Handy Manny: Manny's Green Team:
Manny's back and things are getting pretty hot in Sheetrock Hills, the titular cartoon character's hometown. Is it because residents are feeling the heat of global warming, leading to the release of this DVD titled Manny's Green Team? Is it because Manny's Green Team only has two episodes and two tiny special feature that remotely relate to 'going green'? Is it that delightfully saucy way Manny's hardware connection, Kelly, cocks her hip when describing solar energy? Or is it just because the AC broke at the school gymnasium?
No one in my family cares, as we've become pretty attached to the Hispanic handyman, as voiced by That '70s Show's Wilmer Valderrama. The Disney cartoon for preschoolers is as benign as they come, featuring Manny's cool, relaxed demeanor and a toolbox full of cute talking herramientas (tools, for you Anglos reading this). Of course the main thrust of Handy Manny is teaching kids right from wrong, dealing with problems and fears, and most importantly thinking creatively. But there's that whole multicultural thing, an aspect deployed with no particular fanfare; Manny's Mexican/Puerto Rican (according to wikipedia) and it's just a fact, not a gimmick on which to hang the show. The main benefit of this, apropos the seamless racial integration of Sheetrock Hills, is that Manny, his tools, and various others are constantly dropping Spanish language phrases (accompanied by instant translation) to help viewers become accustomed to the lingo.
Along with Manny's cheerful, wide-eyed can-do spirit there are his two signature songs about working together, (see this review for Manny's Pet Roundup to get the lyrics) there are his seven goofy tools, full of kids' foibles and cleverness, near Sanrio levels of cuteness, and burgeoning sexual tension between Manny and Kelly - subliminally placed for adults. I'm even coming to appreciate know-it-all Mr. Lopart, the blowhard nebbish who constantly screws things up, yet refuses any help.
For the record, Manny's Green Team includes these episodes:
Saving The Turtles: Manny and team build a bike path, but leave room for an endangered species.
Manny Goes Solar: Manny can't help but stare at Kelly as she hangs a sign in her window. And he installs a solar powered sign.
Science Fair: Manny fixes an air conditioner. Teaches kids to work together and ask for help.
Light Work: Manny's after-hours repair job is saved by Kelly (who else?) and a trick learned from the movie Legend.
Bloomin' Tools: Manny fixes a shutter for a Parks employee of truly inspired character design.
So, maybe the 'green' ethos isn't in total abundance, but studios have to come up with some kind of theme on which to hang a DVD collection, and starting kids on the road to conservation early is a good idea in my book. (That way when our children are fighting wars over drinkable water, they can look back to Manny for inspiration.) But seriously, I don't want to start a rant about ecology, but let's all just take a hint from Manny and think of our resources as money in the bank - the more we save, the more interest we earn for our kids to live on. Go, Manny, go!
Presented in its broadcast fullscreen ratio of 1.33:1, Handy Manny washes the screen in cheery, super-bright pastels and highly appealing 3D-esque CG animations. The image is, of course, perfectly clear and sharp, with no compression artifacts, maybe some edge enhancement, but as it's a cartoon, it doesn't seem bad (to your kids).
Dolby Digital Stereo Sound is super-crisp, with all dialog mixed up front and easy to discern, while background music and song accompaniment never gets in the way of the words. Sound design and stereo separation are pretty unremarkable, as would be expected for a kids' show.
I'm not sure if a dearth of extras indicates the 'reduce' in 'reduce, reuse, recycle,' but Manny's done it. A Spanish Language Audio Track and SDH (subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing) are teamed with two other extras: A game, "Livin' La Vida Verde", allows you to take a remote-control trip through Handy's workshop while learning which objects can be reused and recycled, while Manny's Green Checklist gives you a little guide to help your family 'go green.' Like I said, if it gets the kids interested, it's good.
About an hour's worth of vaguely 'green' fun is here for your kids. If they're anywhere near as immature as I am, they'll love Manny's sweet nature, cute tools and low-stress lifestyle of repairs. Watch with them and you can do two valuable things; 1) talk to them about a sustainable lifestyle, and 2) wonder if Manny and Kelly will ever hook up. Remember to keep that screen time to a minimum, but if you're going to succumb, Manny's the way to go. Recommended.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com