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Little Tikes Land

Lionsgate Home Entertainment // Unrated // October 28, 2008
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Kurt Dahlke | posted November 23, 2008 | E-mail the Author
Little Tikes Land:
In the maddeningly vivid spectrum of kids' entertainment, the Little Tikes Land DVD falls near the harmless and pedantic end. Sadly, harm and pedantry aren't what got me and little F into the mess that is needing the Little Tikes DVD, that honor goes to a particularly virulent cold that leads to endless coughing, no sleep, and a general reticence to engage with life. So we crank out video amusement and fixate on a preview for the Little Tikes, a selection that just so happens to be up for review. Sooner than you can say "honey, you have to eat to get better," the magical DVD shows up and everything (minus a week of hell) is all better.

Containing four brief adventures and a smattering of extras, this 45 minute DVD accomplishes three things: it amuses the kid, it hammers home 'life-lessons' like a grade-school workbook, and it shills for Little Tikes brand toys. Lilly Tikes and her friend LT Garcia are two toddlers of indeterminate age. With frighteningly stunted legs and huge heads, they look to be two-year-old avatars from a Japanese-American video game. While gently haranguing each other over the usual toddler sleights, they sound like precocious tweens. In their weird world of perpetual sweet light, where a Tang-tinted arc-light sun hangs on the horizon, Little Tikes toys litter the yard, and the pair engages in serious flights of fancy.

Rustee Rails Rides Again finds our moppets teaching inner-beauty to a junked-up old steam engine cobbled together from 'a pile of junk in their backyard.' Cozy's Big Day sees the iconic plastic coupe (celebrating thirty years of sitting in your neighbor's front yard!) dangerously wishing for purpose on the mean streets of Tike Town. Bubble Trouble finds our heroes chiding an octopus for his inconsiderate nature, (while getting in an anti-pollution PSA as well) while The Search For Tubbie T. Bear drags out that old saw about learning to share.

These are new and alien lessons for the four-and-under crowd, so you can't fault Little Tikes Land for having good intentions. It's not even a too-egregious product tie-in, since this brand of toys has made it thirty years before venturing into the DVD market, and the products aren't exactly pushed in the narrative, they're merely players - ones that look perfectly suited to the 3D 'toon environment. No, even though our little sickee immediately bonded with this world, it just seems a little too bland, too lacking personality, too weird and uneven to rise to the charming levels of Thomas, Bob, or even Handy Manny.

When a two-year-old, scuba diving Garcia bemoans the fact that the octopus "never considers the effect his careless actions have on others," you slap your head not only because the message sails right over your kids, its teaching trajectory actually lands the damn nugget on the moon. Moreover, though these kids take their trips to fantasyland, therein they do dangerous things. Garcia spends inordinate amounts of time underwater sans any kind of breathing apparatus, and Cozy Coupe takes his dangerous spirit quest on highways and construction lots, risking a severe crushing by heavy equipment. I'm not sure I want to encourage my daughter to try breathing underwater or taking her tricycle out on the Interstate, no matter how firm her grasp on make-believe. (For what it's worth, she doesn't grasp it at all - that's why it's make-believe, and I'd rather not make her believe she's invulnerable to tractor-trailers.) Little Tikes Land reads like a first - and desperate - foray into toddler video, with an uncomfortably smeary mix of messages.

The DVD

Video:
Presented in either widescreen or fullscreen ratios, Little Tikes Land seems focused on the wrong things. The kids don't care about widescreen, man! Color-wise, it looks like a bag of Skittles exploded in your set, with searingly bright, saturated colors. Most adult viewers will spot plenty of aliasing, but otherwise, the picture is clear and sharp, and great attention is paid to 3D imaging, with out-of-focus backgrounds and other sophisticated details.

Sound:
Dolby Digital Stereo Audio is quite acceptable, the songs are sharp and punchy, dialog is distortion-free and understandable, and the mix between the two is on the level.

Extras:
The big extra here is a Die-Cast Cozy Coupe Toy Car, cute as all get-out and about the size of a matchbox car. The child really loves this car, and I'd buy it as an individual piece for sure. In addition, there's a Trailer Gallery, (why am I so intrigued by the Doodle-Bops?) that handy Direct-Play DVD function, (set it, and forget it, if you will) and two other bits. Bit one is the near ubiquitous karaoke extra, Sing-Along Songs with Little Tikes with three tunes to croon, and bit two is a silly "Build Your Own Cozy Coupe" Interactive Game which is simplistic in the extreme, and which I was forced to play numerous times. Yes, and English Subtitles as well.

Final Thoughts:
The weird Little Tikes come with a nice die-cast car toy, as they gently imply we might have more imaginative fun with a few extra Little Tikes toys about the yard. However, their stories are generic, uneven and self-consciously didactic. More fun can be found with more assured kids' cartoons, but as I sit here and my daughter cries hysterically because we dared suggest she go to the library instead of watching Bubble Trouble again, I'm no longer sure who knows best, so I (ignoring the fact that you can get a cool car) will suggest you Rent It.

www.kurtdahlke.com

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