Sunday, August 01, 2004
Get some action this summer By Sylvia Ewing
When the longest day of the year comes along, I tend to go over a mental checklist of favorite summertime activities and outings. I have had several tasty and fun picnics but I have yet to play bocce ball or visit the dog beach with Wally... but I will. This is the time when many families go into high gear, making the most out of vacation time, outdoor festivals and milestones such as weddings. This theme of action and big events carries into the videos I have for you this month. When the first rainy day or sleepy evening comes along and you're ready to stay in for a little home entertainment, you'll be all set with the choices below.
And if you are lucky enough to have the equipment and the know-how, why not set up your own outdoor movie screening? Whether you watch at home or head out to one of the parks or drive-ins, pass the popcorn and enjoy! AGENT CODY BANKS 2: DESTINATION LONDON, rated PG, $22.98 VHS, $26.98 DVD; ages 8 and up.
Frankie Muniz is a rarity, a child actor who seems to be easing into young adulthood without apparent awkwardness or scandal. That's a good thing, because Muniz is key to the success of the latest offering in the Cody Banks franchise.
This time, our hero is on a mission to stop a diabolical (is there any other kind?) plot uncovered in an English boarding school. The bad news is that he has two new sidekicks who are little more than cartoon characters. Antony Anderson is slightly less annoying than he was in “Kangaroo Jack,” but he still has not grown much beyond the stereotyped role he first played in “Barbershop.” Hannah Spearritt of the United Kingdom plays Cody's new ally, Emily, without the sweetness or believability of Amanda Bynes.
All that said, I like this movie. Muniz is able to make his role as the CIA's ace adolescent agent interesting and energetic. The movie lives up to the genre, with all kinds of gadgets, super cool equipment and action. “Agent Cody Banks” is the fanciful cousin of “Spy Kids” with a dose of the spirit of cartoon hero Jonny Quest thrown in for good measure.
Muniz is the man of the moment for kids from 7 to 17 and has the acting chops to keep this action flick afloat. The special edition DVD makes the most of the technology and Muniz brings grace and wit-along with his trusty backpack-to save the world and save this movie.
Sylvia says: It's a B+ blast, with action for the whole family.
BUDDY BEAR-MY FIRST DAY AT PRESCHOOL, unrated, $13.99 VHS and DVD, www.myfirstday.net; ages 2-5.
Preschool is special and that first day can happen any time of the year, the only requirement being the readiness of parents and child for this important milestone. That day will come sooner than you think, and maybe a little prep work from Buddy Bear can make it easier as he zips off to school in a cherry red Mustang convertible.
There are a lot of offerings in video and books to help families make the transition to preschool or daycare, but I have to say this one is special. Creator John Aguirre does a great job of going inside a child's eye view of the experience, with an on-location visit to a real classroom with a real teacher and real students. We follow to school Buddy Bear, an animatronic creature with lots of personality. The activities-nap time, story time-are general enough to cover most preschool settings.
I am usually not a big fan of animatronics; maybe I've been to too many birthday parties where they're used mostly to get kids to spend money and eat bad pizza. But Buddy has just the right mix of excitement and fear. Watching Buddy overcome his worries and interact in a real classroom setting is a great way to introduce the topic of preschool in a positive way.
Sylvia says: A, and Avery, my 3-year-old niece, will view it early and often.
POPULAR MECHANICS FOR KIDS: SLITHER AND SLIME AND OTHER YUCKY THINGS, unrated, $12.98 VHS, $14.98 DVD; all ages.
Kids love grossout stuff and and so do I. From the Museum of Science and Industry to the Magic School Bus, getting dirty and upping the yuck factor has been a popular way to help young people answer science and nature questions for quite some time.
Slither and Slime follows this tradition of making science and curiosity an adventure. Kids join other kids on a journey that includes visiting a big water tunnel that is actually under construction in New York and following the path of a ping pong ball as it makes its way through the sewers. Of course, this would have been a better story if they followed Chicago's Deep Tunnel sewer project, but, my natural bias aside, this is a fun way to learn.
The young hosts are better than watching adults and the production is very well done. This is perfect for tweens but I think the Bob the Builder crowd and other curious younger kids will like it too.
Sylvia says A: Smart and fun. You'll love the section on the making of the underwater chunnel between England and France.Sylvia Ewing is a Chicago journalist and the mother of Eve. 17, Matt, 14, and Wally the wonder dog.