Lazytown: Surprise Santa And Other Stories Review
And so the Christmas release schedules begin to fill up and rightly so with Surprise Santa, the first of five stories included on this second Lazytown release. And - joy! - it includes Cooking By The Book, which might just be the most infernally catchy thing since the Plague, albeit with less bloodletting, rats and death. It also has one of the very best Lazytown episodes - Lazytown's Secret Santa, which has Robbie Rotten extolling the virtues of, well, rottenness with his plan to put an end to Sportacus via a giant snowball and an equally giant cannon. Complete with all the gags that one expects of the show - Stingy explains that whilst he's happy with the gift-getting aspect of the season, he's less enthused with the gift-giving - this is another welcome release from the Lazytown stable.
As a recap, Lazytown stars Julianna Rose Mauriello as Stephanie (Julianna Rose Mauriello), who arrives in Lazytown to stay with her uncle, Mayor Melford Meanswell. Managing to upset Robbie Rotten (Stefán Karl Stefánsson), who, admittedly, lives on an emotional knife-edge in a cavernous underground bunker, Stephanie nonetheless becomes friends with sweet-toothed Ziggy (Gudmundur Thor Karason), selfish Stingy (Jodi Eichelberger), wicked Trixie (Amanda Maddock) and geekish Pixel. However, whilst all of these can be handled by Rotten, he's less content with her friendship with Sportacus (Magnús Scheving), an above average hero who lives in an airship above Lazytown and who, with his talk of sports candy, ball games and energy, riles Robbie Rotten, even to his planning twisted and evil acts to rid Lazytown of Sportacus - or Sportaloser as Rotten describes him - for ever.
The five episodes on this release begin with Lazytown's Surprise Santa, in which Robbie, despite his planning to knock Sportacus into next week with a giant snowball, is made welcome at the Lazytown Christmas dinner when he finds that he's been left a gift under the Lazytown Christmas tree. But with the snowball sitting inside a giant cannon, which is on a timer - inconveniently, Robbie has forgotten to reset his trap - the Christmas party may end with a bang more spectacular than anyone had expected. This is followed by Miss Roberta in which Robbie learns that Stephanie is trying to teach the other kids manners, particularly after their giggling at Ziggy's burping, which he then interrupts with the intention of teaching them some very, very bad manners. Including that burping is amongst the very finest of sounds produced by the human body!
With Sports Candy Festival seeing the kids plan a fair to celebrate sports candy - fruit and vegetables to you and I - Robbie interrupts their plans by scaring them whilst dressed as giant vegetables...first as a carrot, then an apple and, finally, a rotten-sized and very rotten banana. Second from last, Sportacus Who?, sees Robbie wiping Sportacus' memory, setting him to work in an ice-cream parlour and taking over his airship. But with Sportacus not getting his sports candy - ice-cream is, apparently, a poor substitute for apples - can the kids rescue him in time? Finally, in Robbie's Greatest Misses, Robbie wonders why all of his efforts for getting rid of Sportacus have failed. But then he decides to use all of his evil plans against Sportacus. All at the same time!
It's still a wonderful show - all the better for including Cooking By The Book - but it remains one best suited to children. There are moments that will appeal to mums and dads, particularly those involving Robbie Rotten, but Lazytown is simply a europop concoction of songs, puppets, lessons in being good (and bad), fruit and vegetables and a little girl in a pink wig. It is, in spite of what you might think about all of that, insanely entertaining and if your children's eyes can withstand the somewhat ironic sugar rush of its primary colours, this will be a real treat for them. My own three - two, four and six - were positively hooked on Lazytown over the summer and these discs have gone down even better than either sports candy or the more sugar-laden normal candy. With the Christmas season almost upon us, you could do a good deal worse.
Coming so soon after the release of the first Lazytown DVD, Surprise Santa and Other Stories suffers from exactly the same problems as Welcome To Lazytown but, again, remains looking better on DVD than it ever has done on television. The problem remains that Lazytown is a demanding show for any digital medium with much use of CG effects for backgrounds, which is then not helped by Sportacus, Stephanie and, in spite of his laziness, Robbie Rotten rushing about the screen. Put simply, if you can cope with Lazytown on CBeebies or, less impressively, Nick Jr., then this DVD presentation won't pose a problem, looking sharper and with less edge enhancement than it ever has on Sky Digital.
However, it doesn't help that with so frenetic a release, that this is obviously only an interlaced presentation, something that is made perfectly clear as one watches it. Similarly, the DD2.0 soundtrack audio track isn't a bad one, actually it's really very good, and exhibits no faults. Finally, there are English subtitles.
The only extras on this release are a set of sing-along songs, including Bing-Bang, I Love Christmas, Good Stuff, Have You Ever? and Master Of Disguise. There is a Play All option but still no Cooking by the Book!
In the week that I write this, Sportacus, or Magnús Scheving, has been on the radio to explain that thanks to Lazytown, childhood obesity is falling in his native Iceland and, being words from the wise, one should never talk about exercise to a child, simply playing. With that in mind, Lazytown never talks down to its audience, extolling in them the virtues of simply running, playing football, gymnastics and dancing, all of which is designed to keep them healthy. It's a great show and with the wonderful Lazytown's Surprise Santa, it's a good pairing for the already-released Welcome To Lazytown. And, of course, the soundtrack album that's already in the shops and the Sportacus and Stephanie dressing-up outfits that will be on letters being posted up the chimney between now and Christmas Eve.