TDmonthly Magazine!
August 2007 | Vol. VI - No. 8


TDmonthly's DVD Expert

Learnin' Words and Talkin' It Up

This month’s DVD selection is an odd assortment of high-budget and weirdness ... sometimes both. We’ve got dolphins, race cars and Spanish, but they have one common thread: someone had kids in mind from the word “go” and managed to shoehorn them in. Take a gander, test the waters and track which DVDs are going your way:

Eye of the Dolphin by MONTEREY MEDIA INC.
Age: 11 and Up
Gender: Boys and Girls
Category: Videos & DVDs
MSRP: $24.95

Released in 2006, this coming-of-age (blech!) troubled teen (aren’t they all?) story features some solid acting (Carly Schroeder as the lead, Alyssa, and Katharine Ross), beautiful island locations and a sweet demeanor. It’s not a classic, but it’s generally well-made.

Alyssa’s mom died the year before, and the poor kid’s stayin’ with Grams (Ms. Ross) and causing trouble at school. Suddenly, it turns out her dad, who she thought was dead, is in the Bahamas studying dolphins (and she doesn’t like dolphins … bummer). Basically, Alyssa’s job is being mad and making everyone else mad, too.

Dad isn’t cool, either. When we first meet him, he’s yelling at some tourists and scaring them off the island. Like father, like daughter.

So, they get together, hate each other; then, through the wonders of dolphins, island living and communication (both human and animal), learn to love one another.

Most unrealistic part? Alyssa gets to go to the Bahamas and is still upset. Best parts? Christine Adams as Tamika and clean camera work from cinematographer Guy Livneh. All-in-all, it’s a Traveling Pants, father/daughter, Flipper film.


Bells & Whistles

Age: 1 and Up
Gender: Boys and Girls
Category: Videos & DVDs
MSRP: $19.95

When you think of NASCAR, you think of babies. Don’t you?

Well, Team Baby Entertainment sure does. And with the help of narrator and No. 1 NASCAR fan Jay Leno, they prove it in this DVD with lots of racing footage (some super-clean video), lots of babies and youngsters (honestly cute) and simple animation.

The characters spell things like “go” — as in NASCAR cars GO! — and “fast,” because race cars go fast. Kids learn to spell NASCAR and learn how it works. There are colors and there’s counting to 10 (two race cars, four tires). But it’s mostly spelling NASCAR words. And showing babies playing with toy racing cars.

All in all, it’s a little like strapping down droog Alex (Malcolm McDowell), holding open his eyelids and turning him into a NASCAR fan. All that’s missing is the Beethoven on the soundtrack.

The big plus: Most DVDs for toddlers require mom watching because dad has run screaming from the room. But, if dad’s a NASCAR fan ... voila! Dad watches the racing, the kid learns to spell (sort of) and mom gets a break.


Bells & Whistles

Kids Love Spanish: Volume 1 – Basic Words by BROCK SISTERS PRODUCTIONS LLC
Age: 2 to 8
Gender: Boys and Girls
Category: Educational

Catch kids while they’re young, and the world is their oyster. That’s the theory, anyway. So, what’s with “Kids Love Spanish”?

First, we have the Brock sisters, who dance and sing in front of a green screen (most of this DVD is green-screen composite, so you won’t find state-of-the-art CGI, but that’s part of the charm). These Southern California bilingual sisters/moms take their knowledge of kids and apply it to simple video making.

So, a word (for example, "hola"/"hello") is shown, spoken and spelled in English and Spanish. Then a sister comes on and says it in Spanish, with the correct pronunciation; then a bunch of kids say it. Then some animated character (a talking cactus) says it, more kids, more sister, etc. It’s drilled into the viewer’s head, but that’s a good thing. We’re talking language here, and at this point, it’s all rote. Thirty minutes later, you have a simple vocabulary.

Arguments on language learning at a young age aside ... kids like to learn new words in other tongues. Anything learned is a good thing, and this DVD hits that in the sweet spot.

It’s not fancy or particularly original, but it doesn’t need to be. If a kid wants a few basics in Spanish, short of taking them down to Tijuana, this DVD works well.


Bells & Whistles

Writer's Bio: Mark Zaslove is an entertainment industry veteran in developing content (writing, directing and producing television and feature films) for the major studios, including Disney, Universal and Warner Bros. A two-time Emmy Award winner for writing and recipient of the Humanitas Prize (for writing uplifting human values in television and movies), Mark is also Head of Content Development for Nice Entertainment. Read more articles by this author


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