DVD Review: “Hatching Pete” & “Dadnapped” (Double Feature)

Hatching Pete/Dadnapped: Double Feature (2009, Disney)
purchase from Amazon: DVD

Are you old enough to remember The Absent Minded Professor? What about the original The Shaggy Dog? Kurt Russell in The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes? The Love Bug? That Darn Cat? Although I never saw any of those films in theaters (I’m actually not that old), I vividly recall watching them on The Wonderful World of Disney back in the ’70s. They were innocent films intended for the whole family. The danger was never too dangerous, and the romance never too steamy. When I watch the current crop of made for TV films the Disney Channel produces, films like High School Musical, Jump In! and Minutemen, I recall those simple, well-made movies of long ago (i.e. the ’60s). While the mouse house has all but abandoned high concept, low budget films for theatrical release (instead remaking the low budget affairs into massive budgeted extravaganzas like the recent Race to Witch Mountain), on television Disney has been churning out three to four movies a year, all to great success. With a cadre of young talent from their plethora of sitcoms, every movie is an event that seems to capture big ratings. The latest of these movies are Dadnapped and Hatching Pete, which have been conveniently/economically released on one double feature DVD by Disney.

Dadnapped stars Emily Osment, coming into her own as an actress and stepping out of the shadow of Hannah Montana, as Melissa, a 14-year-old girl competing for her father’s attention with the main character from his best selling novels, Tripp Zoome. Her dad, Neil (Father of the Bride’s George Newbern), spends so much time with the character and his exploits that a special father-daughter getaway is interrupted by a promotional event for his latest novel. Just what Melissa needs, hundreds of crazed Tripp Zoome fans. Making matters worse is that Melissa has begun seeing Tripp (Jonathan Keltz) and the two of them have a nagging, sibling rivalry. When things couldn’t get any worse, Neil is abducted by some overzealous fans and it’s up to Melissa to solve the caper.

Filling out the cast of Dadnapped are other Disney Channel stars. Moises Arias (Hannah Montana) and David Henrie (Wizards of Waverly Place) are a couple of eager fanboys, Phill Lewis (The Suite Life of Zack and Cody) gets to let loose his inner slimeball, and Jason Earles (Hannah Montana) is a smarmy hotel employee. As the film progresses, it takes on a kind of It’s A Mad, Mad Mad Mad World feel, with everyone in pursuit of finding Neil. In the end, Neil is never in any real harm and he and his daughter are able to mend their relationship with no harm done. It’s a fun movie for kids and not all that annoying for the parents sitting down to watch it with them. Osment is a smart, good actress and I hope she is allowed to break out of the Disney fold and stretch sometime in the future. Henrie has a nice charm, something sourly missing from his TV show. Lewis is always great (he’s appeared in “grown up” sitcoms like Scrubs) and I’ve always felt that Earle is a fine comedian. Overall, Dadnapped is a nice family movie that fits right into the mold of all Disney films.

Hatching Pete has an interesting premise. Poole (Mitchel Musso of Hannah Montana) is the high school mascot, the Chicken, a longstanding tradition in his family. Unfortunately, he’s allergic to the costume. So he asks his introverted best friend, Pete (Jason Dooley from Corey in the House) to stand in for him. Pete agrees, but only on the condition that his identity remain a mystery. Once in the suit, Pete discovers a freedom to act wild and crazy, something he’s never been able to do when just a regular student in the school. Pete’s outrageous behavior makes the Chicken a celebrity in the school. People start showing up to basketball games to see the mascot and not the pitiful team coached by The Suite Life of Zack and Cody’s Brian Stepanek. Poole reaps the benefits of his friend’s talent until a parade mishap reveals that Poole actually isn’t the Chicken. Afraid of getting in trouble for lying, Pete panics and steals a police car. Pretty soon there’s a manhunt for the Chicken and Pete must decide whether to reveal his identity or not.

Of the two films, Hatching Pete is the weaker one. Beside the fact that Mitchel Musso can really grate on your nerves, the relationship and the pressure between the two friends came off as just mean at times. I never felt as if Poole was being a good friend Pete. Furthermore, he constantly pressured him into donning the suit while gaining popularity with the cheerleaders. The one aspect I did buy was Pete’s crush on Angela (Josie Loren), a brainy cheerleader who is one of his best friends. Unable to tell her how much he likes her, Pete ends up working out his aggression in the suit. Dooley and Loren are very sweet together in their scenes and I was happy that their characters wound up together in the end (of course they did!). Since you get both movies for the price of one, it’s up to you to decide which you like better, Dadnapped or Hatching Pete.

The DVD comes with plenty of bonus features, including music videos, a feature on what it takes to be a mascot, an extended ending to Dadnapped, and an animated Trip Zoome comic book. This DVD is a bargain. It’s nice to see a huge corporation like Disney packaging the two films together and offering a good deal to the fans that support them.

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