Judge Lacey Worrell takes on three elements in her review of the latest release from this educational kids' series.
Aim for the horizon!
Real Wheels: Land, Air, and Sea 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 Boat"
•"There Goes a Helicopter"
•"There Goes the Mail"
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 the intricacies of boating, operating a helicopter, and sorting the mail. There are many positive things emphasized throughout each segment, such as the importance of using life vests when boating, and 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, Dave's lesson on how boats float is conducted with a bucket in a swimming pool, something kids and parents can easily replicate at home in the bathtub.
The only 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 get into scripted arguments, and in the boating segment, each takes a pratfall off a boat. As mail carriers, they are chased by dogs and get caught in lawn sprinklers. Young children will probably find it funny, but 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 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 the foghorns on the boats, 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: Land, Air and Sea 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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