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Love the Earth!
Maybe the rubber is meeting the road, at last. Sesame Street: Love The Earth! is the latest teaching tool distributed by Genius Products and featuring that red, psychedelic scalawag, Elmo! The 42-minute program, (not counting credits and the ultimate Sesame Street website advertisement) while thematically laudable, feels slight and blasé while also representing a bit of overkill. Plus, I wonder how many parents have simply given up and relinquished all parenting tasks to Elmo?
This DVD is much like other Sesame Street/Elmo DVDs, with heaping helpings of the bubbly beast book-ending animated sequences and live action segments with young kids running hither and thither (or learning about something, always learning). Starting out with some really '80s sounding music and a mini-crane camera shot that strongly evokes the title sequence of Who's The Boss? we find Elmo, Zoë, Baby Bear and Papa Bear out for a hike. While searching for the Blue-feathered Swallowing Swallow, they're constantly interrupted by a Squirrel-Park Ranger with the 411 on 'saving the environment.' The basics of reduce-reuse-recycle are covered in ways kids can understand, while a side dish of 'observe and enjoy nature' is served up to give a big picture frame to the whole notion of conservation. Meantime a group of inner-city kids hikes Prospect Park looking for nature with a real-life Park Ranger, a neat time-lapse rundown of paper recycling goes by, and Elmo and friends sing a song with the immortal line; "try to think of a way, to make it that way."
Other good stuff happens, too, and I'd be a fool to argue against this message. However, this program fails as an adult entertainment, (remember to watch TV with your kids, parents) featuring mostly boring and pedantic Elmo sequences that actually feel like poorly written, and no-rehearsal one-offs. Only the super-fast Squirrel Ranger and Elmo's sweetly patronizing reaction to him registers on the adult-o-meter. Another bit - great for teaching kids a sense of global community - is sadly, unintentionally hilarious for adult Americans, as we're shown how poverty-stricken Third World-ers are hip to the reusing game, tying pathetic seedlings up with discarded cassette tape strands or using gutted tin kegs as fire pits. Nothing encourages reuse better than necessity, and maybe someday we'll be persuaded into doing that here, but not while over-consumption is seen as a right.
So, certainly Love The Earth brings a timely and important message, but my other crotchety personality says; why don't we turn off our high-consumption flat-screens and teach this message to our kids personally? Do what the back of the box says, (you can read it for free while you shop at Wal-Mart) and take your kids out into the woods. Stop, look and listen. Keep a nature journal, and show your kids how important it is to - at the very least - recycle. And let's remember that the first word in that mantra is actually 'reduce.' If you want to stage a Conservation Day with your kid(s) - or someone else's kids - this might be a good addition to your 'down time' portion of the proceedings, but modeling behavior is a much better way to teach this message, and Sesame Street: Love The Earth! is a great message in need of a little more oomph. At least Mr. Noodle stays away this time.
Welcome to the Sesame Standard 1.33:1 fullscreen ratio intended to preserve the original broadcast dimensions of these sequences. Colors are bright and well saturated, while various minor degrees of fading somewhat reduce the naturalness of skin tones in the real kids sequences, which look to have been culled from as early as 1989. Overall this is another sharp and clear Elmo presentation, with minimal to zero compression artifacts, only a tiny bit of edge enhancement in the Elmo bits, and film-grain only in the older sequences.
Dolby Digital Stereo Audio is serviceable, featuring a balanced if pedestrian mix. Elmo's chirping is clear and understandable, while the kids 'reuse it' rap and the Muppet's 'make it that way' song are all too easy to hear.
Extras are limited to three Previews for other DVDs from 'The Street,' five Chapter Stops keyed only to Elmo sequences, and finally English Subtitles.
I still love Elmo, but his presence is wearing thin. Maybe it's time to take a few years off on your private island, big boy? That said, Love The Earth delivers a positive message in more-saccharine-than-usual manner, without much in the way of funny bits parents can enjoy, and featuring a song that will curl the toes of anyone over eight-years-old. CSN&Y admonish us to teach our children well, so instead of snatching up this DVD and praying for the best, get in there and get your hands dirty! For use as an auxiliary teaching tool, this earns a Rent It, but no more.