Judge Lacey Worrell reviews a DVD ideal for kids whose parents can't get them to stop watching Days of Thunder.
Put the pedal to the metal!
Real Wheels: High Speed Adventures is a high-energy DVD for kids containing three episodes of the Real Wheels television show that has aired on various public television stations since the mid-1990s. Each episode is hosted by Dave Hood and Becky Borg, who have a series of adventures that depend on the topic the episode addresses. The episodes included on this DVD are as follows:
•"There Goes a Race Car"
•"There Goes a Motorcycle"
•"There Goes a Spaceship"
Kids will likely be fascinated by Dave and Becky's adventures, because both hosts display a great deal of enthusiasm and energy for the topic at hand. They are not passive observers; they fully immerse themselves in learning how to safely drive race cars, practice good motorcycle safety, and conduct basic simulations of life in space. There are many positive things emphasized throughout each segment, such as reminders to the viewers to visit the library to learn more about a given topic. Another strength of this DVD is the writing: Dave and Becky explain highly technical concepts of physics in an easy-to-understand manner that just may pique kids' interest in the fun, rather than the laborious, side of basic scientific principles. For example, in "There Goes a Spaceship," Dave explains centrifugal force so clearly and completely that I found myself wishing he had been my eighth-grade science teacher.
Given the positive aspects of this series and the admonishments to stay in school and off drugs, it was rather shocking at the end of "There Goes a Motorcycle" to see Becky and Dave accept a ride from a stranger when their motorcycle breaks down by the side of the road. There is so much care and attention given to sending solid messages to kids, it is surprising to see that this glaring exception was overlooked. Also, in the opening segment of "There Goes a Racecar," there are far too many plugs made for Toyota. Another negative in this series is the tendency for some of the segments to devolve into slapstick. Typically, Dave acts silly and Becky has to rescue him. The two of them often digress into scripted arguments and corny jokes, and while young children will probably find it funny, adults may find themselves inwardly groaning at the forced hilarity.
The special features are quite nice and add to the overall experience. Dave tours the country on a "Real Wheels Live" tour, and this DVD contains a 10-minute excerpt from the stage show. Surprisingly, this featurette is entertaining and manages to avoid feeling like an overblown commercial for the stage show. The interactive glossary is helpful in defining some of the more technical terms used in the various segments, and the episode-specific blooper reel is worth a look as well. Dave and Becky come across as genuinely nice people who can laugh at themselves and who are committed to providing quality programming for kids. Another feature worth noting is that it is possible to access the main menu almost immediately upon turning on the DVD, which is a rarity in preview-laden children's entertainment, and an especially welcome one for impatient little viewers. The overall quality in terms of video and audio is excellent; the colors are bright and crisp, and the sound effects, such as revving race car and motorcycle engines, are also very good.
This Parents' Choice award–winning series is recommended for ages 3-8, which, judging by the presentation, is an appropriate recommendation. That said, older brothers and sisters may not mind watching the wide variety of vehicles and adventures showcased on the DVD.
Thanks to the solid writing, intriguing subject matter, and professional hosts, Real Wheels: High Speed Adventures is a solid investment for your kids' DVD collection. Kids will most likely be riveted to the screen, making repeated viewings almost a guarantee.
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