Tag Archives: DVD Review

DVD Review: “Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Yo Ho, Mateys Away!”

The flagship animated franchise for Disney Junior, Jake and the Never Land Pirates has earned impressive ratings for the network since its February debut, and it’s easy to see why: It’s colorfully animated, with reliable Disney storylines revolving around adventure, teamwork, and friendship, and it draws on a venerable studio franchise without totally cashing in on its most popular characters.

It also boasts a pretty incredible voice cast, with talented voicework vets like Jeff Bennett (who plays Mr. Smee) rubbing shoulders alongside live-action stars like Madison Pettis, Ariel Winter, Colin Ford, and — yes, you’re reading this right — David Arquette as a talking parrot. (The list of recurring cast members is even more eclectic and/or impressive: Tori Spelling, Lisa Loeb, Adam West, and Sharon Osbourne have popped up in the cartoon cove.)

As cartoons go, Jake is fairly unremarkable, although its blend of bold color lines and swashbuckling adventure certainly puts it a cut above the sort of franchise cash-in it could have been. Jake (voiced by Ford), Izzy (voiced by Winter), Cubby (Jonathan Morgan Heit), and their pet bird Scully (Arquette) spend their days foiling Captain Hook and Smee’s ineffective plots, earning gold doubloons for teamwork along the way, with musical interludes as they go. The storyline beats will be familiar to anyone who’s ever seen a cable cartoon, but it’s all smartly done and extremely enjoyable for the target demographic.

This DVD set culls seven episodes from the first season’s 20-episode run, which seems unnecessarily chintzy, but to make up for its lack of comprehensiveness, Yo Ho, Mateys Away! bundles in a seven-song soundtrack CD and an “official pirate eye patch.” The patch is about as cheap-looking as you’d expect, although I suppose Disney deserves credit for making them out of fuzz-lined pleather instead of plastic.

All in all, you get about three hours of Jake and the gang for your $14.99, plus some music and the patch — not a bad investment for your next long car ride, and worth a spot in your family DVD library if you live with fans of the show.

DVD Review: “Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales”

Warner Bros. has gone Peanuts-happy this year, releasing a Blu-ray collection of holiday-themed specials (which they neglected to send me — whatever, jerks) alongside Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales. What’s that, you say? You’ve never heard of Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales? You’re wondering why it wasn’t just part of the holiday specials box? Well. Read and learn.

What we have here is a collection of five clips that the DVD case generously calls “segments,” adding up to a whopping 18 minutes of Christmas cheer. It’s a pure budget title, the kind of thing you can probably find red-tagged in the movie bin at any local drugstore, but given that these shorts aren’t currently part of other Peanuts collections, it has some appeal for completists. As a bizarre bonus, you also get the 1983 special “Is This Goodbye, Charlie Brown?,” in which “Charlie Brown and pals sadly face the departure of Linus and Lucy, who must move when their father gets transferred to a job in another town.”

Merry Christmas, kids! Continue reading

DVD Review: “Samantha: An American Girl Holiday” (Deluxe Edition)

So apparently my love for my daughter knows no bounds, because not only have I refrained from discouraging her rapt fascination with the offensively priced American Girls dolls, but I willingly sat through Samantha: An American Girl Holiday. Twice. And I’m not sure whether or not it’s just paternal weakness speaking, but, uh…this movie really isn’t that bad.

Originally released in 2004, Samantha kicked off what has become a burgeoning film franchise — Samantha’s fellow American Girls Felicity, Molly, and Kit Kittredge now have their own movies — and even though Warner Bros.’ reasons for reissuing it now (Celebrating 25 Years of American Girl!) are just as flimsy as the reasoning behind that “Deluxe Edition” on the case (a new widescreen transfer replaces the original full-screen video), the movie remains a sweet, surprisingly thoughtful holiday confection with far greater depth than any toy-shilling tie-in has a right to boast.

Like most of her fellow American Girls, Samantha (AnnaSophia Robb) is as plucky as she is adorable, which is a good thing, because she grew up in the early 1900s, when poor kids had to work in sooty factories and handymen were known to drop dead of influenza, leaving their kids to suffer the life of the Dickensian orphan. But because nobody wants to buy a doll with raggedy clothes and tear streaks running down its coal-dusted face, Samantha didn’t have to worry about any of that yucky stuff: although she was an orphan, she got to live on the fabulous estate owned by her grandmother (played here by Mia Farrow, who apparently racked up substantial gambling debts at some point). And when Samantha’s grandmother couldn’t take care of her anymore, she went off to live with her oddly named Uncle Gard (Jordan Bridges) and his new wife Cornelia (Rebecca Mader) on their fabulous estate. Poverty is totally yucky. Continue reading