>
• Audio Commentary with Director/Producer Don Bluth and Directing Animator/Producer Gary Goldman
• ”Secrets Behind The Secret” Featurette
• Trailer


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


The Secret Of NIMH [Blu-Ray] (1982)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 8, 2011)

Back before the days of DreamWorks and all the other modern competitors, Disney essentially had the feature film animation market all to itself. Of course, we still got other efforts at times, a niche represented here by Don Bluth’s 1982 flick The Secret of NIMH.

Life’s not going well for a mild-mannered mouse named Mrs. Brisby (voiced by Elizabeth Hartman). Her husband died recently, her son Timmy (Ian Fried) has pneumonia, and she’s about to be forced to move since a tractor will demolish her home. All that, and she has to worry about attacks from Farmer Fitzgibbon’s (Tom Hatten) nasty cat Dragon, a critter who almost nabs her while she takes medicine to Timmy. A clumsy crow named Jeremy (Dom DeLuise) helps save her, though, and they start an unlikely friendship.

Despite her escape from Dragon, Mrs. Brisby still faces problems due to “moving day”. Because of his bed-ridden status, she can’t move Timmy. She needs to figure out how to keep the tractor from her home, at least until Timmy recovers. A visit with a prophet called the Great Owl (John Carradine) reveals that she needs to consult with a mystical rat named Nicodemus (Derek Jacobi). The rest of the flick follows Mrs. Brisby’s escapades as she tries to save Timmy and she learns the secret possessed by the rats.

Given the crappiness of Disney’s late Seventies and early Eighties animated films, one would think competition would do well. That wasn’t the case for NIMH, however, as it didn’t draw much of an audience back in 1982. Time hasn’t treated the film kindly either, as it seems just as bland and forgettable as Disney’s efforts in the same era.

That’s too bad, as the story presents real promise. With their special powers, the rats of NIMH should be interesting – maybe even fascinating - characters. Unfortunately, the focus on Mrs. Brisby places them firmly in the background, so we never get to see much of them.

A lot of films use “cipher” characters as a way for the audience to enter into a story. The theory goes that viewers need a personality with whom to identify so they can become better immersed in the tale. Perhaps that was the design behind Mrs. Brisby, but she’s such a tremendously dull character that the plan doesn’t succeed.

Let’s not even deal with the fact that an audience logically made up of kids will probably not identify with a maternal character like Mrs. Brisby. Even if they did, her bland nature makes it impossible to get involved with her path. She comes across as so flat and forgettable that we never really care about her.

Since the movie never imbues its other roles with much development, it sinks or swims with Mrs. Brisby. All the other characters seem significantly more interesting, but they receive so little screen time that we can’t find out much about them. Starting with the wacky comic relief of Jeremy, each additional character fills out a well-worn personality concept and nothing more. They’re flat and one-dimensional.

Because the story focuses so much on Mrs. Brisby, we miss the real action. This seems like a bizarre choice. Here we have rats with amazing abilities and yet we’re preoccupied with some boring Mama Mouse and her attempts to move her family a short distance? That’s like a version of the nativity story that only occasionally visits Jesus but spends most of its time with some guy milking his cows nearby instead.

The animation itself seems perfectly solid. I can’t say Bluth’s work really impresses me, but he manages to give the flick a reasonably lively and vivid presentation. Though no one will classify this as great animation, at least that side of things doesn’t disappoint.

Unfortunately, that’s about the only good part of NIMH. A disjointed narrative that focuses on the least interesting characters and situations, the movie feels like a missed opportunity.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C-/ Audio B/ Bonus C+

The Secret of NIMH appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. I thought the movie looked decent but rarely much better than that.

Sharpness usually came across as reasonably concise and distinctive. However, a fair number of scenes looked a bit iffy. Those didn’t dominate the movie, but they caused occasional distractions. No signs of jagged edges or moiré effects appeared, and I also saw no problems with edge enhancement.

Print flaws created concerns, however. Grain looked moderately heavy at times, and the image displayed a mix of specks, spots, and marks. These were prominent enough to distract much of the time.

For the most part, colors came across as reasonably lively and precise. Most of the hues were acceptably vibrant and dynamic. However, some tones appeared bland and murky, so inconsistency occurred; the grain was a factor, as it tended to add murk to the colors. Black levels were nicely deep and rich, but shadows seemed somewhat muddy and excessively heavy. NIMH was never a poor image, but it lacked much sparkle and had more than a few problems.

On the other hand, the DTS-HD MA 2.0 soundtrack of The Secret of NIMH seemed pretty good. Music demonstrated the greatest expansion, as the score offered general spread to the sides and the rear. Stereo imaging was pretty nice, as the music spread across the channels well. Effects had less to do, but they add some pep and showed decent localization and movement.

Audio quality was pretty good. Speech appeared natural and concise; only a little edginess ever marred the lines, as they usually remained distinctive. Effects appeared reasonably vivid, and they boasted nice bass during louder scenes. Music was also warm and lively. Nothing here dazzled, but the audio was more than adequate for its age.

How did the picture and sound of this Blu-Ray compare with those of the original 2007 DVD? Visuals were a little tighter, but I didn’t think the Blu-ray did much to improve on the DVD. This was “silk purse/sow’s ear” territory; I don’t think the movie got any clean-up since the release of the DVD, so while the Blu-ray’s greater resolution added a bit more precision, it couldn’t fix the many problems.

To my surprise, the DTS-HD track offered a good step up over its predecessor. The DVD’s 2.0 mix was a bit of a mess, but the DTS edition was a lot clearer, better placed and involving. The Blu-ray’s audio was a definite improvement over its predecessor.

Some of the DVD’s extras repeat here. We open with an audio commentary from director/producer Don Bluth and producer/directing animator Gary Goldman. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They talk about animation techniques and visual design, cast and performances, story and character issues, and a few other technical topics.

I guess I can’t fault the topics covered in this commentary, but that doesn’t mean I don’t find it to be pretty dry. We get a passable overview of the production that comes without much spark or sense of real insight. Bluth and Goldman occasionally produce some interesting tidbits about the flick as well as interesting stories such as their rescue of an injured owl. However, most of the commentary remains mediocre and it doesn’t often threaten to really involve the listener.

A featurette called The Secrets Behind The Secret runs 14 minutes, 25 seconds. It presents movie clips, behind the scenes materials and interviews with Bluth and Goldberg. The program looks at the adaptation of the novel and its path to the screen, getting their animation studio running, and design for NIMH. We also learn about characters and performances, animation techniques, and various challenges that came along the way.

This acts as a good complement to the commentary, as it touches on different subjects and fleshes out our knowledge of the flick. It’s too bad it doesn’t include additional participants, but it’s still pretty informative.

Not found on the 2007 DVD, the Blu-ray adds the trailer for NIMH. However, it drops a few games/activities, none of which will be missed by adults.

Despite an intriguing story, The Secret of NIMH never turns into anything memorable. The movie meanders along and tends to focus on the least interesting characters, much to its detriment. The Blu-ray offers erratic, often messy visuals but boasts a surprisingly strong soundtrack. Supplements remain minor and average. This isn’t a great movie or release, but the auditory improvements may make it worthwhile for fans who want to upgrade over the 2007 DVD.

To rate this film, visit the Family Fun Edition review of THE SECRET OF NIMH

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