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Disney DVDs -- For the Kids
February 2008

Reviewing DVDs literally provides a mixed bag. When Disney offers up each month's releases, it's easy to jump at something animated, and then realize, oh man, the kids are going to want to see that thing, the movie that you know in your heart just isn't going to stand up when you're in your forties, but is like Citizen Kane when you're in pre-school. (This explains why in the past two years, I've probably seen The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl more times than any other movie.)

Then Disney also provides strange bedfellows. Today I'm going to cover the January/February releases for kids, but know that at least two of these DVDs came in the mail with Gone Baby Gone, and thankfully my kids didn't get a glimpse of that.

DVD reviews also offer a chance to catch up on movies that I should have seen but didn't. When The Game Plan screened for reviewers, Marin Carpenter reviewed it for us and apparently my family snuck off and saw it without me. While I applaud my children for appreciating the brilliance of Dwayne Johnson, I figured ah, well, I pretty much know how that movie was going to play out anyway.

After going through the DVD release, I'd say I was half-right. As per Marin's review, The Game Plan echoes much of Disney's live-action family comedies from the sixties and early seventies, only instead of a place-kicking mule, you have The Rock as the ass.

It's a star turn in terms of over-the-top physical comedy, and no wonder that kids love it. Even though you can predict almost every turn of the plot, it at least has more depth than the average Disney Channel sitcom - which, to my horror, I discovered Dwayne Johnson spent a little time cameo-ing his way through last Fall. Johnson isn't afraid to look absolutely ridiculous, and it's that quality along with his commanding screen presence that continues to tick me off that he somehow isn't a top box-office draw.

Then again, The Game Plan isn't high film-making, full of emotional payoffs that somehow miss the set-ups, and then vice-versa. How do you make a movie about a run to the Superbowl without mentioning either that event or showing much actual football? The answer is here, and in the deleted scenes, all those football set-ups actually exist, so if you're very careful and clever with your DVD programming, you could possibly edit back in scenes that make Joe "The King" Kingman's professional growth make sense.

The other extras pay heavy homage to the sports fan, covering (if speciously) Johnson's training to be a quarterback (he did have a brief college football career) and making liberal use of Disney's ESPN connection. It's not high art by any stretch, but The Game Plan at least succeeds as being the kind of movie that the family can watch together, while Dad quietly fears his daughter is going to drag him into performing some kind of bizarre ballet ritual.

On the other hand, Snow Buddies is best viewed when you want your children hypnotized while you take a nap. Foolishly, I thought this was a sequel to Snow Dogs, and wondered why Cuba Gooding, Jr. decided he had too much dignity to return for another round. It's possible there may be a pedigreed connection between the two, in that both involve huskies and dog sledding. In actuality, this is the fourth (?) in the Air Bud franchise, which has evolved from literally a feature-length "Stupid Pet Trick" to a heartwarming family comedy with talking puppies.

No one can resist talking puppies.

Actually, this movie should be review proof, and to tear into its lack of logic just makes me mean old dad. I'm absolutely positive that in my young childhood, my parents had better things to do than sit with me and watch Wonderful World of Disney offerings like Sammy the Way-Out Seal or Biscuit-Eater, but they sat there anyway.

Suffice to say, though it's heavy-handed with its moral messages in the way that only a talking animal movie can be, Snow Buddies kept a group of young children absolutely enthralled at my house, and though my youngest was exhausted from a long day of playing hard like a golden retriever puppy, he slapped himself silly to stay awake rather than go to bed without finding out what happens to them all. Which is almost as cute as a talking golden retriever puppy…

For him, I also got Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive volumes 4 and 5. The Power Rangers phenomenon had only lightly brushed my house until a few weeks ago. Now the mania is in, well, overdrive.

This series marks the 15th Anniversary of the venerable franchise, and volume 4 includes a two-part episode called "Once a Ranger" that brings back several characters from previous incarnations of the show. Until this, I didn't even know that it had a loose continuity, with different rubber-suited villains threatening the Earth each season, and a new group of college-age students discovering new power sources to become rangers.

It's not as badly acted as I thought it would be, certainly a cut above the English-dubbed Ultraman, Space Giants and Spectreman shows that I loved as a kid. And though a lot of the comic relief is overplayed, it's not insulting to the intelligence of its kid audience. Plus it's allowing my son to understand the strange thrill of watching monsters without being terrified by them, since he knows a brightly colored hero will defeat it in the end.

In the absence of a show like the 1960's Batman, I'm grateful for Power Rangers. Good and bad are clear-cut. The villains get punished without being killed. The fight scenes consist largely of striking poses and flying around. So it's not meant for me - every generation deserves a silly action series of its own. (Though I'm still stumping for Fox and Warner to get over it and deliver us Adam West's Batman.)

The discs have just a few special features, and despite the warning that any commentary on them do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the studio, there's nothing controversial here. A look "behind-the-scenes" doesn't break character, instead having each ranger talk about his or her personal growth. Each volume (let's presume 1-3 includes this) has a "Power Ranger Training Session," consisting of trivia questions that at the end of volume 5 will qualify a young viewer as an alternate ranger, should disaster strike one of the main five. I'm not telling you where I'm keeping my zord, but it's ready.

The Game Plan (Widescreen Edition)

Snow Buddies

Power Rangers - Operation Overdrive, Vol. 4

Power Rangers Operation Overdrive - Vol. 5

Derek McCaw

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