Author's Note: This review is based on a non-commercial screener disc. Therefore, all video and audio evaluations - as well as episode selection - could be subject to change, should we receive a final shelf product...and we never receive final product for these Charlie and Lola discs.
Can it really be that a year has passed since I last reviewed this wonderful little show for children? "Oh, Charlie," as Lola might groan. BBC America has released Charlie and Lola Volume 11: I Really, Really Need Actual Ice Skates, a collection of 9 episodes from the third and final season of one of my favorite animated shows. Episodes included here are Help! I Really Mean It!, I Am Making a Craze, I Can Train Your Dog, It's Raining. It's Boring, I Wish I Could Do That, And Also That, Too, I Can Dance Like a Dancer, I Am Extremely, Absolutely Boiling, But Where Completely Are We?, and I Really, Really Need Actual Ice Skates. No extras this time around, but that doesn't matter--these delightful shorts are more than enough recommendation for a buy.
I've written more than a few reviews for previous Charlie and Lola discs, so I won't go into any detail or background on the show again (you can access those reviews here, for context, if you like). Reading back over those reviews, I also couldn't believe that the first one was written four years ago. That may not seem too terribly long to an adult, but it's forever to a child, and the four-year-old I originally wrote about in those pieces--my daughter Jane, who laughed and sang and danced around to the Charlie and Lola theme, and who got me hooked on the show by begging me to watch it with her--is eight now. And she doesn't watch it any longer. It's a "little kids" show to her. She's not dismissive of it; she likes it well enough if she catches it while flipping through the channels, but she doesn't stay on it, preferring to watch the "older" shows on Nick and Disney Channel. And she doesn't watch the discs, either, I'm told. Sometimes these things slide right by you without even noticing them.
Maybe that's why I felt a little melancholy reviewing Charlie and Lola Volume 11: I Really, Really Need Actual Ice Skates--but only a little. I still had a kid to watch it with me--my youngest, Samantha. Interestingly, she's four, too, the same age Jane was when I started watching the series with her. And Sam does enjoy the show. It may not be her favorite (I'm currently watching Disney's The Legend of Lobo for the hundredth time with her...), but she's even more crazy and goofy than her sister was at that age, so we wound up having a lot of fun with Charlie and Lola Volume 11: I Really, Really Need Actual Ice Skates. Help! I Really Mean It! is a nice variation on the classic "boy who cried wolf" story, where Lola, little scamp that she is, keeps needlessly calling for Charlie's help, only to discover he won't come when she really needs his help...getting her Granny's cat, Casper, down from the tree (the scenes with Lola bothering the cat, dressing him up, and following on all fours are quite funny). In I Am Making a Craze, Lola quickly tires of hooley-hooping, and decides to create her own craze at school: cuppy-catch-ball. But no one seems to be interested...until Charlie shows her how doing tricks in the game will catch everyone's attention. This is another good example of showing Lola's independence and stick-to-it-iveness, which is always a welcome sight in cartoons aimed at little girls. If you have a little boy or girl who loves dogs, I Can Train Your Dog will make them giggle when Charlie and Lola's friend Marv decides he can't do anything with his dog Sizzles, who's running wild throughout the house, tearing up newspapers, chewing on shoes, and stealing sausages. Bright Lola and Charlie, though, figure out the secret to training him to obey. A cute entry in the series. Lola gets to show how smart she is again in It's Raining. It's Boring, a clever episode that might give parents a few ideas on what to do with some anxious kids on a rainy afternoon. Disappointed that they can't go to the park with Sizzles because of the rain, Marv and Charlie find a "rainy day" box of games that at first bore and frustrate Lola...until she finds one she excels at (she can memorize multiple items in a guessing game, by instantly making up connecting stories, much to the amazement of her brother and friend). I Wish I Could Do That, And Also That, Too finds Lola in an impossible situation: she's promised her new friend Mini that she'll come over to her house to play with beads...on the same day that Marv is having a special "space party," complete with cake, costumes and games. Showing deep down what a kind, good girl she is, Lola does go to her friend's...and tells her Mini why she seems so down. Mini appreciates Lola being a friend, and they soon have their own "space bead party," complete with an imaginary trip through the stars. It's a charming little episode, again quite adept as the series always is, in putting out a message that's there if the child viewer wants to pick it up.
In I Can Dance Like A Dancer, we get another glimpse into Lola-the-Can-Doer, who finds that she's not too good at ballet or tap or Indian dancing (because she wants immediate results), so instead, she invents her own dance: "Lola dancing," which consists of a hooley-hoop and acrobatic Lola. Lola triumphing over her own impatience or willfulness is a frequent theme for Charlie and Lola, and it works well here. I Am Extremely, Absolutely Boiling is a funny and rather touching episode that finds Lola succumbing to some tit-for-tat rudeness, when her friend Arnold drops her ice cream and then won't share his with her. Charlie, as always, patiently brings Lola around to doing the right thing, and Arnold, crushed by Lola's rejection and then buoyed by her tentative forgiveness, apologizes. I can't say enough about the timing and direction of episodes like this one in the Charlie and Lola series, as well as the vocal direction of the child actors--beautifully done, particularly the final scene with Arnold's apology. But Where Completely Are We? shows how little Lola still is, becoming tired and scared from a simple backyard camp-out when Charlie, not on purpose, worries her with tales of tigers and bears when they pretend they're in the Amazon rainforest. Lola much prefers camping indoors, which of course Charlie understands, and the final sequence finds them pretending to climb and jump amid the tops of the great trees--a wonderful scene. The final episode, I Really, Really Need Actual Ice Skates, is a funny entry, mostly for hearing Lola's various little cries and worrisome groans as she tries unsuccessfully to navigate her brand-new skates--skates she asked for on the spur of the moment when she should have bought the scooter she originally pined for.
As with every Charlie and Lola title I've reviewed, the anamorphically-enhanced, 1.78:1 widescreen transfer for Charlie and Lola Volume 11: I Really, Really Need Actual Ice Skates is digital perfection, with a razor-sharp image and bold, properly-valued colors. Pops right off your big widescreen monitor.
The Dolby Digital English stereo audio mix is, as always, bright and loud, too, with that crazy infectious theme song perfectly picked out over the speakers. English subtitles are available.
As with the last volume I reviewed, there are no extras for Charlie and Lola Volume 11: I Really, Really Need Actual Ice Skates.
You better grab that little one quick, and watch this sweet, funny show before he or she gives you the slip. Charlie and Lola Volume 11: I Really, Really Need Actual Ice Skates is another terrific grouping of episodes from this delightful British series, and I'm highly recommending it.
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.