Variety is the spice of these videos

Video - November 2005


Sylvia Ewing

This is my favorite time of the year. The kids are settling into school, the natural beauty of fall is still with us and we get to enjoy the calm before the rush of the holiday season begins in earnest. It’s always a good time to enjoy a DVD—but films such as the new "Star Wars" are, in my mind, not appropriate for younger viewers, no matter how much marketing is focused their way. So "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" is not among my reviews for this month.

These have been stressful times, and kids pick up on that. That’s why I’m excited to tell you about "Wai Lana’s Little Yogis," a video that talks about de-stressing kids rather than pumping them up. But if you still need a little adventure this month you can find the spooky variety in an episode of "Goosebumps" or catch some action with "Inspector Gadget."

A wacky trio? Maybe. But you must have come to expect Chicago Parent and me to go beyond the obvious. So skip the intergalactic battles, chill out and have a happy Thanksgiving.

INSPECTOR GADGET’S BIGGEST CAPER EVER, not rated, 2005, $19.98 VHS, $19.98 DVD; ages 6-11.

Inspector Gadget is all geared up for a new generation. In "Inspector Gadget’s Biggest Caper Ever," the bionic detective battles his arch nemesis, Dr. Claw. Gadget and his niece, Penny, are out to protect the mayor’s plans to put Metro City on the map with a one-of-a-kind prehistoric flying lizard.

The mayor seems to be more into his image than good governance. This character flaw creates room for a modern message about playing to the media and the price of fame. As usual, Gadget stumbles into success, solving crimes large and small without a clue as to what is really going on around him, with the additional aid of a souped-up Gadgetmobile featuring the voice—and some of the personality—of hometown comedian Bernie Mac. There is also a great aerial chase scene that makes the most of the computer animation.

Unfortunately, this version of Penny does not seem as smart and independent as the no-nonsense young heroine I remember from the TV series that was popular in the 1980s. Still, Gadget fans will love the continuation of the series and new viewers will be impressed.

Sylvia says: B+. For action, adventure and lots of useful parts and gadgets.

GOOSEBUMPS: THE GHOST NEXT DOOR, rated G, 2005, $9.98 DVD; ages 6 and up.

Writer R.L. Stine’s "Goosebumps" series was a little like the Harry Potter of its day: fun to read and a bit controversial. This newly released DVD combines nail-biting adventure with spooky stories in a well-produced package.

In this story, young Hannah suspects the boy next door is a ghost and does a little sleuthing in an attempt to uncover the truth. She is a brave and enterprising girl, not afraid to take on a challenge or admit when she’s wrong. There is a chilling twist that I didn’t see coming, but thoroughly enjoyed. This DVD gets a little intense and might not be appropriate for younger, more sensitive children.

"The Ghost Next Door" is one of three new releases from the "Goosebumps" series, along with "Scary House" and "Chillogy."

Sylvia says: A. This is full of suspenseful fun.

WAI LANA’S LITTLE YOGI’S DAYDREAM, not rated, 2005, $12.95 DVD, (800) 228-5145,; ages 2-8.

"Rest and relaxation are essential to our well-being no matter how old we are," says Wai Lana, "and learning to relax when you’re young will stay with you for the rest of your life."

I agree 100 percent.

Here is the perfect quiet-time video for your pre-schooler. In fact, I think "Little Yogis" is a great way to introduce ancient relaxation techniques to the whole family. Songs and soothing pictures are used to help kids stretch, breathe and relax. The pace, the visuals and the music are all in harmony to help little ones settle down or even slip into sleep.

This is a step-by-step guide, but does not come off as rote; the lessons seem natural and easy. The DVD can be a soothing relaxation tool for families and a great resource for caregivers.

Sylvia says: A. Wai Lana is the guide and she has a bit of an accent, but nothing kids can’t get past. Lyrical, lovely and sure to please.

Sylvia M. Ewing is a mom and a writer. She also is a producer at WBEZ Chicago Public Radio.

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