In 10 Words or Less
More bilingual lessons about feelings
Likes: Nick Jr., Asian culture
Dislikes: Dora the Explorer
The Story So Far...
A bit like a Chinese version of Dora the Explorer, "Ni Hao, Kai-Lan" features the bilingual Kai-Lan and her animal pals as they learn about emotion and interacting socially with others. Lessons about Mandarin Chinese are a bit more subtle than the language lessons in Dora, but a viewer might pick up a word or two here and there. There have been four DVDs released so far, and DVDTalk has one review.
The magical Monkey King drops by, seeking help from Kai-Lan and her pals. The problem is a squabble in the Land of the Foxes and Bears, as the two groups of animals don't talk to each other, with their kingdoms separated by a great wall. At the center are a pair of kids who want to hang out, stuck in a Romeo and Juliet-like situation. Unlike the usual everyday bits of drama the show usually specializes in, this show features an actual adventure, which probably explains the doubled length of the episode. The issues between the Foxes and Bears are expectedly simple and trivial, which rather limits the value of the lesson of Kai-Lan's efforts to help them get over their differences.
The gang visits LuLu the pink rhino, in her house in the clouds, for the second episode, but Kai-Lan's little monkey pal Ho Ho doesn't like how different it is, from the layout of the house to the games they play to the snacks they eat. The whole different thing is ridiculously over the top, with Ho Ho repeatedly and dramatically saying "it's different." As a result, the group has to convince him to try new things. It's actually a rather healthy approach to the emotional Ho Ho's issues, which lets the episode overcome the awkwardly obvious way the problem is broached.
The final episode sees the group preparing for the big moon festival. Once again though, Ho Ho's got a problem. Unfortunately, for his first moon festival, clouds are covering the big white orb, so he can't see it. As a result, he's severely disappointed and cries like a baby. One can't help but feel that perhaps Ho Ho needs to pull it together, but his friends don't like to see him sad, so they do what they can to help. The main issue though, is they don't try to help Ho Ho manage his emotions, but rather pacify him. Not exactly the best solution to the problem.
In previous episodes, Chinese was spoken as freely as English, which resulted in a mix of the two languages, which can be confusing to anyone watching, especially young children still learning English. Now though, it seems like more of an effort is made to point out the connection between words, like when they are calling colored balloons in LuLu's house. It's much appreciated that they seemed to have made this change, and hopefully it keeps up.
A one-disc release packed in a standard keepcase, this DVD has a static full-frame menu, with options to play all the shows, select episodes and watch previews. There are no audio options and no subtitles, but closed captioning is included.
Like last time out, the bright, vivid full-frame transfers look great, with beautiful color, a crisp image, nice detail (with impressive textures in the animation) and no issues with dirt, damage or compression artifacts. The only issue is with the show's opening titles, which look a bit dull and worn, and nowhere near as impressive as the video in the episodes.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack does a fine job of delivering the dialogue and music with nice clarity, but as you'd expect, there's nothing dynamic about the mix.
What is this? An extra? On a Nickelodeon DVD? Do my eyes deceive me? Sure, it's just a 1:11 music video for a cut-down version of Katrina and the Waves' "Walking on Sunshine," but after getting zip on most such disks, we'll take it.
The Bottom Line
After being disappointed by my first taste of Kai-Lan, this collection is far better, with a bigger adventure and an appropriate approach to an emotional issue. The DVD looks and sounds very nice, and has a small extra included, but it's still a pretty short collection, so only the convenience is the real reason to make a purchase.
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 follow him on Twitter
*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.