The second flight of Zidgel, Midgel, Fidgel and…Kevin—everyone's favorite feathered space travelers!
It's yet another uneventful day at Grandmum's house, except for the intense Squid-Tac-Toad game going on between twin siblings Jason and Michelle. At an important moment in the championship match, Michelle distracts Jason and cheats to make the winning move. Jason accepts the loss, but Michelle feels guilty. But before she knows it, the Penguins call her into action to settle a dispute on Space Base Bullamanka. Seems the Bandicoot King has accused the Lizard King of cheating at their intergalactic game of…Squid-Tac-Toad? And they need the gang to settle the argument. But when the Lizard King can't see the error of his ways, it's up to Michelle to challenge him to one final, ultimate battle. But can she learn to play fair, and teach his slithery highness a thing or two about good sportsmanship?
One just can't say enough good things about 3-2-1 Penguins. In this, their second outing (and first to feature little sister Michelle almost exclusively), they have lost none of their originality or cleverness. The creators even manage to pull off a fictional "miracle": they create a new, imaginary game (Squid-Tac-Toad) that is just odd enough, genuinely intriguing, and grounded in reality that one (a) understands, basically, how it is played, and (b) imagines that it's pretty fun to do so. It even works as a large-scale arena sport once our intrepid team lands on Bullamanka. Since we believe the premise, we never get lost when moves are made and pieces fly around.
It would be nice to report that Big Idea chalks up yet another flawless DVD of fun. However, this disc is also not quite as thoroughly enjoyable as the first installment. This is not to say it's not wonderful children's entertainment. It is. But there are a couple of aspects here that undermine the initial approach taken by Big Idea to create honest, decent youth and family oriented material. For one, this new story is just a skoosh forced. It's not as well written as the first installment, (Trouble on Planet Wait-Your-Turn. When The Lizard King is taught the lesson of fairness, it crosses the line from peachy to preachy. The message is repeated far too often. And as part of the extras, the next installment of Space Academy School moves away from actual learning (as in remembering the names of the planets that was taught on the first DVD) and into teaching kids…how to pilot a cartoon spaceship? Hardly the approach one expects from the meticulous educational stance Big Idea usually takes. Still, these are minor quibbles with what are truly some of the best family oriented products on the market today.
To simply call this a DVD is unfair. Big Idea crams so much information and extras onto one little title that it's more of an all around Digital/Video/Audio ENTERTAINMENT extravaganza. And you'd believe that the image or audio would have to suffer as a result. But they do not. They are stellar, rivaling work by the Hollywood Big Boys. Again we are treated to enlightening and fun videos about drawing characters and the creation of the show. We are offered the chance to make tasty candy or sing along with the penguin band. Successfully answering the trivia questions leads to a hidden National Geographic-type featurette and we even get an interactive storybook previewing the forthcoming title The Amazing Carnival of Complaining. So instead of providing Uncle Walt and his employees with another couple million in stock options or helping The Teletubbies spread their "alternative" idiot-based child psychobabble across the globe, why not give 3-2-1 Penguins! The Cheating Scales of Bullamanka a try. While not as unsuspectingly pleasurable as the debut disc in the series, it suggests more good things to come from the folks at Big Idea. And don't let the pro-Christian religious slant dissuade you. It's not every day that a Bible-based computer animated cartoon can deliver maximum merriment along with its moralistic message. But then again, not every religious title is 3-2-1 Penguins. Just be warned. These fearless space birds will quickly become habit forming.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Big Idea
• Penguin Audio Commentary
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