I wasn't exactly looking forward to receiving the latest Charlie and Lola release, Charlie and Lola, Vol. 7: This is Actually My Party. Not because I don't enjoy the show anymore or because these episodes aren't up to par with earlier offerings. On the contrary; Charlie and Lola, Vol. 7: This is Actually My Party is another absolutely delightful compilation of my favorite cartoon for small children. I didn't want to review it because I thought this release was bringing the series to a close. But it's my understanding that a new third series has been produced and broadcast (just this year), so Charlie and Lola get to stay young and funny and irrepressible for many more episodes to come, thankfully.
Absolutely nothing has changed with our characters here in this seven episode collection (or as Lola might say, "Actually, I'm most assured that absolutely nothing of what could happen, hasn't."). Charlie is still ever-patient with his sister (although not afraid to tell her to stop "messing about" when she's being naughty or thoughtless), and Lola is her usual irrepressible self (although perhaps a tad less bratty here). I've written before about the relationship between the two close siblings (please click on Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 5, and
Volume 6 to read those reviews), but it always catches me by surprise how gentle and kind Charlie and Lola is, particularly considering the sometimes coarse and mean-spirited series out there for young children. Every episode has Lola (always the catalyst of any dramatic tension) either acting up (never in an objectionable way) or saddened by some disappointment, only to have Charlie gently help her towards understanding her situation, and eventually seeing the positive side of it. There's such a quiet, understated, appealing tone to Charlie and Lola - even with Lola jumping all over the place - that I find absolutely lovely.
Several episodes stand out in Charlie and Lola, Vol. 7: This is Actually My Party. My Best, Best, Bestest Friend has Lola delightfully sad when her best friend Lotta finds a new playmate at school (I love it when they show Lola walking all hunched over and mournful). There's a marvelously funny scene in What if I Get Lost in the Middle of Nowhere?, where Lola, Charlie, Marv and Lotta whistle for each other as they pop in and out of a circuitous maze. And Lola has one of her best lines in I Just Love My Red Shiny Shoes when, disappointed in her father's choice of shoes for her, describes them ("They are brown and they're buckle-y") in a most amusingly glum, dismissive manner. And in Will You Please Stop Messing About, there's a transcendent moment where Charlie, who has been badgering Lola to get her work done so he can watch his favorite TV show, suddenly realizes how much fun it is to just play with Lola, as they throw apples higher and higher into the air. Less impressive was the openly "green" episode, Look After Your Planet, which had some whoppers about recycling, but most little kids won't be listening to that message anyway. They'll be laughing at Lola.
Here are the seven, 11-minute episodes of Charlie and Lola, Vol. 7: This is Actually My Party:
My Best, Best, Bestest Friend
Lola's best friend Lotta finds a new playmate at school - new student Evie - sending Lola into a deep funk that even Charlie can't fix.
What if I Get Lost in the Middle of Nowhere?
Lola has lost her toy fox, and quickly gets the jitters about an upcoming field trip, where she worries she too may get lost for good.
I Just Love My Red Shiny Shoes
Lola's absolutely most favorite red shiny shoes are finally too small for her feet, and she refuses to pick out a new pair.
Lucky, Lucky Me
Lola's luckiest day quickly turns into a most unlucky day when events quickly turn on her.
This is Actually My Party
It's Charlie's birthday, but Lola doesn't seem to understand that. She wants to redecorate, open Charlie's gifts, and play her kinds of games - until Charlie says no.
Will You Please Stop Messing About?
Charlie desperately wants to watch his favorite TV show, but Lola keeps dragging her feet about doing her chores. And Charlie can't watch the show if he doesn't help her move it along.
Look After Your Planet
Lola learns about recycling in a school project that promises a tree for the person who can collect the most recyclables.
The anamorphically enhanced, 1.85:1 widescreen video image for Charlie and Lola, Vol. 7: This is Actually My Party is pristine. Colors are bright and vivid, with a snappy sharpness to the picture.
The English 2.0 stereo audio mix is strong and clear, perfectly picking up the jauntiest, coolest cartoon theme song out there. English subtitles are available.
There are a couple of minor extras on the Charlie and Lola, Vol. 7: This is Actually My Party disc. First up is the Dancing Dogs music video, an instrumental which has Charlie and Lola dancing while various dogs add harmonic barks to the song. It's really quite catchy (I backed it up a couple of times to enjoy it). There's also a short Funny Outtakes bonus which has two brief audio clips of the child actors, set to animation. Compared to other volumes of the Charlie and Lola DVDs, that's a pretty meager offering of extras.
Luckily, one of my favorite cartoons is still in production, so Charlie and Lola, Vol. 7: This is Actually My Party won't be one of the last releases of this marvelous series. Funny, touching, bouncy, and always clever and bright, Charlie and Lola, Vol. 7: This is Actually My Party is a must-buy for parents looking for a kind, gentle show for their little viewers. I highly recommend Charlie and Lola, Vol. 7: This is Actually My Party.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.