In 10 Words or Less
The angry man tackles more of society's stupidity
Loves: How Laurie Berkner's music makes my daughter feel
Likes: Laurie Berkner
Dislikes: Misleading extras
Hates: the vast majority of kids music
The Story So Far:
Laurie Berkner's become one of the most successful artists in the kids music arena, thanks to her popular live shows and albums, and her appearances on Jack's Big Music Show on Nick Jr. In addition to several CDs, she's previous released the DVD We Are...The Laurie Berkner Band, and made appearances on a few additional discs, including the Jack's Big Music Show DVD, Let's Rock!.
As the father of a young girl, I feared the possibilities of what I would have to listen to in my car when traveling with her. Talk of Raffi and the Wiggles made my skin crawl. Fortunately, in addition to her taking a shine to The Beatles and Weezer, I am part of a generation of parents that has been lucky enough to see kids music become something of a hipster stomping ground, resulting in shows like Yo Gabba Gabba, and kids music performed by acts like the Barenaked Ladies and The Roots. While Laurie Berkner is certainly not part of this revolution, peppering her act with old stand-bys like "The Cat Came Back" and songs about counting and the alphabet, she shows far more originality and creativity, as well as genuine musical ability than most kid-music performers.
This DVD gathers many (if not all) of the Laurie Berkner Band's appearances on Nick Jr. (formerly known as Noggin) as part of Jack's Big Music Show, a fun music-focused show for pre-schoolers. Between puppet segments, the show featured musical performances by a eclectic roster of musicians, performing kid-friendly, yet still entertaining songs, with groups like The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, Comic Book Heroes and Lisa Loeb. Anchoring the performances, and appearing in almost every episode was Berkner, who set the tone with her songs and colorful video segments, which feature a regular cast of cute dancing kids and fun, catchy tunes.
Though there are several silly songs that you could only get away with when playing for kids, like "Pig on Her Head" or "The Cat Came Back," most of her songs are either ridiculously catchy or beautifully constructed. "I'm a Mess" is a handclap-powered sing-along that will bury itself in your head, while "Victor Vito," with its speeding-up motif, is infectious. On the other side, you've got the well-constructed "I'm Me and You're You" and "Magic Box," a touching ode to what an empty box can mean to a child's imagination. Bringing the two sides together is "I'm Not Perfect," which is just about an ironically perfect song about accepting people and their imperfections. Looking over the 16 songs here, there's really not a one you would eliminate. If anything you'd just want more.
That's really the only problem with this special, as it checks in at just 44 minutes. Unfortunately, even at that short length, it's not all Berkner, since the songs are pulled together via hosting segments by Moose and Zee, the hosts of Nick Jr. It's the kids equivalent of clip-show framing devices, and for anyone who's ever watched a clip show, the framing devices are the least interesting element. That's the case here, especially when dealing with two characters who are already overexposed from appearing on Nick Jr. every half-hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Nickelodeon isn't known for really making an effort with their DVDs, and this release is no different.
A one-disc release, this DVD comes in a standard keepcase. The disc has a static, full-frame menu with options to watch the videos, select songs and check out the extras. There are no audio options and no subtitles, but closed captioning is included.
Berkner's music videos use plenty of bright crayon-box colors that flood the backgrounds, and this full-frame transfer makes it all look great, down to the level of fine detail and lack of any compression issues. A quality presentation all around.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is as good as the sound on Nick Jr. has ever been, presenting Berkner's music and voice just fine. It's a straightforward presentation, balancing the sound between the front speakers.
There are four extra music videos included on this DVD, but none of them are actually Laurie Berkner performances. They are actually songs performed between shows on Nick Jr. by the channel's hosts, Moose and Zee. Three of the four are some of the channel's catchier, year-round tunes, with the fourth being a less-impressive blues number. Together they are fine for kids music, but when the packaging makes it seem like it's more Berkner, it's disappointing.
The Bottom Line
Laurie Berkner is probably the best kids musical act I've ever heard, as her music is fun and catchy, but doesn't utilize the simplicity or repetitiveness found in other examples of the genre. That said, there's not a whole lot of her here in this best-of collection. Sure, it looks and sounds good, but the limited extras aren't even about her or her music, and, again, it's not a lot of her. If you really want to bring her music home, check out her CD/DVD set, which is cheaper and offers more.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.