Vocabulary building meets superhero fun
Produced by Soup2Nuts, the animation house behind Dr. Katz and Home Movies, Wordgirl is the story of 10-year-old Becky Botsford, the Earth alias of an alien from the planet Lexicon. On this planet, she has superpowers, and she uses them to battle supervillains who threaten her adopted hometown and correct the bad grammar of those around her, aided by Captain Huggy Face, her monkey sidekick. Of course, she has to protect her identity as Becky, despite never wearing a mask as Wordgirl, and coincidentally having a pet monkey, just like everyone's favorite word warrior. Along the way, she'll use a few key vocabulary words, in much the same way as Pinky Dinky Doo, just in a less obvious manner, keeping the focus on the fun.
This DVD offers up two episodes of Wordgirl, minus the games and interstitials found on the regular episodes. The first, the double-length "The Rise of Miss Power," introduces another superpowered alien, the bullying Miss Power (given typecasted voice by Jane Lynch), who comes to Earth and tricks Wordgirl into thinking she's mentoring her. Bullying is a pretty serious topic, but somehow, when it's supervillains like The Butcher or Dr. Two-Brains getting bullied, it's pretty funny. That the show is peppered with the voices of several fantastic comedians, including Patton Oswalt (wonderfully cast as a geeky villain), Maria Bamford, Tom Kenny and H. Jon Benjamin, just makes it that much better.
The second episode is "A World Without Wordgirl," the Wordgirl take on the classic "I wish I was never born" story, as a rough day of crime-fighting on her birthday leads Becky to wish that Wordgirl never existed. The kooky new world, led by her nemesis Chuck the Sandwich-Making King (again, given perfect voice by Fred Stoller), assisted by a Boss Hogg-like version of The BUtcher, makes Wordgirl wish she never made her wish. Both stories are entertaining, and though they both have lessons, and some new words for kids to learn, they are never heavy-handed.
A third "episode" is also included, but it's not a Wordgirl episode. "The Pretty Princess and Magic Pony Power Hour" is a 10-minute adventure that was threaded through the segments of the double-length "The Rise of Miss Power," taking the place of the usual episode extras. A rather silly little cartoon about the power of storytelling, it sees the Pretty Princess and her sidekick the Magic Pony on an adventure that's changed and manipulated by a lute-playing narrator. It's not as interesting as the Wordgirl stories, but the animation is pretty vivid and there's enough going on to be entertaining to most viewers watching.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is what you'd expect for a non-surround kids cartoon soundtrack, letting you hear the dialogue clearly and separate from the music and sound effects. There's nothing dynamic about the mix, which keeps things center balanced.
The second game is "Power Words," which offers four animated situations against super bad guys, where you have to pick a vocabulary word to help her out. Though they are well constructed and amusingly animated, twice the games froze up, which would be frustrating for younger players.
Also on the disc is a set of 10 coloring pages you can print out and color, natch, while for parents, there are a few PDFs available by putting the disc in a computer, with info on the Wordgirl character, a four-page set of character descriptions and an FAQ about the series. There's also a page on the DVD with weblinks related to the show.
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