Jamie Lynn Spears shines as a boarding-school co-ed in ''Zoey 101''
Jamie Lynn Spears shines as a boarding-school co-ed in ''Zoey 101.'' Plus: ''Zoom: Academy for Superheroes,'' books that dish the ''Scoop on Poop,'' and some not-so-''Hip Hop Mozart''
Jamie Lynn Spears shines as a boarding-school co-ed in ”Zoey 101”
Zoey 101: The Complete First Season
(Not Rated, 306 mins., 2005)
A mash-up of The O.C. and Saved by the Bell: The College Years, Zoey 101 is half beach, froth and cute teens, and half collegiate experience. The teensy-weensy difference? The main characters — with Jamie Lynn Spears, Britney’s younger sister, leading the way as Zoey — are only eighth graders. But then what’s with the post-high-school environs? They’re at boarding school doing lots of learning (about the three Rs and loads of other adolescent-important issues). The setting is a tad unrealistic, yes, but it’s a harmless fantasy for your can’t-grow-up-fast-enough tweens and teens. Zoey is that girl in school that everyone loves — she’s likeable, fair, and truly a friend to everyone. And Spears turns in performances that improve with each episode. She may be relatively new to acting, but she comes off as a natural.
Zoey attends Pacific Coast Academy, which has just begun accepting girls. The sprawling campus is outfitted with dorm-style living and roommates, an on-campus movie theater, food court, and lots of freedom for its sun-drenched student body. The addition of girls to campus living forces the show to lean on the push-and-pull between the sexes. For instance, the pilot episode sees Zoey and her roommates try out for the basketball team, much to the chagrin of the boys. Later, as the boys and girls warm to each other, Zoey’s goofy gaggle of friends plan their Spring Fling, dupe each other during Prank Week, and produce commercials for a class project. And although the boys and girls do mingle, most of the interaction is harmless — dates (sans kissing or any other sexuality) are all that transpire. More importantly, the characters are confident and likeable.
DVD extras include a ”Before They Were Cast Mates” feature of the stars’ audition tapes and a random extra episode, ”Quarantine,” which oddly fast-forwards more than a year from the show’s finale. Although this dramedy may gloss over some of the more realistic teenage experiences (like the whole living-at-home-with-parents thing), a blooper reel shows the real deal: silly, young teens just having a good time together. Don’t worry, though — the school’s administrators and teacher have a small, but guiding, presence, too. B+ —Tanner Stransky
Recommended ages: 10 and up
Zoom: Academy for Superheroes
(PG, 83 mins., 2006)
Jack Shepard (Tim Allen) is a former superhero with a gut; an auto shop owner who’s only in tune with his special abilities when he needs to blend a milkshake (his finger does nicely). When the government recruits him to turn a motley group of kids into a fierce fighting team, he’s nothing if not reluctant. The team consists of young people with various talents: There’s Dylan, a hunk who can make himself disappear; Summer, who has telekinetic power; Cindy, a JonBenet look-alike who can literally throw tons of weight around; and Tucker, who can expand specific parts of his body at will (the funniest example is when he empties an entire swimming pool after diving in with a humongous backside). Sure, the humor can be broad, but it doesn’t prevent this picture, based on a graphic novel, from delivering its message — that kids everywhere just want to appear normal and be accepted. Chevy Chase and Courteney Cox, as two science nerds in the academy, try their darndest to up the comedic factor. C —Eileen Clarke
Recommended ages: 5 and up
Hip Hop Mozart
(30 mins., 2006)
Voy Baby: Discovering Colors
(56 mins., 2007)
Here are two discs that try to follow in the big footsteps of the Baby Einstein company, with mixed results. Hip Hop Mozart fares better, combining classical music and old favorites like ”Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” ”Old MacDonald,” and ”The Wheels on the Bus,” with a pleasing hip-hop beat. Voy Baby sets out to teach colors in English and Spanish, but introduces way too many colors when it should allow little eyes to focus on the main color being taught. Que lastima. Hip Hop Mozart B-; Voy Baby D —EC
Recommended ages: newborn-4
Flush! The Scoop on Poop Throughout the Ages
By Charise Mericle Harper
Parents may be slightly repulsed, but little kids, who love everything scatological, will be delighted by this history of plumbing, told in silly verse. ”What, you ask, is a chamber pot?/Well, here are things that it is not/It’s not a pot to keep your money/pretty flowers, toys, or money….But if at night you have to go/(and feel some rumblings down below)/and toilets aren’t invented yet/A chamber pot is your best bet.” What did people do with chamber pots after they used them? How did the Romans deal with sewage? What did Spaniards and Eskimos do with urine? I listened to my teenage daughter read this to a very happy five-year-old, who demanded a second reading…and a third…A —Tina Jordan
Recommended ages: 3-6
Gone Wild: An Endangered Animal Alphabet
By David McLimans
I missed this beautiful book when it came out last year, but it recently won a Caldecott, and rightfully so. In simple, stunning black-and-white illustrations, every letter of the alphabet is rendered as an endangered animal: P is for piping plover, T is for Andean tapir, N is for black-spotted newt. Each entry lists the animal’s class, habitat, range, threats (like logging, hunting, and farming), and status (critically endangered, vulnerable, and so on). A glossary at the book’s end gives more information about each of the animals. A —TJ