This show makes Judge Erich Asperschlager want to grow up as quickly as possible.
"Yo ho! Way to go!"
Jake and the Never Land Pirates is set some time after the events of Peter Pan. Never Land has been hit by some kind of extinction event, killing off everyone except for the nefarious Captain Hook, a few members of his crew, and a trio of orphaned children who are forced to fight for what little scraps of humanity remain on this former island paradise…Wait. What? I've just been told that Jake and the Never Land Pirates isn't so much a gritty survival horror series as a Disney Junior cartoon for preschoolers. Well, that explains all the talking animals.
I'll blame the mix-up on the fact that, despite being set in Never Land, this show has almost none of the characters or charm of the classic Peter Pan. The stars of the series are three generic youngsters named Jake, Izzy, and Cubby. Along with their pet parrot Skully and an anthropomorphic pirate ship named Bucky, they go on a series of ten-minute musical adventures filled with "pirate problems" that need to be solved with help from the audience. This participation comes in the form of requests for help, followed by silence, then an enthusiastic "Great!" It's the kind of call-and-response that works great if your kids like talking back to the TV, but sounds ridiculous if they don't.
Each time the viewer helps the gang solve a problem, they earn gold doubloons. These doubloons go into the "Team Treasure Chest" at the end of each adventure, making this feel less like a TV show and more like the video game your kids might wish they were playing instead. Oh, and don't worry if you forget how the doubloon system works—they remind you at least twice an episode. This world has other ridiculous and arbitrary rules designed to keep young viewers involved, including the pixie dust Izzy can use to fly, but "only for emergencies." On the one hand, it's a good way to keep Jake and his gang from using magic to solve every problem they run across; on the other hand, Izzy's liberal definition of "emergency" lets them use the dust pretty much all the time.
Jake and the Never Land Pirates pits Jake and his pals against the classic Disney characters Captain Hook and his first mate, Smee. Instead of the villainous buccaneer from Peter Pan, however, the Hook of Never Land Pirates is more like the Trix Rabbit. Nearly every episode starts with a lame-brained plan to steal something from the kids. The only plot points that change are the object of Hook's obsession, and the way in which his plan fails. The result is a highly repetitive series that might be entertaining to the tiniest tots, but for anyone with a normal attention span, Jake and the Never Land Pirates wears out its welcome by the second episode.
Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Yo Ho, Mateys Away! comes with seven episodes, presented in a clean, colorful 1.78:1 anamorphic picture with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound:
• "Hats Off to Hook/Escape From Belch Mountain"
• "Hide the Hideout/The Old Shell Game"
• "Izzy's Pirate Puzzle/The Never Land Games"
• "Off the Hook!/Never Say Never!"
• "Cubby's Sunken Treasure/Cubby's Goldfish"
• "Happy Hook Day!/No Returns!"
• "The Sky's the Limit!/Bucky Makes a Splash"
Yo Ho, Mateys Away! comes with a handful of extras, including a five-minute short where Jake and the gang teach viewers how to dress and talk like a pirate; and a collection of the silly, and genuinely entertaining, music videos that appear at the end of each episode, performed by two members of the pirate-themed rock band Captain Bogg and Salty.
The set also comes with that same collection of songs on a bonus CD, and an "official" eye patch.
Although there's nothing particularly bad about Jake and the Never Land Pirates, there's nothing great about it either. The DVD package is a decent buy for parents of young fans, but if your kids aren't already invested there are better entertainment options out there. I know I'm not the target audience for this show, but it's hard to imagine any child would prefer this pale imitation of Disney greatness to the animated classic that inspired it.
You don't have to walk the plank, but I know a deck that could use a good swabbing.
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