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Cory in the House on DVD: All-Star Edition • Wish Gone Amiss • Newt & Improved Edition

"Cory in the House": Newt & Improved Edition DVD Review

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Show & DVD Details

Creators: Marc Warren, Dennis Rinsler / Michael Poryes, Susan Sherman (Characters) / Executive Producers: Marc Warren, Dennis Rinsler, Patty Gary-Cox, Michael Carrington, Michael Feldman, Al Sonja L. Schmidt / Writers: Al Sonja L. Schmidt, Marc Warren, Sarah Jane Cunningham, Suzie V. Freeman / Directors: Eric Dean Seaton, Rondell Sheridan, Mark Cendrowski

Cast: Kyle Massey (Cory Baxter), Jason Dolley (Newton "Newt" Livingstone III), Maiara Walsh (Meena Paroom), Madison Pettis (Sophie Martinez), John D'Aquino (President Martinez), Rondell Sheridan (Victor Baxter)

Recurring Character: Lisa Arch (Samantha Samuels) / Notable Guest Stars: Zolee Griggs (Tanisha), J.R. Nutt (Alexander), Jake Thomas (Jason Stickler), Alexandra Krosney (Blonde Ashley), Brittany Finamore (Jennifer), Marcelo Tubert (Ambassador Paroom), Natalie Amenula (Saruza Zamuti), Richard Assad (Ambassador Zamuti)

Running Time: 90 minutes (4 episodes) / Rating: TV-G
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio) / Dolby Digital 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: May 27, 2008 / Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
Episodes originally aired between November 2007 and January 2008
White Keepcase; Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)

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By Aaron Wallace

Flawed though it was, "That's So Raven" worked for just one reason -- Raven. That poses a serious problem for a spin-off looking to apply the same "Raven" formula without the headlining star. And yet with reckless disregard for family unity,
Disney has severed the Baxter household and whisked the less interesting half off to Washington, D.C. for a new series: "Cory in the House".

The spin-off resembles Disney's other big cash cows in that it takes place in an unusual dwelling (see "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody"'s Tipton Hotel) and flirts with the limelight of fame (see "Hannah Montana"'s pop star in disguise). The "House" that Cory (Kyle Massey) is "in", you see, is the White House, where he serves in the very important role of son to the head chef to the President of the United States.

That's where the show begins to go wrong. Even if we can swallow the implausibility of small-time restaurant owner Victor Baxter (Rondell Sheridan) being recruited to take over as the White House's chef and invited to live there with just one of his children and without his wife, the link between Cory and the President is too distant to give rise to interesting or likely stories on an episode-by-episode basis. While Raven Baxter's psychic abilities might have proven useful to the head of state, the White House is instead given her brother, whose talents are limited to clumsiness and Ebonics. The most excitement that the bland protagonist can conjure is a clichιd attempt to ask out a girl or some minor mishap that winds up interfering with diplomacy.

Kyle Massey, apparently watching playback of "Cory in the House." Newt (Jason Dolley) joins Meena (Maiara Walsh) for some cell phone "Cory in the House" viewing.

Strengthening the tie between Cory and the President are first kid Sophie (Madison Pettis) and White House personal assistant, Samantha Samuels (Lisa Arch), who more credibly interact with Cory on a regular basis. These characters, particularly Sophie, are the most tolerable. The least is the President himself (John D'Aquino), whose ineptitude isn't charming, but annoying. I don't even think it's a jab at George W. Bush -- the Disney Channel is just once again reveling in excessively silly adults.

Likewise, Cory's best friends (two in number -- one boy, one girl -- per Disney Channel formula) are too over the top for even low standards to be satisfied. That's especially true for Newt Livingston (Jason Dolley), whose stupidity finds him routinely misunderstanding the simplest of statements so that plot-dependent chaos can ensue. The fictional heritage of Meena Paroom (Maiara Walsh) is likewise blown out of proportion in order to create conflict or a cheap throwaway. "That's So Raven" relied on the inanity of several supporting characters for broad comedy. "Cory in the House" has done the same for its entire cast.

To be fair, "Cory" does serve up the occasional laugh. But then so does C-SPAN, and when's the last time you bought ninety minutes of random floor debates on DVD? At least then the political connection would be legitimate and stimulating. Overwhelmingly, "Cory in the House" fails to entertain and can't even amount to much of a diversion. It's laughable, then, that Disney would slap a $20 price tag on a random sampling of four episodes when there's no shortage of "Cory" on basic cable TV every week. That's exactly what they've done, though, with "Cory in the House": Newt & Improved Edition, the second single-disc compilation of the series on DVD. The episodes included within are profiled below, as is the lone bonus feature.

Cory in the floor! Cory finds himself caught in the middle of Newt's kissing booth.

1. The Presidential Seal (22:35) (Originally aired November 17, 2007)
In an attempt to impress a history buff he hopes to date, Cory invites the young lady for a tour of the Oval Office. While inside, he (by inexplicable accident) shakes ink all over the presidential seal in the office carpet. To remedy the situation, Cory enlists Newt to find a new seal and Newt returns with neither an emblem nor the singer, but a marine mammal.
Meanwhile, Victor frets over the proper preparation of an expensive fish for the impending visit of Japan's President.

2. Through the Roof (22:35) (Originally aired December 1, 2007)
Cory's band has to write a new song by the end of the day or they'll lose their gig. Rather than brainstorming, Cory and Newt spend the day goofing off but ultimately lose their tempers. As luck would have it, an unforeseen see-saw accident lands both Cory and Newt in the roof, where Sophie's scout troop -- led by an exasperated Meena -- comes to the rescue.

3. Lip Service (22:35 (Originally aired January 19, 2008)
Cory organizes a joint make-out session with Newt and two lady friends but when Newt refuses to lock lips with his date, Cory is confused. Meanwhile, Sophie consistently beats Victor at different games, much to his chagrin.

4. Peace, Love And Misunderstanding (22:35) (Previously Unaired)
Cory's new love interest (Natalie Amenula) is the daughter of the ambassador to a country with a deep historical rivalry against Meena's homeland. Cory finds himself caught in the middle of a feud based on stolen figs and name-calling. Elsewhere in the White House, Sophie tries her hand at pulling pranks. This episode is "never-before-seen" as of the DVD's release but that won't last for long; it's scheduled to close out the current season. It just so happens that this is the best of the four episodes too.

President Dad (John D'Aquino) and First Daughter (Madison Pettis) get silly. Where's the Secret Service when you need them? See, it makes sense that there's just one White House chef -- there's just the one fish to fry.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Each episode is presented in 1.33:1 "fullscreen", matching its original broadcast ratio. Disney Channel Original Series tend to look overly bright and a little blurry and that's the case with "Cory in the House" but the DVD's presentation isn't to blame.

Though the packaging boasts "Dolby Digital Surround Sound", the episodes are actually presented only with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. That's okay, however, as the show is originally presented in stereo and The Disney Channel's surround sound tracks rarely offer much to speak of. The sound is clear, audible, and free of noticeable problems.

It takes this many people to write "Cory in the House"? Cory in the 16x9 Main Menu!

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and DESIGN

The DVD offers just one bonus feature, categorized as Backstage Disney. "Breakin' Down 'Cory in the House'" (12:53) is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of "Peace, Love And Misunderstanding".



Browse more available TV show posters,
photos and memorabilia
The featurette is better than the more generic kind of promo spot that one might expect but is at the same time a far cry from a production diary. Nevertheless, I found this brief bonus to be the best thing on the DVD.

The disc is packaged in a standard white keepcase, inside which are three inserts: an episode selection card, a Disney Movie Rewards magic code (currently worth 75 points), and a mini-booklet of advertisements. The 16x9 main menu features a star-spangled montage of character stills and the series' Kyle Massey-rapped theme song. The sub-menus are all still screens but each features an instrumental selection from the show's score. The disc is equipped with Disney's FastPlay so that your DVD effectively becomes a VHS as the trailers, the four episodes, and the lone bonus feature play in succession with no remote control intervention required. To disable FastPlay, just press the Menu button on your remote at any time.

The Sneak Peeks included on this DVD are: Camp Rock on The Disney Channel, Camp Rock on DVD, Minutemen, "Wizards of Waverly Place": Wizard School, "Phineas and Ferb": The Fast and the Phineas, Sleeping Beauty: Platinum Edition DVD and Blu-Ray, Wall-E, "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody": Lip Synchin' in the Rain, and the Disney Movie Rewards program. All of these are accessible from the main menu. Additionally, Disney's "Movies, Magic, More." spot plays upon disc insertion (but cannot be accessed from the main menu).

Cory unknowingly exposes his posterior to a room full of diplomats. Now, that's comedy! "Cory in the House" takes a racy turn with this steamy make-out party.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

"Cory in the House" squanders a potentially intriguing premise -- teenaged life in the White House -- with broad, silly humor and uninspired, one-dimensional characters. With only four episodes of a very weak TV show and just one bonus feature, the Newt & Improved Edition is a poor value at almost any price. It's bad enough that Cory is in the White House. Keep him out of yours.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

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Reviewed May 28, 2008.