During the 1990s, we saw a rash of TV programs (usually from the 1960s) which were transferred to the big-screen. Overall, the problem with these film was that familiar characters from the show were placed in incredibly convoluted situations. Thus, films like Dragnet, Wayne's World, and The Addams Family, had way too much plot happening and generally not enough of what made the shows great. Now, we are getting a similar issue when a direct-to-video item heads to the multi-plex with Strawberry Shortcake: The Sweet Dreams Movie.
"Strawberry Shortcake" first came on the scene in the 1980s as a line of toys. Some direct-to-video (?) animated specials followed. The character was resurrected in 2003 with a new set of toys and the premiere of what would be many direct-to-video features. These videos typically ran around 45 minutes and featured Strawberry Shortcake and her friends having adventures in Strawberryland.
Strawberry Shortcake: The Sweet Dreams Movie is the first feature film to showcase these characters. As the film opens, Strawberry Shortcake (voiced by Sarah Heinke) ventures out with her cat Custard (voiced by Anna Jordan) and her dog, Pupcake (who doesn't speak) to pick some berries. Upon arriving at the strawberry patch, Strawberry is shocked to see that all of the berries are gone. Soon, her friends Orange Blossom (voiced by DeJare Barfield), Angel Cake (voiced by Rachel Ware), Ginger Snap (voiced by Samantha Triba), Lemon Meringue (voiced by Mary Waltman), and Raspberry Torte (voiced by Greer McKain) arrive on the scene, and they too are perplexed by the lack of berries. They soon realize that "Berry Birds" have been taking the berries. So, they decide to tear down the entire strawberry patch and build a new one. Huh?
But before they can get much work done, a sinister man known as The Peculiar Purple Pieman from Porcupine Peak (voiced by Cork Ramer) arrives with his sidekick Sour Grapes (voiced by Bridget Robbins) and claims the land for himself. He states that he's going to take over Strawberryland and build a pie factory. When The Pieman has difficulty growing anything, he learns that it takes dreams to make the garden grow. Thus, he decides to storm Dreamland. Upon learning this, Strawberry and her friends journey to Dreamland to stop The Pieman and get their garden back.
As noted above, since 2003 there have been a series of direct-to-DVD Strawberry Shortcake releases. As a theatrical release, Strawberry Shortcake: The Sweet Dreams Movie has two ingredients which distinguish it from those prior releases. First of all, the direct-to-DVD releases were done in 2-D hand-drawn animation. Strawberry Shortcake: The Sweet Dreams Movie is a 3-D CGI production. However, this novelty wears off very quickly when one realizes that the CG animation isn't very good. In a world where we are treated to the likes of Pixar and Blue Sky products, the animation here looks very cheap. Locations lack detail and definition -- For example, the hills are simply green lumps, with no distinct blades of grass. The characters fare somewhat better, but they only have detail in extreme close-ups, and this is usually limited to the texture of their clothing. The camera-work is often limited and there's no attempt to give the production any sense of style.
The second distinction is the insanity of the story in Strawberry Shortcake: The Sweet Dreams Movie. The plots in the direct-to-DVD releases were often short, sweet, and simple: Strawberry Shortcake is faced with a problem and finds a way to solve it. In addition to being entertaining, these stories usually taught a lesson about friendship as well. The story in Strawberry Shortcake: The Sweet Dreams Movie is weird from the get-go. The birds are eating the berries, so the girls decide to tear the whole thing down and start over? I'm not a horticulturalist, but that seems really extreme. Why not start with a scarecrow and work from there? The whole thing with The Pieman producing a phony deed and claiming that the land is his reminded me of something which one would see in a "Little Rascals" short from the 30s. Then we have the trip to Dreamland. There, the girls meet a bearded man named Sandman (voiced by John Lee), who, with his little helpers, makes dreams. This entire scenario was simply the North Pole and Santa Claus with a few minor tweaks. These scenes also featured a young boy who had been locked in a cage, with said cage dangling over a dangerous drop. Nothing like this had ever been in Strawberry Shortcake before. The songs in the movie are terrible and the ending made no sense.
Just as Strawberry Shortcake and her friends destroyed the strawberry patch for questionable reasons, Strawberry Shortcake: The Sweet Dreams Movie damages the reputation of a solid line of kid-friendly videos.
Strawberry Shortcake: The Sweet Dreams Movie sleepwalks onto DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Again, this was a theatrical release, but for the DVD, the movie is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The opening titles definitely look squeezed, but the framing on the rest of the movie is OK. The image is sharp and clear, showing no grain. The colors look very good, as they are vivid and leap off of the screen. Aside from some intermittent video noise, the image looks very good.
The Strawberry Shortcake: The Sweet Dreams Movie DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. Leave it to this awful movie to have really good sound. The stereo effects are amongst some of the best that I've heard recently and the speaker to on-screen action sound placement is excellent. The dialogue is clear and the songs sound fine. Surround effects are a bit too subtle and I noted no overt bass effects.
This DVD contains no extra features whatsoever, but a pack of 100% organic strawberry seeds is included in the package.
As far as I can tell, Strawberry Shortcake: The Sweet Dreams Movie was scheduled to play in nearly 100 theaters across the U.S., but I'm not sure if this really happened. I can say that I'm very glad that I didn't have the opportunity to take my children to see this in the theater. Based on how they wandered in and out of the room while it was on the TV, I get the feeling that the in-theater experience would have been a nightmare.