I was quite pleased with Universal Pictures' combination of 4 of their family films into one DVD package. It would've been even better if they had thrown in featurettes on the making of each film, but the quality presented here is fine.
"The Little Rascals" is a sheer delight. I was amazed with how well they recaptured the original spirit of the old "Our Gang" comedies. The casting was uncanny as these new, adorable kids strongly resemble their original counterparts. The story re-connects with the old storylines through familiar trappings: The go-cart race, Alfalfa's romance with Darla, his friendship with best pal Spanky, etc. And it's seasoned with cameos from "old pros": Mel Brooks, George Wendt, Darryl Hannah, Whoopi Goldberg, Donald Trump, Lea Thompson, and Reba McIntire.
"Casper" is my personal favorite, a dandy CGI-laden comedy supported with a story that has lots of heart. The creation of "friendly ghost" Casper and his nasty, mischievous uncles is wonderfully done--along with brilliant art direction in the form of "Whipstaff Manor"--but it's also a human story given credibility by Christina Ricci and Bill Pullman. Cathy Moriarty & Eric Idle are tops as the comic villains here, along with cameos by everyone from Father Guido Sarducci and "Ghostbuster" Dan Aykroyd to Clint Eastwood, Rodney Dangerfield, Mel Gibson, and--yikes!--the Crypt Keeper.
"Flipper" is another familiar story brightened by gorgeous tropical scenery, a playfully cute dolphin, and the appealing star power of then-teen Elijah Wood and the amiably charming Paul Hogan. Starting off as a fish-out-of-water story (no pun intended!), misplaced teenager Wood eventually finds new meaning & direction in his life from Flipper, with the support of his unconventional, slightly crusty distant fisherman uncle (Hogan). The film's weakness here is its antagonist, a rather one-dimensional "island bully" played by Jonathan Banks. But again, its the star power which elevates the story and makes it engaging to watch.
"Leave It To Beaver" does its best to live up to the beloved old T.V. series. Its art direction and fashion tries to wed the old with the new, falling somewhere in-between, and set in one of those blissfully innocent towns in the heart of America. Christopher McDonald does his best to fill the shoes of stern but loving model husband/father Ward Cleaver, but it's tough not to think about the "jerk" roles he's played in the past. Janine Turner (from T.V.'s "Northern Exposure") is fine as June Cleaver, blending old traditions with new in her characterization. Eric Von Dotten takes on uncertain teenaged older brother Wally. The young actor who plays sly juvenile opportunist Eddie Haskell is a hoot. But the film belongs to the "Beav" as he's faced with problems both serious & comical: A stolen bicycle, not-so-spectacular grades in school, failing miserably on the football team, etc.
This is a great package idea. There's a little bit of everything here to make anyone smile!