'Awakenings' based on real experiences


August 04, 1991|By New York Times News Service

New releases of videocassettes; reviews by New York Times critics.

Here are some notable releases of the last few months.

"Awakenings." 1990. RCA/Columbia. $92.95. Laser disk, $39.95. 2 hours. Closed captioned. PG-13.

In a deep trance since childhood, Leonard Lowe (Robert De Niro) and other victims of encephalitis lethargica are revived by the drug L-dopa and the ministrations of Dr. Malcolm Sayer (Robin Williams).

While the De Niro and Williams performances are affecting, the adaptation "both sentimentalizes its story and oversimplifies it beyond recognition" (Janet Maslin).

"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze." 1991.

RCA/Columbia. $22.95. 1 hour, 28 minutes. Closed captioned. PG.

This time the bodacious quartet with names from a Renaissance art book analyze the toxicity of the muck that turned them into such unnaturally large turtles and try to prevent the stuff's misuse by the evil Shredder.

"Purists may complain that the Turtles fight less, clown more and stray too far from their beloved sewers. But for anyone else these are definite improvements" (Janet Maslin).

"Gentleman Tramp: An Authorized Biography of Charlie Chaplin." MPI. Price $24.98. 1 hour, 18 minutes. Not closed captioned. No rating.

"I went through a lot," an elderly Charlie Chaplin says at the beginning of this life story, which proceeds from his Dickensian roots as a street waif performing in London through seven decades of renown and notoriety.

Walter Matthau narrates and Laurence Olivier contributes dramatized commentary. Films both major and minor are aptly covered, as are Chaplin's pacifism and the leftward leanings that so enraged some members of Congress.

"Prince Valiant." 1954. Fox. $14.98. 1 hour, 40 minutes. Not closed captioned. No rating.

As a cocky Arthurian squire, complete with bangs and a pageboy, Robert Wagner battles Sir Brack (James Mason), a treasonous Round Tabler. But first young Val is taught to wield that sword, by Sir Gawain (Sterling Hayden), and woo that maid, by the lovely Aleta (Janet Leigh), a castle princess in tight dresses. It all proceeds sweepingly in a grand adaptation of the Harold Foster comic strip.

"Lionheart." 1990. MCA/Universal. $91.95. Laser disk, $34.98. 1 hour, 45 minutes. Closed captioned. R.

Jean-Claude Van Damme applies crushing kicks to vital parts as a gladiator dismantling opponents in brawls staged illegally to amuse Eurotrash fightgoers. That's about all Mr. Van Damme can handle. "When it comes to even the minimally dramatic events, he's in over his head" (Janet Maslin).

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