Roaring in on his vintage motorcycle, it's Handy Manny in his first full-length movie adventure. In this case, it's a very kid-friendly full length - 46 minutes of fun. It's always difficult to transition into the movies for a cartoon character normally taken in ten-minute doses (look at all the horrific Saturday Night Live movie spin-offs). But, while those SNL skits stink no matter what the length, Manny's winning personality, lovable tools and sincere messages seem to stretch rather easily into long-form presentations.
So, good old Handy learns from one of his many Tios (Uncles) that there's a fiesta brewing; a family reunion in the picturesque American Southwest. Along with his usual complement of herramientas (tools) Manny decides to make the trip on his classic motorcycle equipped with a sidecar. He's even got a cute new tool, Flicker the flashlight. (My daughter 5-Dog wonders aloud why Handy doesn't have a proper crescent wrench - only a pair of pliers and a pipe wrench - but she doesn't complain, because Flicker is really cute.) Anyway, all this talk of tools and family reunions gets Pat the hammer to wondering why he doesn't seem to have any family. And there's the crux of the story; while Handy and his tools hit the road, Pat, Squeeze and Flicker become separated during their quest to find a spokes-hammer whom Pat believes to be his cousin. Manny must not only overcome various impediments to his arrival at the fiesta, but find Pat and the others too.
That's actually more than enough storyline to support a full-length feature, yet Handy Manny writers manage to pack it all into approximately 45 minutes - a bit long to park your kid in front of the boob tube for many people's tastes, but a perfect length if you're trying to cook a dinner of medium complexity and the kids won't leave you alone. More than simply a straight-ahead family drama, Motorcycle Adventure is also a musical containing not only the usual tunes familiar to the series, but also other ditties about family and faith that will have your child grooving along while sparing you cloying sweetness typical to most kids' tunes. And can Handy and his Aunts and Uncles dance! I haven't seen hips swing this wantonly since Tiger Woods gave pro lessons to all the waitresses.
Action is juiced up; Manny jumps a 30-foot ravine on his motorcycle, and engages in a high-speed chase, but it's never too intense for the little ones, and there's plenty of that which they love. Many obstacles face the crew, from flat tires to broken gas pumps, but there's nothing they can't handle, as they know how to work together. And there's the rub, since Pat's desperate attempt to find his family separates the friends. Through gorgeous desert landscapes they travel, singing, making messes, enjoying a new Los Lobos song and looking cute, never realizing what they have right in front of their metal faces; their own kind of family.
Handy Manny: Motorcycle Adventure ups the cartoon ante with this mini-feature full of love, fun and music. Right, it is just a children's' DVD, it's not ready for a Criterion Collection edition, but it's cute, 5-Dog enjoys it, and you'll be able to stomach it as well. As I prefer to isolate the little one from commercial TV (professional sports are, however, acceptable) I value quality DVDs such as those of Handy Manny. Manny lowers the Espaņol quotient this time around (increased run-time dampens that educational emphasis) but never lowers the entertainment value.