Doug (91′), A TV Pilot Review Challenge

Simply put, Doug is the story of a young boy as he tries to navigate his way through 6th grade making friends and falling in love and he does all of this by writing everything down in his journal.

Air Dates: 1991-1997
Seasons: 7
Episodes: 117
Network: Nickelodeon (Seasons 1-4) & ABC (Seasons 5-7)
Theatrical Film Releases: 1

In case you’re wondering why it says there are 7 seasons of Doug total and not the traditional 4, here’s your answer. There seems to be bit of controversy over how many seasons Doug actually consisted of. Technically speaking, it only had 4 seasons that aired on Nickelodeon from 1991-1994. But there were 3 additional seasons that aired on ABC. And in the final season run, the show as actually renamed to Disney’s Doug and all syndicated episodes went by this new title. As a kid, I don’t recall ever watching the show on ABC, so I consider Doug to only have 4 true seasons. In fact, when I was looking to see where I could watch the show for this challenge, I couldn’t find any streaming service that actually had any seasons of Doug that went past season 4. But that could also be due to the fact that Nickelodeon allowed streaming rights while ABC didn’t. But that’s just a guess. So, there ya go.

Like Rugrats, Doug also aired the year that I was born. However, there’s no doubt in my mind that I didn’t watch this show until much later and can safely assume the show was already in syndication by the time I actually was able to watch it. But watched it, I did.

  • Pilot Title: “Doug Bags a Neematoad”
  • Directed by Howard Beckerman & Yvette Kaplan
  • Written by Alicia Marie Schudt
  • Original Air Date: August 18, 1991
  • Synopsis: The Funnies have just moved to Bluffington & 11-year-old Doug Funnie finds himself making new friends and developing crushes. However, things get dicey when the town bully tricks Doug into thinking he needs to catch a monster called a Neematoad in order to become the town hero.

I should say right off the bat that I don’t remember a whole lot about Doug. I mostly remember his best friend Skeeter and his crush on Patti Mayonnaise. So rewatching this pilot was like watching it for the first time all over again.

OVERALL THOUGHTS:
First off, I love that this show quite literally has people of every color and I don’t just mean of different races. The characters are practically every color of the rainbow. This is a definite highlight for a children’s show airing in the early 90’s.

I gotta say that I completely relate to Doug’s inner monologue. While on his way to The Honker Burger, he’s really excited to meet kids his own age and make some friends. But within a split second, he’s suddenly afraid that they won’t like him or that he won’t fit in. I, thankfully, never moved to a different town when I was a kid, but I know the feeling when it comes to being afraid that people won’t like you.

And along with new friends, comes the local bully. Roger immediately uses Doug’s fear of being liked to trick him into (hopefully) humiliating himself by catching a Neematoad. And unfortunately, Doug falls for it. But he manages to think his way out of the situation with the help of Porkchop.

Overall, this is a solid pilot. Doug is introduced as an average kid who just wants to fit in but his obsessive need for people to like him ends up getting him into trouble. Which I think everyone can unfortunately relate to whether you’re a kid or an adult. The side characters are introduced well and have their own quirks that make them unique and stand out. I did find Doug’s family to be a bit boring, with the exception of Porkchop, who is right in line with the iconic Snoopy’s of the world.

But other than that, you find yourself immediately invested in Doug and want him to be accepted in his new life. At least, I know I do. There are plenty of other shows that I watched more frequently than this show as a kid, but it still ranks pretty high and is one that I haven’t forgotten.

Final Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Up next: Gargoyles!

Get a Clue (02′), A DCOM Challenge Review

Ready for fashion, mystery, romance and a tiny hint of murder? Then get ready for none other than Get a Clue!

Aired: June 28, 2002
Directed by Maggie Greenwald
Starring Lindsay Lohan & Bug Hall
Run time: 1h 23m
Genre: Mystery, Drama
Synopsis: Teen fashionista and aspiring journalist, Lexy Gold, finds the story of a lifetime when her English teacher goes missing.

As much as I gushed about Hilary Duff in the previous review for Cadet Kelly, I could also do the same for Lindsay Lohan. Like many of my peers who grew up in the 90’s and early 00’s, you can guarantee that any film starring Lindsay Lohan was not to be missed and this Disney Channel Original Movie is no exception.

MAJOR PLOT POINTS:
13-year-old Lexy Gold isn’t your typical teenager. In fact, not only is she a teen fashionista, she’s also an aspiring journalist working for her school paper as the advice columnist. But a true, hard hitting story comes her way when her English teacher, Mr. Walker, goes missing. Soon, Lexie finds herself ensnared in a story much bigger than she ever could have imagined.

Q: What is with the outfits in this film? Is this what high fashion was supposed to be like in 2002?
A: There are so many clashing patterns that my eyes hurt looking at them.

Q: Who is this Detective supposed to be? Hercule Poirot?
A: That mustache is not doing him any favors.

CASTING
Our heroine Lexi is played by Lindsay Lohan and if you don’t know who that is, then your life is severely lacking. She’s starred in some of my favorite films such as The Parent Trap, Freaky Friday and Mean Girls and will forever be a prominent part of my childhood.

Bug Hall, who plays Jack, has a pretty extensive but lesser known acting career; starring in several episodes of multiple tv shows and numerous films over the years. But he’s probably best known for his role as Alfalfa in the iconic film, The Little Rascals. Which was actually his first acting job.

OVERALL THOUGHTS:
Alright, first off, Lexy kind of pisses me off right from the bat. She wrote an article about her teachers Mr. Walker & Miss. Dawson implying that they have a romantic relationship and got it published in the paper. Did she not think of the consequences behind doing this? There’s a thing called privacy and there are some schools that frown on inter-staff relationships. What if they had lost their jobs over this? Literally every time Jack scoffs at her, I’m right there with him.

Although Lexy can be self-centered and slightly annoying, I appreciate her passion for journalism. She wants to be just like her father and write hard hitting pieces that make an impact on those who read what she has to say. You’ve got to admire that desire and I really love how supportive her father is with her and her aspiring career. No wonder she wants to be just like him.

One trope that I hate and that this film is pretty big on, is the “New Yorker that’s never taken the subway or been to the outer burrows”. Originally, Lexy and Jen plan to head to Carroll Gardens to case out Mr. Walker’s apartment until they find out that Carroll Gardens is in Brooklyn. First off, what native New Yorker hasn’t heard of Carroll Gardens, let alone not know that it’s in Brooklyn? I also hate the fact that Lexy’s lived in New York her entire life and has never taken the subway. We get it. You’re rich and think you’re above us common folk.

One thing I appreciate about this is film is that Jack is essentially the stand in for the audience. He’s always calling Lexy out on her bullshit and her judgement of others. When she acts like people who aren’t rich are either some kind of sideshow or are simply not worth her time, Jack is there to check her on her attitude. He literally says everything that I’m thinking while watching this movie.

Overall, this isn’t my favorite film, but it’s not all bad. The mystery is intriguing and you can’t help but love watching unexpected friendships blossom. At the end of the day, if you want to achieve anything, you have to let your ego go and keep an open mind. You might just end up finding something you didn’t know you were looking for.

Final rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Up next: Gotta Kick It Up!

Tru Confessions (02′), A DCOM Challenge Review

Ready for finding your voice, following your dreams and discovering the true meaning of family? Than look no further than Tru Confessions.

Aired: April 5, 2002
Directed by Paul Hoen
Starring Clara Bryant & Shia LaBeouf
Run time: 1h 23m
Genre: Drama, Coming of Age
Synopsis: Tru Walker thinks she has the worst life ever. But when she gets the opportunity to star in her own TV show, she soon discovers the true meaning of family.

MAJOR PLOT POINTS:
Trudy “Tru” Walker thinks she has the worst life ever: a workaholic father, a mother who doesn’t understand and a mentally impaired twin brother. But when she gets the chance to star in her own TV show, she soon discovers the true meaning of family.

Q: What’s the biggest issue this family faces, might you ask?
A: Communication. No one really takes the time to sit down and listen to each other and in doing so, things easily descend into chaos.

CASTING:
Clara Bryant, who plays Tru, has a short and sweet list of acting credits. She previously starred in the very first DCOM, Under Wraps. Following this film, she also starred in a number of episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Shia LaBeauf, who plays Eddie, is an acting powerhouse and doesn’t need much more explanation than that.

OVERALL THOUGHTS:
If YouTube (founded in 2005) was around back in 2002, Tru would be your typical Youtube vlogger and might even have a pretty popular channel. She’s constantly using her camera as a video journal to record what’s going on in her life. Her struggles with her parents, her worries about Eddie and her trying to find herself through film.

Even though Tru might not always show it, she does really care about her brother and wants him to feel safe and accepted. When she’s supposed to be in homeroom, she’s actually checking on Eddie in his Special Education classes and is constantly looking out for him at school. She even posted on a medical website in the hope of getting advice about how to help Eddie better acclimate to his changing surroundings. But at the same time, Tru wants to be able to have her own life and spend time with her friends without having to worry about her brother for fear of him feeling left behind.

Although this film is slower and more dramatized than previous DCOMs, I have to say that I think it’s one of the better done films. I think it has one of the more realistic portrayals of the family dynamic than most. Not only does this film portray the trials and tribulations that our teen heroine faces, but you also get a realistic portrayal of how their parents and siblings are also feeling. Tru wants to be able to make things easier for her brother while at the same time, live out her dreams. Her mother, Ginny, is saddened by the fact that Tru no longer confides in her like she used to and feels her daughter slipping away. At the same time, Tru’s father has a hard time grasping the fact that his son has limitations that he might not be able to overcome. But while the rest of family is worrying about their own problems, Eddie can always be counted on to be there, trying to cheer everyone up and ultimately, to be Tru’s number one fan.

Overall, I think this is really sweet and touching film that reminds you of the true meaning of family. The truth is, you can’t choose your family or where you come from. But one can only hope, that if given the choice, you’d choose the one you have, if you could. I know I would.

Final Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Up next: Get a Clue!

Rugrats (91′), A TV Pilot Review Challenge

For those of you who have never had the pleasure of watching Rugrats throughout your adolescence, it follows the misadventures of a group of babies (ages 1-3) as they discover what the world has to offer.

Air Dates: 1991-2004
Seasons: 9
Number of Episodes: 172
Network: Nickelodeon
Theatrical Film Releases: 3
Spin-Off Series: All Grown Up!

The pilot episode of Rugrats premiered the same year that I was born, so while Tommy and his friends were discovering the world, so was I. But while they were using their imaginations and going an adventures, I was just mostly sleeping, eating, pooping and occasionally crying.

  • Pilot Title: “Tommy’s First Birthday”
  • Directed by Howard E. Baker
  • Written by Paul Germain & Craig Bartlett
  • Original Air Date: August 7, 1991
  • Synopsis: Tommy’s parents, Stu & Didi, strive to give Tommy the best first birthday ever. However, Tommy is more interested in getting his hands on some dog food in the hope that he’ll actually turn into a dog.

OVERALL THOUGHTS:
One thing about children’s shows or animated shows is that they’re typically only 30 mins long (23ish mins not including the commercials) and with that in mind, you don’t have a lot of time to waste. And Rugrats wastes no time at all introducing you to our characters. Within the first 5 mins we learn:

  • Tommy Pickles is turning 1 today.
  • Tommy’s dad, Stu Pickles, is an inventor (although, we have yet to determine if he’s successful at it or not).
  • As a first time mom, Didi Pickles relies heavily on parenting books.
  • Grandpa thinks a having a puppet show at a 1-year-old’s birthday party is a ridiculous idea because the kid won’t even remember it.
  • We’re even introduced to Tommy’s cousin Angelica Pickles, his uncle Drew Pickles, Didi’s parents Minka & Boris Kropotkin, twins Phil & Lil Deville, their parents Betty & Howard and Chuckie Finster.

One thing I love about this show is the immediate bending of gender norms with Phil and Lil’s mom, Betty. She wears what would be seen as typically masculine clothing, is athletic and has a larger frame than Didi or her husband. I don’t if many shows back then were portraying characters like Betty. Especially in a manner that was straightforward and wasn’t a plot point that had to be discussed. That’s just who Betty is.

The pilot does a really great job of distinguishing between all of the characters, especially the babies. Tommy is mischievous and is always getting into trouble. Twins Phil and Lil are into weird and gross things like fleas and playing in the dirt. Chuckie is afraid to take risks and is pretty much afraid of everything. And Angelica is basically a demon child who the other babies are afraid of and who has her dad wrapped around her little finger.

Overall, this is a decent pilot episode. It establishes family dynamics well and incorporates humor that both children and adults can appreciate. But I think the best part of the pilot is the many nuances throughout the episode that make it unique. A number of which include, Stu & Drew’s sibling rivalry that has extended into adulthood, Didi’s polish parents struggling to fit into society outside of the old country, Angelica’s fake sweet act around adults, and the fact that for babies so young, they sure do know a lot.

This show definitely kept me coming back for more and will always be one of my favorites.

Final Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Up Next: Doug!

90’s-00’s TV Pilot Review Challenge

So, since we’re still twiddling our thumbs away in quarantine, I decided to continue this journey through my childhood by reviewing the pilot episodes of some of my favorite shows I watched as a kid. *Don’t worry, I’ll still be doing my DCOM reviews.*

How long a show lasts and how many viewers tune in every week largely depends on the success of the pilot. There is so much riding on the pilot episode that if certain criteria aren’t met, then the show is dead in the water. And as someone who watches a lot of tv, adding a new show to the roster can be difficult and no one should waste their time watching bad tv.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that I find myself invested in a new show when the below criteria is met:

  • Proper World Building:
    • Am I confused by the world I’m introduced to?
    • Or do I find myself wanting to be a part of it?
  • Good Character Introduction & Character Like-ability:
    • Do I know enough about these characters to start caring about them?
    • Do I even like the main character(s)?
  • Interesting, Unique or Familiar plot:
    • Am I watching this because it feels like something else I already like and want to see a different take on it?
    • Or am you watching it because it looks fresh and new?
  • Casting Choices:
    • Am I watching this show because I like other roles this actor(s) have done?
    • Or am I looking for new blood and new faces on screen?
    • Do the actors have chemistry together?
    • Specifically when it comes to adaptations: does the casting feel true to this character I’m already invested in?
  • Establishment of Stakes & Consequences:
    • Did something happen throughout or (hopefully) by the end of the pilot that will get me to come back next week?

Now, of course none of these things mattered when I was a child. I just watched something because I thought it was fun and bright, or my parents allowed me to watch it. But as an adult and again, as someone who watches a lot of TV, I do find myself basing what I like and what I’ll continue to watch on the above. So I’m going to take that critical lens that I’ve developed over the years and apply it to shows I’ve never had the pleasure of viewing in such a way before.

So, with this criteria in mind, each review will also include the following:

  • Will span across multiple networks. Specifically, Disney Channel, Nickelodeon & Cartoon Network
  • For now, pilots will strictly be limited to animated series (but this could change later)
  • Air dates will range from mid 90’s to early 00’s (i.e. the date range I was when I was a child)
  • Will only be pilot episodes of shows no longer on the air (with 1 exception)
  • Like my DCOM reviews, these pilots will be reviewed in chronological order of air date

Depending on how I feel this goes, I may venture into rewatching the pilots of shows I watched as a teenager or even what I’m watching now as an adult. Who knows?

I may even do a challenge review on shows that are really great and popular series but have really bad pilot episodes (i.e. Seinfeld or Parks & Recreation)

So without further adieu, please enjoy this TV pilot review challenge!

Cadet Kelly (02′), A DCOM Challenge Review

Ready for Military School, the Drill team and a slightly problematic manic-pixie dream girl? Then get ready for none other than Cadet Kelly!

Aired: March 8, 2002
Directed by Larry Shaw
Starring Hilary Duff & Christy Carlson Romano
Run time: 1h 40m
Genre: Coming of Age, Comedy
Synopsis: Artistic and fashion-forward Kelly Collins soon finds herself in her worst nightmare: Military School. A place where standing out is anything but encouraged.

One thing that I find insane is the fact that is only 1 of 2 Disney Channel Original Movies starring Hilary Duff (the second being The Lizzie McGuire Movie). And I say this simply because I needed more of her on screen when I was a tween. I mean, have you seen Lizzie McGuire? Hilary Duff simply shines and is in the top ten of my favorite former Disney stars.

MAJOR PLOT POINTS:
When artistic & fashion-toward teen Kelly Collins is forced to leave her glitzy New York life behind to attend her stepfather’s Military Academy, she soon finds herself in an uphill battle to fit in. But can Kelly overcome the strict rules imposed on her and find a way to stand out?

Q: First off, what the hell is this school that Kelly attends before she’s shipped off to Military School?
A: Just because it’s an art school, there is no way she’s getting graded for twirling a ribbon around. Is this what non-New Yorkers think New York is like? I’ve lived in New York for 6 years and I’ve never seen anything like this.

Q: Whose bright idea was it to create the “clumsy-girl-with-the-heart-of-gold” trope that seems to be all over tv and film?
A: It’s seriously so overdone. And it hasn’t gotten any better since 2002. It goes hand in hand with the “clumsy-yet-endearing-new-girl-who-all-the-guys-are-attracted-to” trope. *Cough Twilight Cough*

CASTING:
Hilary Duff, who plays our heroine Kelly, is a Disney queen in her own right. She starred in one of my favorite teen shows, Lizzie McGuire and several films such as Casper Meets Wendy, A Cinderella Story, & Cheaper by the Dozen. She was also on several episodes of Gossip Girl and currently stars on the show Younger. Which I highly recommend.

Like Hilary, Christy Carlson Romano, who plays Jennifer, is no stranger to Disney Channel. Previous to this film, she starred in one of the greatest Disney shows ever, Even Stevens, and voiced the main character of Kim in the animated Disney show Kim Possible. She currently runs a successful Youtube Channel where she cooks and does several throwback videos to her Disney days.

Honorable mention goes to Shawn Ashmore who plays Brad. When I was young he was in a favorite sci-fi show of mine, Animorphs and he also starred as Bobby Drake/Ice Man in the X-Men franchise.

OVERALL THOUGHTS:
I love this movie. What can I say? It makes me incredibly happy when I watch it. Again, it’s no Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century, but it’s up there in the ranks. There’s just something about it that feels nostalgic and refreshing. The story isn’t necessary fresh, but it has a refreshing cast of characters that you can’t help but root for.

The relationship between Kelly and Jennifer is endearingly hilarious. Although, their relationship starts off fraught and they spend most of the film trying to one-up each other (vying for Brad’s attention, achieving top spot on the Drill Team, etc.), they happen to share one of the strongest connections in the film. In fact, its border line a love story between the two of them. Not necessarily in a romantic capacity but one where they learn to respect and admire each other for their strengths and their weaknesses. Kelly learns a lot about herself while at George Washington Military Academy and most of that growth comes from her relationship with Jennifer.

Military School may be strict and structured, but one plus would be that you’d always be in great shape. That obstacle course looks nearly impossible, but it would feel so satisfying to finally conquer it.

One thing I admire about Kelly is her confidence. She’s not afraid to speak her mind, ask questions and do her own thing. However, she does have her limitations. But thanks to her time at Military School, she comes to find that she’s more than the limits she’s set for herself. She tries out for the Drill Team, makes new friends and conquers her fear of heights. She achieves the very things she was afraid she couldn’t excel at.

Overall, this is a purely fun movie. It’s about finding your limitations and growing beyond them. It’s also about learning to work together for a common cause. Kelly spent so much time trying to stand out and fight against her new life that she continued to miss out on the lessons trying to be taught. When she finally learned to accept both, she found that she could not only excel in this new life, but she could also still be herself while doing so.

Final Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Up next: Tru Confessions!

Double Teamed (02′), A DCOM Challenge Review

Ready for sibling rivalry, all-star athletic skills & the true story of twin basketball stars? Then look no further than Double Teamed!

Aired: January 18, 2002
Directed by Duwayne Dunham
Starring Poppi Monroe & Annie McElwain
Run time: 1h 32m
Genre: Sports, Biographical
Synopsis: Twin sisters Heather & Heidi couldn’t be more different. But after transferring to a new school and landing on the basketball team, they must come to terms with their differences and help lead the team to victory.

Well, we’ve made it. It’s the year 2002 and we’re going back in time to 1985. A time of big hair, spandex, jean jackets and more neon than your retinas can handle (and possibly a time before many of us were even thought of). This Disney Channel Original Movie is one of a small handful based on a true story.

MAJOR PLOT POINTS:
Inspired by the true story of the WNBA-playing Burge sisters, Heather and Heidi are twins that couldn’t be more different. After transferring to a posh school known for its athletics, the sisters find themselves on the basketball team and in constant competition. In the end, they must find a way to put their sibling rivalry aside to help lead their team to victory.

Q: If Heather and Heidi are so concerned about looking like twins, why don’t they stop buying the same clothes?
A: Easy solution you’d think. They they wouldn’t have to draw straws to determine who changes clothes.

Q: Can you imagine being under this much pressure to be good at sports as these two?
A: Their dad quite literally transfers them to a new school so they have a better chance at being recruited by a college scout once they’re out of High School. When I was in High School, there wasn’t a single sport you could claim I was good at. I also wasn’t 6 feet tall by the time I was a Freshman. But hey, I ran the mile once.

Q: Anyone else think Heather & Heidi’s dad is kind of the worst?
A: He told the basketball coach that Heidi would also be trying out for the team and didn’t bother asking her. Even when he knew that Heidi wanted to be in the school play instead of back in Heather’s shadow.

CASTING:
Poppi Monroe (Heather) traded in her acting career for a career as a wine connoisseur. She is the market manager at Huneeus Wines in Napa Valley CA (as of 2017), with brands including Quintessa, Illumination, Faust, and Flowers.

Like Poppi, Annie McElwain (Heidi) also traded in her acting career. But instead of wine, it’s wedding photography. Martha Stewart Weddings even named her one of the top Wedding Photographers in the country. You can find her wedding photography here.

OVERALL THOUGHTS:
First off, when Heather is working out incessantly on Saturday morning (doing push ups, jumping rope, etc.) she’s doing all of this with her hair down. She’s an athlete. Why isn’t her hair in a pony tail? It reminds me of the end scene in She’s the Man where Viola is making the final shot and her hair is down the entire time. Girl, you’re playing soccer and your hair is literally whipping you in the face. Pull it back! Although I do think that the reason behind this was because the girl playing soccer was Amanda Bynes’ double and we, as audience members, weren’t supposed to know that. But that does not make sense in Heather’s case here.

For girls who sure don’t like to be seen as twins (i.e. the same person) they sure enjoyed riding that tandem bike in matching outfits. I’m just saying.

Even though Heidi’s dad told her that she had to try out for the team, Heidi didn’t actually have to try out if she really didn’t want to. She acted as if she didn’t have a choice and went ahead and quit the play. But she did have a choice. She could have done the play and waited until Spring to play Volleyball as planned. She didn’t have to do what her father told her to do. The same father that doesn’t seem to care about what his daughters really want. He’s so focused on the dream he has for them that he doesn’t stop to think about what their dream is.

Overall, this is one of those movies that’s entertaining but at the same time can be really frustrating. Maybe it’s because I have no concept of being competitive, due to my complete lack of athletic skills, but watching Heather and Heidi continuously fight over being the best on the team gets old fast. It’s hard to feel any sympathy for them when they’re compromising their own team/games for their own selfish reasons.

When the competition is over and done and the winner’s have been crowned, there’s still yourself to contend with. We have to remember that being true to ourselves is also a victory to be proud of.

Final rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Up next: Cadet Kelly!

‘Twas the Night (01’), A DCOM Challenge Review

Ready for con-artist uncles, annoying siblings and teens deciding to take over Christmas from Santa Clause? Then look no further than ‘Twas the Night!

Aired: December 7, 2001
Directed by Nick Castle
Starring Josh Zuckerman & Bryan Cranston
Run time: 1h 27m
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Crime
Synopsis: A mischievous 14-year-old and his con-artist uncle nearly ruin Christmas after taking Santa’s sleigh for a joyride.

We’ve arrived at the second of just two Disney Channel Original Movies centered on the Christmas holiday season. The first being, The Ultimate Christmas Present. And this film features even more mischief than its predecessor.

MAJOR PLOT POINTS:
14-year-old Danny Wrigley is your average mischievous teen who loves to play pranks and pick on his siblings. But when he teams up with his con-artist Uncle, the two can do some real damage. When Uncle Nick pays the family an unexpected visit, he and Danny find themselves in possession of Santa’s Sleigh and decide to take it for a joy ride. And they nearly ruin Christmas in the process.

Q: Why does Peter have such an annoying babyish voice? Are they doing that for the movie to really hit home the “annoying little brother” thing?
A: He’s like 10 years old and seems much too old to be talking like that.

Q: Anyone else get major The Santa Clause vibes from this film?
A: Accidentally knocking out Santa, taking his sleigh to deliver the presents, getting physical evidence that Santa actually exists and using Santa’s new technology created by the elves? Definitely feels like The Santa Clause.

CASTING:
Josh Zuckerman, who plays Danny, has only starred in one DCOM, but has starred in several tv shows and movies over the years. A few of which include Kyle XY, Desperate Housewives and 90210.

Bryan Cranston, who plays Nick, is another famous actor in his own right and is a master of comedic timing. He’s probably best known for roles on Malcolm in the Middle and the 16-time Emmy award winner Breaking Bad.

OVERALL THOUGHTS:
Danny is the worst older brother. It’s one thing to not want your siblings to invade the personal sanctuary that is your room, but to trick your younger sibling into buying your stuff so you can turn around and use their money to buy presents for your family members at the last minute because you forgot; that’s just another level of low. Although, now that I think about it, my older brother did trick me into pulling our allowances together so I could buy a LEGO set that he ultimately wanted and ended up building himself.

Danny’s role model is his Uncle Nick, who is a literal con-artist and Danny tries really hard to measure up to him. But in doing so, it turns Danny into a huge ass. When he gets caught shaking down his little brother, he doesn’t feel ashamed for taking advantage of Peter, but instead he’s more upset about the fact that he didn’t perform the con well enough and got himself caught. Uncle Nick would have gotten away with it for sure.

Although Danny has some poor qualities when it comes to his siblings, he does end up surprising you. When Nick discusses Santa Clause with the kids, Kaitlin, being the genius that she is, tries to dispel any instance of Santa realistically existing. It’s actually Danny who tries to discourage her from implying that Santa doesn’t exist because he doesn’t want to ruin the magic for this little brother Peter.

If you think Danny is the worst, Nick is 15 times worse than his nephew. He uses their opportunity of delivering gifts in Santa’s place as a way to steal from every house they enter. And Danny has no idea what Nick is really doing and thinks that he’s getting to spend time with his favorite uncle and is doing something good by making sure the kids still get their presents. Seriously, the worst.

I have to say that I do love any story in which non-believers start believing. Kaitlin, being of a scientific mind, couldn’t find any logical or scientific proof for Santa to exist. But when she meets him, she learns to embrace the possibility of the impossible. Same goes for Danny. Although he no longer believed in Santa himself, he still wanted his younger siblings to be able to believe as long as possible. And when he meets Santa and accidentally knocks him out, he can’t help it but believe in Santa again.

Overall, I find that I liked this movie a bit less than I did when I was younger. But that doesn’t mean I disliked it in general. It is a truly fun and comedic Christmas film. It’s all about being kind and letting go of our own selfishness. Of finding the ways in which to show the people in your life that you truly care about them. Danny learns to appreciate his siblings more and comes to the realization that Nick probably isn’t the best person to be looking up to. He learned to embrace the person he is and not the person he thought he wanted to be.

Final rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Up next: Double Teamed!

Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge (01′), A DCOM Challenge Review

Ready for Halloween sequels, turning into monsters and warlocks out for revenge? Then look no further than Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge!

Aired: October 12, 2001
Directed by Mary Lambert
Starring Kimberly J. Brown, & Debbie Reynolds
Run time: 1h 21m
Genre: Fantasy, Action-Adventure
Synopsis: An evil warlock with a devious plan, steals the Cromwell spellbook to strip the magic from every creature in Halloweentown.

The thing with sequels, and we’ve seen this before, is that they’re usually not as good as the first film it comes after. Unfortunately, Halloweentown II falls into the “not-as-good-as-the-first-one” category and that ultimately comes from the simple title of the film: Kalabar’s Revenge. The name practically gives away the entire plot of the movie without even having to watch it. It’s implied that not only does Kalabar still exist even after being vanquished by the Cromwell’s witches in the first film, but that he’s out for revenge against them. And by giving away the plot within the title, pretty much makes this film not as good as the first one. But that’s not to say it’s anything far from entertaining.

MAJOR PLOT POINTS:
After Grandma Aggie’s spellbook is stolen, the Cromwell’s soon uncover an evil plot to strip magic away from Halloweentown and turn every human in the mortal world into whatever creature costume they’re wearing at Midnight on Halloween.

Q: Why does Marnie even like Cal?
A: He’s super pretentious and he wears a leather jacket that he unfortunately can’t pull off. I like Luke much better.

Q: The way to undo a spell is to simply say it backwards?
A: That seems way too easy. In every other instance that I’ve seen or read that involves magic, undoing spells is even sometimes harder than the original spell.

Q: Did Cal just reveal his entire revenge plot to Marie and Aggie while talking out of a giant block of concrete?
A: Ugh. Face Palm. No one likes exposition in films. Show not tell, bud.

CASTING:
As a quick reminder, Marnie Piper, played by Kimberly J. Brown, has starred in her fair share of DCOMs after her starring role in Halloweentown and Halloweentown II. She goes onto to star in the third film in the francise, Halloweentown High and let’s not forget her other iconic DCOM role, Quints!

Debbie Reynolds, the Debbie Reynolds, graces us with her presence in another made-for-tv movie. Once again, she’s a film/television icon in her own right, known for The Debbie Reynolds Show and for her role as Grace Adler’s mother on Will and Grace amongst many others.

OVERALL THOUGHTS:
One of the things that’s hard about sequels, despite them not being as good as the first ones, is that when they involve kids, it’s so easy to see them growing up right in front of your eyes. And sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. In this case, I doesn’t quite work. It almost feels like Marnie is too old for this witch thing. Even though in a universe where magic is entirely real. It’s like she’s playing dress up. Same goes for Sophie. When she says things like “Somebody’s coming”, it’s not nearly as endearing as it was when she was like 8.

Alright, first rule of being a witch. Don’t go showing all of your secrets to some boy you just met. Just because you think he has a pretty face, doesn’t mean you invite him into your grandma’s room where she keeps all of her witchy stuff, including her spell book.

Of course this is one of those sequels that involves a hidden child. Kalabar didn’t tell anyone that he had a son and now said son is getting revenge for what happened to his dad in the first film. This is such a played out plot twist, that it’s not even a twist.

Overall, this film has its ups and downs. I love the idea of turning the creatures of Halloweentown into humans and the humans into monsters. Especially if the humans are turning into the very creatures they choose to wear a costume of. If anything, that would just be good incentive to wear a good, and not at all racist, costume every Halloween just in case someone casts a creature spell on you.

This film is fun, quirky and cheesy, but in the very best way. It’s all about believing in yourself and making the choices in life that will lead you on the path you were meant to be on. Even if that choices is one of the hardest ones you’ve had to make, you will eventually have to make it.

Final rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Up next: ‘Twas the Night!

The Poof Point (01′), A DCOM Challenge Review

Ready for inventions, time-machines and becoming the younger version of yourself? Then look no further than The Poof Point!

Aired: September 14, 2001
Directed by Neal Israel
Starring Tahj Mowry, Dawnn Lewis & Mark Curry
Run time: 1h 19m
Genre: Coming of Age, Science Fiction, Comedy
Synopsis: After an experience goes awry, two scientists find themselves growing younger and younger.

MAJOR PLOT POINTS:
Eddie and Marie aren’t your average teens. They were raised by two scientist parents who are constantly experimenting with the impossible. While attempting to create a working time-machine, the experiment goes awry and they soon find themselves growing younger and younger. It’s up to Eddie and Marigold to save their parents lives before it’s too late.

Q: What dated this movie, might you ask?
A: A Lil’ Bow Wow reference

Q: Could these parents be more focused on science?
A: They literally named their children Edison Newton Ballard and Marie Curie Ballard.

Q: What’s the cringiest thing about your parents aging backwards?
A: The fact that they call each other by the worst nicknames imaginable. Nortykins and Mari-muffin.

CASTING:
Tahj Mowry who plays our hero Eddie, was just recently seen in the Disney Channel Original Movie Hounded. As just a small reminder, he’s also starred in several shows like Full HouseSister, Sister and Smart Guy. He also did voice work on Kim Possible and most recently starred on one of my favorite shows Baby Daddy.

Raquel Lee who plays Marie, previously starred on The Amanda Show, did voice work on The Proud Family and was on several episodes of Real Husbands on Hollywood.

OVERALL THOUGHTS:
Eddie and Marie have pretty self-centered parents. I get that they’re geniuses and everything, but they’re also parents. They didn’t remember their kids middle school graduation and they literally don’t even know the names of their kids friends. Marie has to show her parents photos of her friends and they have no idea who any of them are.

One thing I find interesting about this film is that when the time machine goes awry and Marigold and Norton start aging backwards, they still look 40 to their kids, but when they look in the mirror, they see themselves as their younger selves. Also, every time they age backwards, Eddie and Marie have to explain to their parents what’s happening to them. Talk about tiring.

I appreciate the fact that although Eddie and Marie have parents that constantly embarrass them and are too focused on their science experiments, they’re not willing to let their parents disappear at Poof Point.

Overall, I don’t love this film. But I appreciate seeing a film that not only focuses on a black family, but a black family that invented time travel. This film could have easily centered on white scientists, but the fact that it centers on black scientists, really shows how important diversity is. It allows the kids watching these films to not only see themselves on screen, but that they could see themselves as scientists. Maybe even as the one who achieves time travel.

This film is all about family and learning to appreciate each other more. Eddie and Marie are finally able to talk to their parents about things that are important to them and their parents finally start listening. Even if you’re a genius, you might just discover that living your life is more important than experimenting with it.

Final rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Up next: Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge!