Sony // 2002 // 50 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Chris Claro (Retired) // April 9th, 2010
The boys are back on the Street.
What's left to say about the venerable icon that is Sesame Street? Teaching kids their letters, numbers, and ways to navigate the world, the show today is as much an institution as it is a tool for learning. But, as with any long-running series, the Sesame Street that existed in 1970 isn't the one that airs today. This is most readily evidenced by the political correctness that permeates the 21st-century Street which forced the producers to revise the once-anarchic Cookie Monster to make sure that he reminds viewers that his favorite baked goods are treats and that a balanced diet is comprised of more than cookies.
But the deeper issue that emphasizes the distance between the forty-years-ago Sesame Street and today's is the absence of many of the original performers, particularly Jim Henson (Labyrinth) and Frank Oz (The Stepford Wives). The guys behind Ernie and Bert -- as well as Kermit, Grover, Fozzie Bear, and the Swedish Chef -- Henson and Oz imbued their characters with more than just voices. They turned them into full-on, living, breathing characters. Playing Ernie's childlike enthusiasm off Bert's tight-assed slow burn, Henson and Oz made the characters as memorable a comedy pairing as Hope and Crosby or Laurel and Hardy.
Alas, with Henson's death and Oz pursuing a career as a filmmaker, Ernie and Bert have been performed by others for many years now. As a result, the spirit and élan of their comedy that once seemed organic and effortless, now feels ersatz and makes a longtime fan of the show miss the Henson/Oz crackle.
But time goes on, and so does the seemingly endless stream of Sesame Street compilation DVDs. This one, hosted by Bert and Ernie -- ably assisted by director Prairie Dawn -- features the boys as hosts of a vaudeville performance about words. Between the tap-dancing penguins and the flying pies which always seem to come Bert's way, there are clips from the illustrious history of Sesame Street, including a poultry take on the Helen Reddy hit, "I Am Chicken," and the standout piece of the 50-minute DVD, in which the Henson-voiced Kermit slowly reaches his boiling point as he tries to pick up his newly-made t-shirt, only to find the store only has them for Kermit the Gorf and Kermit the Forg.
Though most current viewers of Sesame Street won't know the difference between the clips and the more recently-produced wraps surrounding them, the classic material is a great reminder of the time when Sesame Street was the only game in town for genuinely funny instructional TV that embraced kids even as it entertained their parents.
Video and audio are more than acceptable, particularly considering the age of some of the source material. It's also nice to be reminded of a time when the soft, rich look of film was combined with the slicker cast of tape to give shows like Sesame Street their distinctive look.
Bert gets a pigeon, Ernie gets a rubber duckie and Bert and Ernie's Word
Play gets a not guilty.
Review content copyright © 2010 Chris Claro; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 50 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated