Judge Dennis Prince loves kids, but not when he's trying to catch a tropical buzz with a Blue Hawaii in one hand and his darling wife in the other.
Picture this: a beautiful sunset serves a backdrop to swaying palms just off the white sand beach. The smell of hibiscus hangs lightly in the air, while the sound of softly lapping waves provides a rhythm of romance for you and your spouse. Just then, little Nathan blurts out, "I want a coconut hat like that one!," while younger Seamus has been busy painting his face with poi.
Ah, the magic of the islands.
Well, it sounded like a good idea at the time yet, perhaps unwittingly, Travel With Kids: Hawaii The Big Island proves once again that there's no quicker way to kill an intimate exchange between two consenting adults than to involve children. Yes, if you're one of those young, upwardly mobile twentysomethings who insist upon proving that their ability to grab the gusto the world has to offer will, in no way, be hampered by their previous decision to bear children, well, this disc has been designed especially for you. In it, you'll watch the Simmonses—Jeremy and Carrie—embark on an adventure with 3-year-old Seamus and 5-year-old Nathan to explore the majesty of the Big Island known as Hawaii. Immediately, though, a subtle warning is provided, one that should be seriously heeded:
Welcome to Travel With Kids Hawaii—The Big Island where exploration and swimming with dolphins are tempered with the reality of traveling with children—naps, temper tantrums, and lots of fun.
Really? That's an interesting disclaimer that's immediately followed with:
Let's face it—traveling with your kids isn't always easy and can be an adventure…
OK. I'll accept that this could very well become a good idea turned bad, but I'm game enough to go along with the idea and will accept that families should be encouraged to travel just like those who venture out without small children. Perhaps this intriguing DV production will offer parents some uniquely useful advice they can't glean elsewhere. However, as the show unfolds, I find that much has been glossed over and tidily presented, never venturing into the realms of what happens when the camera isn't filming (thereby confirming the panacea effect achieved in the editing room). Immediately, I'm suspicious.
But Seamus and Nathan are cute as buttons and never appear to protest at any stage of their trip to Hawaii (or at least that's what we see). It's all good as these two cheerful tots seem to welcome the change of scenery, routine, and even diet. Never is there resistance to the long hikes along the trails of the Volcanoes National Park nor refusal to gobble down the island fare at the local luau that doesn't include anything remotely resembling a Kool-Aid juice box, Skittles, or Cookie Crisp cereal. And never do we hear any mention of missed afternoons with Blue's Clues, Dora the Explorer, or SpongeBob. These kids are remarkably adaptable.
Again, I'm suspicious.
We follow the Simmons clan—well, mostly Seamus and Nathan—as we try to figure out just how it is that this trip flows so smoothly with nary a peep or protest nor tired retort about having to set up another scene. It seems so easy, doesn't it? Well, it's not. Being a parent of two, I know that even a quick visit to the local Whatever-Mart can be a test of wills and often an ill-timed adventure in backseat diaper wrangling. It ain't poi, that's for sure. To this end, I quickly determined this disc wasn't being entirely forthcoming in its delivery and was certain to be leaving viewers unprepared for the "real reality" of traveling with children. Heck, just listen to any comedian tell his humorous-in-hindsight encounters with youngsters on an extended plane ride—of course, he wasn't laughing then. But the Simmonses contend that this can be transformed into an exciting and enthralling experience for all, provided travelers are well-equipped.
Honestly, the disc intends to demonstrate to parents in absolute denial that bringing children along for a vacation not involving giant smiling mice and overpriced candy-coated confections that a fun time can be had by all—provided they're properly outfitted with an arsenal of collapsible accoutrements that can transform any foreign setting into all the normalcy of home with a simple flip of a lever and flick of the wrist. If you're properly prepared, you can easily transform any exotic locale into the mundane routine of Suburbia, USA. Never mind the clumsiness incurred with lugging all the odd-sized and unevenly shaped regalia halfway across the ocean. And don't worry about any inconvenience this can cause to your fellow travelers and vacationers, they who have to scramble to avoid collision with your doublewide stroller or duck to prevent a contusion inflicted by your oversized baby backpack. This is all about you and your family, right?
So perhaps I'm too harsh, huh?
I'll concede that the program does well to provide a look into some of the lush sights and spellbinding geography of Hawaii but, for my money, it fell short of motivating me to book a trip of my own. Why? Well, as much as I was forced to look at Seamus and Nathaniel, I felt like I had been duped into sitting through somebody's home movies. Sure, the kids are cute, what with their round faces and doe eyes, but they unwittingly came across as upstaging the magnificence and majesty of the island paradise. Though it's a likely unintentional outcome, this shows how much tending to young children like this can similarly dominate a vacation and leave weary Mom's and Dad's wishing they could have enjoyed more of the island beauty themselves. To this, I say leave the kids at home! After all, that's why God made grandmas and grandpas, right? If that's not an option, then stay home yourselves and elect to visit the nearest animal park instead. There will always be time to explor! e some of the more impressive wonders like Hawaii, potentially more enjoyable by all when the kids are a bit older and less needy of constant accommodation.
The fact of the matter is, a program like this should explain more about how a vacation destination can cater to a young family and how parents can get the most enjoyment for themselves while accompanying their youngsters. Instead, this one comes from the perspective that the children are front and center, and that making sure they're fed and happy and aren't throwing tantrums is the No. 1 goal of such an excursion. Incidentally, how about some information about the services that might be available to allow Mom and Dad to enjoy a quietly romantic dinner by themselves while a kindly wahine faithfully tends to the little ones? There's nothing like that here, again delivering a message that insists the vacation destination must be transformed into a home-like setting in order to keep the little ones calm and collected.
Hey—just stay home, huh? There, problem solved.
Needless to say, I was disappointed with this DVD. I'm actually quite interested in taking my kids to the islands (they're several years older than the two cheerful cherubs shown here) and I was eager to find a program that would describe the adventure that would await them. Practically craning for a look at what is behind Seamus and Nathan, my kids quickly lost interest and returned to their gaming consoles upstairs. With that, I could only bemoan the fact that this program made its focus the two kids and how to "manage" a trip with youngsters in tow.
Shot with a SonyDV, the image here is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio that is clear but contains the sort of hand-held video elements you'd expect from home movies. The audio comes by way of a better-than-expected Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track. Extras on the disc include mostly text-based tips and recommended reading material. You'll also find things you can do at home to prepare expectations for an island visit (including how to make your own volcano), and a blooper real that hasn't much "bloop" to it.
Not surprisingly, I can't really recommend this DVD to travelers who are looking for serious advice for traveling with youngsters (especially that difficult-to-swallow truth that sometimes it's better to wait). If you're viewing this one for its travelogue potential, again, it dotes too much over the kids and not enough on the featured destination.
Guilty as charged. Sorry, kids.
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