Sylvia says yeah to Lizzie and nay to yoga By Sylvia EwingSpring is a time for new starts in nature, and in this case, on these pages. I am delighted to be at your service as the new reviewer of videos for Chicago Parent. My family has always enjoyed and learned from videos and I am so excited to help you find the very best for you and your family. Please feel free to write me with your questions and comments.
In the meantime here is the scoop on three fun video offerings, and one good idea gone wrong.
LIZZIE McGUIRE: FASHIONABLY LIZZIE, rated G, 2003, VHS $14.99, DVD $19.99; ages 10 and up.
"I like this." Those were the very first words out of the mouth of my 11-year-old reviewing partner, Diana, as "Fashionably Lizzie" came on. And I agree. There are no major surprises here for fans of the popular Disney Channel series-in fact, Diana had already seen this particular episode on television. But Disney seems to be on the right track in releasing "Fashionably Lizzie" and the second release, "Growing Up Lizzie," for the first time on video.
Fans can't seem to get enough of Lizzie, and I can understand why. Hilary Duff is refreshing as a smart middle-schooler with an animated alter ego, making her way through the usual teen travails with her two sidekicks who, like Lizzie, march to the beat of their own drummer. What makes the characters special is an uncommon realism. Lizzie is not super thin, she has no magical powers, and she reflects a moral compass that doesn't get sacrificed for cheap, lowbrow laughs, as too often happens in some other programs.
In my favorite episode, our girl becomes the star of the shopping mall after a successful appearance on the runway as a model for the fictional Teen Attitude magazine. Instead of the usual formula (kid gets popular, kid gets big head, kid abandons true friends, fake friends abandon kid, kid learns valuable lesson), we get an unexpected twist in the form of Lizzie's friends, who develop some interesting teen attitudes of their own. The four stories on the video are jazzed up with behind-the-scenes outtakes and a cheery feature with a special viewer poll.
Sylvia says: B+. If the episodes were all new, it would be almost perfect. KIPPER: FRIENDSHIP TAILS, rated G, 2004, VHS $6.99, DVD $9.99; ages 2-5.
Puppies don't get much cuter than Kipper. Even my 14-year-old had to smile at this new video, because it reminded him of the loyal (and funny) friendship between two pals from his younger days, Arnold Lobel's "Frog and Toad." Like those amphibian adventures, "Kipper: Friendship Tails" strikes the perfect balance between silly, serious, and sweet. This world has a unique look. Simple, yet colorful, and it is similar to the books on which it is based, with the addition of subtle but very clever sound effects.
The newest in the Kipper preschool video series, "Friendship Tails" follows Kipper on a number of friendly adventures, such as when his pals come to his rescue as he suffers a nasty case of the hiccups, or when they aid him through a sleepless night. Of the six stories, I particularly liked the one where paint spots on Kipper's face lead his buddies Pig and Jake to make the wrong assumptions about their friend's health.
I can see why the series has won a number of awards. Kipper does a great job of being entertaining while setting a good example for little ones to follow.
Sylvia says: A all the way!
TUBB'S PIRATE TREASURE, rated G, March 2004, VHS $12.99, DVD $16.99; ages 2-7.
While older kids are enjoying "Pirates of the Caribbean," the young ones can be seafarers too-with Tubb, a happy-go-lucky toy frog with a wild imagination who pretends to be a pirate. In this offering, the time-honored tradition of imaginary travel finds a new launching pad in the family bathtub. Thanks to television, the Rubbadubbers, like Kipper, will be familiar to families, but I think that the preschool crowd will want to see "Tub's Pirate Treasure" again and again.
The five stories on the video take young viewers from the desert to the arctic to the deep blue sea. Hmm, do I sense an opportunity to teach geography? You bet! All parents know to make math, science and reading cornerstones of early learning, but don't forget social science. It's never too early to learn that without geography you're nowhere. Besides the educational content, the video encourages plenty of imagination and action as little viewers are invited to mimic the movements of the energetic characters. Interactive bonus features included.
Sylvia says: Aye aye, it's an A.
ANIMAL YOGA FOR KIDS, rated G, $19.99, www.animalyoga.com; ages 4 and up.
I was excited when I saw the colorful cover of a DVD called "Animal Yoga for Kids." After all, what better way but yoga to encourage exercise, flexibility and mental health at an early age? What a disappointment. Two women dressed like a cross between a Pokémon and Barbara Eden in "I Dream of Jeannie" were odd enough, but when they were joined by an overweight man with a remarkably hairy chest, things got downright scary. Furthermore, the makers of this video could stand to pick up some lessons in geography and sensitivity before they embark on another "African adventure."
Be warned: "Animal Yoga for Kids" is a tempting title but save your money. It is a good idea very poorly executed.
Sylvia says: F for fugitaboutit.Sylvia Ewing is a Chicago journalist and the mother of Eve, 17, Matt, 14, and Wally the wonder dog.