HBO // 2008 // 23 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dennis Prince (Retired) // June 11th, 2008
My five year old can recite Shakespeare -- can't yours?
Wow...this really boggles the mind. As a first exposure to any of HBO's Classical Baby material, it's immediately evident who the programming is aimed at: the insecure parent needful of social affirmation through the accelerated refinement of their unsuspecting offspring. Yes, pursuits of ensuring a toddler can effectively recite Shakespeare, Stevenson, Frost, and others is the sort of hubris that propels boring social gatherings where twentysomethings seek to brag about their remarkable children, not to mention their new SUVs and cosmetic surgery. That children become pawns in this game of competitive social jockeying is more than annoying, it's unconscionable. And while the latte-sipping, Blackberry-toting, wireless headset adorned parents feign a focus on their family, too often this is just another achievement on their self-centered pursuits and the sort that leaves the poor child to struggle under the weight of wildly premature academic expectations.
Toddlers should develop their critical analysis and thought processes through play with blocks and rocks and unsuspecting housecats, not through programming via the home DVD player.
Ah, but what's wrong with exposing youngsters to refined culture? Nothing -- nothing at all. And, in fact, the content on this Classical Baby: The Poetry Show is great material from the likes of the aforementioned literary greats, their timeless works recited by current celebrities including John Lithgow, Susan Sarandon, and Gwyneth Paltrow. The poetry is presented in quick one- or two-minute blurbs (depending upon the length of the piece) and accompanied by animated accompaniment. This is all very fine and the readers of the poetry effectively inflect and emote the essence of the poems. In between these readings, however, are headshot interviews with little youngsters who precociously wax over the goodness of poetry and how it helps them express their innermost thoughts. What?! Yes, these little five- and six-year-old pie-faced kiddies speak about poetry as if it is the answer to their previous inabilities to fully and faithfully communicate their core wishes, desires, and dreams.
Puh-lease. Let the kid watch some Tom and Jerry or Loony Tunes cartoons then go out and play with buddies the way children should. The greatest gift to give a child -- and especially not to withhold -- is unfettered childhood itself. There's a whole lifetime for academia and social achievement but the time window for mudpies and make-believe is oh so short.
Classical Baby: The Poetry Show amounts to 23 minutes of the previously mentioned content, presented in full frame format and supported by a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track. Thankfully, it's a short program and, as such, one has to wonder about the value of a disc like this. Again, this seems aimed at pleasing the on-looking parent who will smile broadly while their youngster is parked in front of the TV set (and likely harvesting a snack of nose nuggets undetected -- you go kid!).
If academic and social refinement of a child barely off the potty chair is what you're in need of, then you'll probably want to purchase this for your unaware curtain climber. But, if you believe kids should just be kids as long as possible, forget the DVD player and show them how fun it is to fling a 5.5" shiny disc across the front lawn.
Guilty on so many levels.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 23 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated