Judge Bryan Pope has often thought of his own body as a magic vehicle, but something svelter than a bus. A Passat, perhaps, or maybe a Miata.
"We're here to get the inside story!"
The Friz is back, and this time she's taking Arnold, Wanda, and the gang on a fantastic voyage through the human body. In "Flexes Its Muscles," the kids use their knowledge of the human skeleton, joints, and muscles to build a robot. Everything is swell until the robot goes haywire. Next, the Friz and her young charges go "Inside Ralphie" to find out what's making him sick. In the process, they learn about blood cells, including how white blood cells help protect the body from disease. "For Lunch," Arnold mistakes the microscopic Magic School Bus for a cheese doodle and swallows it, taking his class on a wild ride through his digestive system.
Magic School Bus: Human Body showcases the Emmy-winning television series (and award-winning series of science books) at its best. That may have something to do with the subject matter. Human anatomy is among the most fascinating topics the series has ever tackled, and, here, they treat it like high adventure, with danger lurking at every turn. "Inside Ralphie" turns the throat into a battlezone with the white blood cells attacking bacteria, the bacteria retaliating, and the Magic School Bus caught in the crossfire. In "For Lunch," the bus gets dropped into an ocean of stomach acid, which quickly begins to eat through the frame of the bus.
It's tense, suspenseful, downright fun stuff, and so packed with information that it demands multiple viewings. The kids are a likeable and diverse bunch, and Ms. Frizzle, the brainchild of creators Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen, always seems on the verge of a wonderful kind of madness. She's voiced by the great Lily Tomlin, who practically sings her dialogue. When white blood cells attack the bus, she tells the kids, "That's right! They'll try to destroy us!" But she sounds positively elated, which isn't the reaction you expect when you're about to be torn apart by a blood cell the size of an elephant.
Any kids' show about human physiology that doesn't shy away from some of the icky realities of human physiology earns my seal of approval, and Magic School Bus is no exception. When the class embarks on a tour of Arnold's digestive tract, we know there's only one logical place for their bus to wind up, and we hold our breath wondering how the show will address it. Without making too big a stink (oh come on, you would have said it too), the show neatly sidesteps the issue and delivers a more tasteful denouement. But not before showing the bus getting pelted by large masses of waste matter. Trust me, your kids will love this.
Magic School Bus: Human Body is presented in its original full-frame format with Dolby 2.0 Surround. Only one extra feature is included, but it's way cool and guaranteed to fascinate your child. Using x-rays, sonograms and small cameras, "A Peek Inside: A Map of the Human Body" takes the viewer inside the body for a closer look at blood vessels, the stomach and the heart. It also shows how joints work and how food travels from the mouth, down the esophagus and into the stomach. This is a terrific teaching tool for bringing anatomy to life (so to speak) for your child.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• A Peek Inside: A Map of the Human Body
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