Genius Products // 2003 // 88 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Joel Pearce (Retired) // June 5th, 2007
A relatively harmless curse of the mummy...
Saturday morning cartoons have been around for decades, and have often shared common characteristics. They move quickly, with a small cast of familiar characters. The animation is produced cheaply. They are designed for children, and few of them really care to be any more than disposable entertainment. There have been some important exceptions, of course -- but Tutenstein isn't one of them, I'm afraid.
To be fair, as a product of the Discovery Channel, the producers have tried something slightly different with Tutenstein. It's educational children's programming, the attempt of an educational station to compete with more popular stations. Each episode incorporates some educational tidbits: explaining aspects of ancient Egyptian mythology and history. Unfortunately, the learning gets a bit mixed up with all the other nonsense.
The premise doesn't contain much historical accuracy. While installing a new Egyptian exhibit, Museum curator Professor Behdety sets up a replica of an ancient mummy's tomb. When 12 year old Egyptian scholar Cleo puts her own finishing touches on the display, Child Pharaoh Tutankhensetamun is brought back to life and Cleo's cat Luxor is mystically able to speak. Now, Tutankhensetamun needs to adjust to the fact that he isn't in charge of the known world anymore. Naturally, when you start opening mystical portals, you open yourself to all matters of interdimensional interference. The gods of ancient Egypt are coming too, and they're going to need to protect the present as well.
This volume contains the first four episodes of the series:
* "The Awakening"
It feels good to be undead, as Tutankhensetamun is brought back after 3000 years of being trapped in his metal tomb. He bursts out speaking perfect English -- which I expect isn't historically accurate -- but he's not alone. The portal also opened up a gate for the Egyptian god of chaos, who desperately wants to explore our brave new world...
* "The Curse of the Pharaoh"
When another shipment of ancient Egyptian artifacts, an old man becomes convinced that a curse lies within. Now Cleo needs to keep Tutankhensetamun's presence a secret. But when the crazy old man takes matters into his own hands, Tutankhensetamun is put face-to-face with Ammet, the devourer of souls. Is he brave and good enough to pass the test?
* "I Did it My Way"
Tutankhensetamun becomes increasingly frustrated by his lack of power in this new, gigantic world. Instead of sitting back doing nothing, he decides to take action. He harnesses the bird of creation, which transforms the modern city into Ancient Egypt. Somewhere in the past 3000 years, though, he forgot about some of the less pleasant aspects of Ancient society: floods and windstorms threatened to destroy them all. Can they turn things back in time?
As in most compilation volumes, there is one stinker episode. When Tutankhensetamun is moved to another room in the museum, he decides to move in for the weekend with Cleo instead. Her grandfather is watching her for the weekend, which is fortunate because he can't tell that Tutankhensetamun is a mummy and doesn't seem to mind that his 12 year old granddaughter is having a sleepover with a boy. When the young Pharaoh decides to have a big party and invite all the gods, Cleo must convince him to clean up the mess before her mom gets home.
When I was a kid, I didn't want to be a policeman or a firefighter. I wanted to be an archaeologist. The thought of discovering something that had been lost for thousands of years was a far more exciting thrill than anything that existed in the present time. In some ways, that's the biggest problem with Tutenstein. The mythology and history is interesting, but these things completely overwhelmed by silly Saturday morning cartoon conventions. The show is mildly entertaining, I suppose, but it has little of the magic that drew me to ancient Egypt as a child. What remains a field of mystery and wonder quickly disappears into the obnoxious character of Tutankhensetamun. I have a hard time imagining kids watching this series then rushing out to learn more about the wonders of ancient Egypt.
The talent is also somewhat limited. The animation is weak, using digital shortcuts that look sloppy and shoddy. The characters aren't particularly well rendered, and the voice work is on the same page. Neither of these elements are terrible, but it's a long way from the best in the industry. In the end, I suppose the series is what it is: a mild Saturday morning cartoon with some casual educational elements. It's a show with nothing offensive and no violence that kids will probably enjoy well enough.
Now on to the DVD. I'm not sure why these series aren't released in season form like everything else, but you should be aware that these four episodes are not the first in the series. This volume has the first two, and then two others from scattered through the first season. If the series is still on television, nobody's getting their money's worth as far as the episodes are concerned. The video and audio quality are solid, though, considering the nature of the animation. There are some interlacing issues at times, but other than that it looks clean enough. The best thing on the disc is actually a bonus episode of Truth or Scare, hosted by Michelle Trachtenberg. It explores the history and legend behind the curse of Tutankhamun, and it's more entertaining, interesting and fun than the show itself. The other extra is a ridiculous matching game. If your kids can't get it right the first time, they're in trouble.
With such a low price point, this package may be worth grabbing for children who love the series. It's a good alternative to the mind-numbing fare that we so often see in children's programming, though you probably won't get pulled into watching with them.
Review content copyright © 2007 Joel Pearce; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Genius Products
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Truth or Scare: The Curse of Tutankhamun
* Game: Museum in Chaos