Dr. Harvey Karp's The Happiest Toddler on the Block picks up where his previous DVD left off... and, at first glance, should be a no-brainer for anyone who found The Happiest Baby helpful. But, like most sequels, it's a little more ambitious and over-the-top than the first installment. So, much like dealing with toddlers themselves, new parents should proceed with caution.
First the good news: there's some good information here...and pound for pound, there's even more of it than before (not surprising, since The Happiest Toddler is advertised to kids between eight months and five years). Again, Dr. Karp brings three main points to the program; this time around, they include the belief that "Toddlers Are Like Cavemen", as well as his explanation of "The Fast Food Rule" and the curious language of "Toddler-ese". The Happiest Baby ran less than 40 minutes, and The Happiest Toddler is no different...but this time around, Dr. Karp breezes through the first two sections with 30 minutes to spare. "Toddler-ese", like the previous DVD's "Five S's", gets the lion's share of attention, as well as several follow-up and "general care" tips. More often than not, most of Dr. Karp's guidelines make perfect sense.
But The Happiest Toddler hits a few roadblocks on the way, unlike its predecessor. My wife and I couldn't really agree with certain portions of the "Toddler-ese" section, as Dr. Karp's demonstration of it almost comes across as laughable. He stresses that tone is more important than words, so perhaps his watered-down baby talk could be altered with similar results. Our (occasionally) temperamental toddler will be turning two soon, and we'd hate to speak down to her more than necessary. I couldn't imagine putting such information into practice with a three or four year-old, so perhaps the given age range of this DVD is more narrow than advertised.
Even so, a handful of the follow-up segments proved to be helpful, whether the tips were completely new to us or we just needed a reminder. Again, like The Happiest Baby on the Block, this information is also available in book form, so those with a little more time on their hands may want to go that route. Either way, The Happiest Toddler is worth a look, but it represents a half-step down in overall quality. Lionsgate's DVD package is similar to The Happiest Baby, serving up a passable A/V presentation and a few helpful bonus features.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
This isn't a visually ambitious production, so most of its shortcomings stem from the original source material. The Happiest Toddler was shot in 1.33:1 on consumer-grade video; there's an obvious lack of polish and detail on display, while the natural color palette tends to fluctuate during different scenes. Shadow detail and black levels are low, but at least there aren't any nagging digital problems to report (save for a bit of edge enhancement during a few scenes).
The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix (also available in a Spanish dub) is similarly modest, as evidenced by the blown-out highs and lack of consistency in dialogue and narration. It's still easy to follow and understand, but don't expect big-budget documentary quality and you won't be disappointed. Optional English and Spanish subtitles are provided during the main feature.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the plain-wrap menu designs are easy to use and offer smooth, simple navigation. The 38-minute main feature (not 69 minutes, as listed on the packaging!) has been divided into eight chapters, no layer change was detected and this disc appears to be locked for Region 1 playback only. It's housed in a white "eco-friendly" DVD case and includes no inserts.
26 helpful Q&A
segments are included here (1.33:1, roughly 1 minute each), presented as text-based questions that lead to brief video responses from Dr. Karp. This material typically goes a step or two beyond the main feature, although a handful of ideas are repeated.
Similar in style to The Happiest Baby on the Block, this toddler-toned follow-up aims a little higher but doesn't always hit the mark. The flow of information doesn't feel as natural this time around, while one or two main points are hard to fully agree with. Even so, there's a number of interesting ideas that new parents should want to try...and with another passable DVD presentation by Lionsgate, it's at least worth a weekend look during naptime. Rent It.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey from Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects, teaches art and runs a website or two. In his free time, Randy enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.