Nickelodeon // 2008 // 69 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // July 9th, 2008
Real Brothers. Real Band. Not Really Naked.
The Naked Brothers Band is difficult to describe. Is it a comedy? A pre-teen adventure? A documentary? A music video? Kind of all those things, if you can believe it. Nat and Alex Wolff star as themselves, two youngsters who write songs and play in a band, and somehow spun it into a successful television series on Nickelodeon, The Naked Brothers Band, as the vessel that contains their adventures. Part scripted kid comedy and part real-life musical documentary, the show blurs the line between reality television and Nickelodeon programming in a refreshingly enjoyable way.
Alex and Nat Wolff displayed an early talent for music. After pestering their parents repeatedly to become child actors, the parents acquiesced and created a small film based on a band they started with their friends. The video and songs became runaway hits and attracted the attention of Nickelodeon, who adapted the format into an ongoing television series and series of movies starring the brothers and their hit songs (which have gone on to sell awfully well). Not bad for a 10-year-old and a 13-year-old.
For The Naked Brothers Band, their next stop in The Naked Brothers Band: Polar Bears takes them to New Orleans, where Nat reunites with his childhood friend, sending his bandmate Rosalina into fits of unexpected jealousy. Meanwhile, Alex finds out about the plight of environmentalism and begins to empathize with the polar bears, spurring the band into activism. Unfortunately, an overzealous reporter misquotes Alex, quickly turning public sentiment against them!
In The Naked Brothers Band: Polar Bears, three separate yet equal kinds of "mentaries" are featured: documentary, mockumentary, and rockumentary. The last one is especially stupid, but there you are. There is a weird and creepy kind of simulacra going on in this show, because unlike most artificially crafted pre-teen shows, there is a large seed of truth to be found here. These are real kid musicians turned television stars, not the other way around. Sure, the show is essentially scripted (mockumentary) but at its core, Nat and Alex Wolff are real brothers (documentary) who write songs together and play music (rocku -- oh, you get the idea).
If you are looking for someone to blame for this, blame their parents: real-life mother Polly Draper (thirtysomething) and father Michael Wolff (bandleader of The Arsenio Hall Show), who created, write, direct, music supervise, and produce the show for their two sons. It's like a modern-day Partridge Family, conceived backwards, and full of actual musicians, not actors. Kids will no doubt appreciate the authenticity of the songs and the performances, with the majority of the cast using their real names and playing their respective instruments. Even for a curmudgeonly crank like me, it is admittedly impressive that these two kids are in essence exactly what they appear to be: young musical talents who started writing songs at intimidating young ages. Good songs, too; a bit too Monkees-esque to be considered "original" but undeniably earnest. Call it "bubblegum pop" if you like, but the songs are short, sweet, and irritatingly catchy.
As for the show itself, it has a few things going for it that make it much more preferable than the average band of pre-teen television crap. The complete and utter absence of a laugh track is worth its weight in gold. Some of the jokes are pretty dumb (it is a kid's show after all) but the show lacks the polish and poise of an uber-scripted Disney Channel show, and this is a good thing, believe it or not. The kids feel more real -- they laugh, they stutter over their lines now again, they look honest. Oh, it's still heavily scripted and full of bad jokes, but The Naked Brothers Band strips a sizable chunk of the corny formulaic garbage away from the genre, replacing it with shaky handheld camera work and simulated home video-style sequences. This is a good tradeoff, because adult audiences will not want to dismember themselves with their remote control when they watch it.
These kids feel like exactly what they appear to be -- like somebody just sort of wrote a television show around them, rather than the other way around, and it is the most endearing aspect of the show. Sure, it kind of has that weird chicken vs. egg thing going on, but on the plus side, they are 33% less annoying than the Jonas Brothers (at least mathematically).
In terms of presentation, the disc is small and to the point. Considering the musical focus, it was nice to see a fully 5.1 surround audio presentation included (as well as a stereo) which captures the music more forcefully than the two-channel version. Beyond that, nothing about the presentation is particularly noteworthy -- full-frame transfer, average black level and color saturation, but it passes muster for a kid's DVD. Extras are very slim: a two-minute clip of the band sharing environmental tips and four music videos.
Parents and kids alike could do worse, I suppose. As "G"-rated television entertainment goes, The Naked Brothers Band: Polar Bars does not make you uncontrollably vomit from your mouth. In this genre, that is saying something.
Review content copyright © 2008 Adam Arseneau; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 69 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Green Tips from the Band
* Music Videos
* Official Site