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Handy Manny: Big Construction Job DVD Review

Handy Manny: Big Construction Job DVD cover art -- click to buy DVD from Amazon.com Handy Manny: Big Construction Job
Show & DVD Details

Creators: Roger Bollen, Marilyn Sader / Developers: Rick Gitelson

Writers: Mike Rabb, Rick Gitelson, Guy Toubes, Kevin Monk / Director: Charles E. Bastien / Line Producer: Vanessa Tilley

Regular Voice Cast: Wilmer Valderrama (Handy Manny), Carlos Alazraqui (Felipe), Dee Bradley Baker (Turner), Grey Delisle (Flicker), Nika Futterman (Stretch, Squeeze), Tom Kenny (Mr. Lopart, Pat), Kath Soucie (Dusty), Fred Stoller (Rusty), Nancy Truman (Kelly) / Guest Voices: Brian George (Mr. Kumar), Julian Stone (Dandy Dan), Daran Norris (Jack), Bob Gloubermann (Sherman), Shelley Morrison (Mrs. Portillo), Jessie Corti (Renaldo), Greg Ellis (Nigel)

Running Time: 70 Minutes (1 special & 2 episodes) / Rating: TV-Y
1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (Hi-Def Broadcast Ratio) / Dolby Surround 2.0 (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; Closed Captioned; Extra Not Captioned or Subtitled
DVD Release Date: November 16, 2010 / Suggested Retail Price: $26.99
Title Special Originally Aired October 11, 2010; Other Episodes Unaired
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9); White Keepcase
Also available with Mickey Mote ($29.99 SRP)

Buy from Amazon.com: Just the DVD DVD + Mickey Mote

At first glance, "Handy Manny" may have looked like a routine fusion of the bilingualism of "Dora the Explorer" and the construction motif of "Bob the Builder." And it may be that,
but the computer-animated series has endured for four years now and presently ranks second to "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" as Playhouse Disney's biggest draw with kids 2-5.

As his name suggests, Handy Manny (voiced by Wilmer Valderrama) is a skilled Latino handyman, who with the help of his living, talking tools, fixes problems for the town of Sheetrock Hills. It's a happy, friendly community that Manny and his friends serve with smiles and positive attitudes. In addition to demonstrating some moral values for young viewers, the series nonchalantly tosses in Spanish phrases throughout, either with English meanings immediately following or context making them obvious. Even the least absorbent kid will gain some secondary language knowledge from the show along with values like asking for help, standing up to fears, sharing your feelings, and being polite.

The town of Sheetrock Hills gathers around Handy Manny and his tools in the title logo used on the episodes not yet aired. Manny and the tools join the construction crew of Dandy Dan, an Aussie who lives up to his name with some fancy power tools.

The main attraction of Big Construction Job, the seventh and latest DVD devoted to the series, is the recently-debuted titular special (46:24; Originally aired October 11, 2010).
The case calls it "a full-length adventure!", and although it just barely meets the Academy Awards' defining 40-minute runtime (which divides "shorts" from "features"), it does run four times as long as the show's standard installment and required twice the regular half-hour airtime.

In it, the tools are itching to work on a big construction job, but Manny has reservations about accepting Australian man Dandy Dan's (Julian Stone) offer to do a job in distant Concrete Falls. He ultimately accepts, taking the crew to a real exciting construction site with giant cranes and power tools. Back in Sheetrock Hills, the hopeless candyman Mr. Lopart fills in for Manny, or rather tries to and fails miserably. The community misses its handyman and Manny gets homesick too.

That primetime special is complemented by a never-before-seen half-hour of episodes (23:59) guaranteed not to air before January 11, 2011. In "Good Fences", Manny and the tools help build a fence between Renaldo and his neighbor Mr. Kumar, learning about compromise in the process. In "Butterflies", the gang works on a new entrance for the butterfly conservatory.

In Manny's absence, Mr. Lopart fancies himself the town's new handyman, a position for which he's highly unqualified. Manny mediates on the fence that is to divide the lawns of neighbors Renaldo and Mr. Kumar.

Alongside its standard DVD release, Big Construction Job is issued in a Mickey Mote + DVD Play Set. Priced just a few dollars more than the DVD itself, the box includes a new kid-friendly DVD remote control to enhance the bonus Discovery Mode playback. While the standard DVD version was sent of this, I was unable to program the Mickey Mote included in the concurrent "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" review copy. If you can get it to work, it's really just a more easily handheld version of your DVD remote's directional pad with different color shapes accompanying typical arrows.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Unlike the concurrent latest "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" DVD, Big Construction Job happily presents its show in 1.78:1 "family-friendly widescreen", or the original aspect ratio of its high-definition broadcasts. The simplistic animation is an extremely far cry from Pixar, but it's capably (and unsurprisingly) presented here with nary a flaw. The 2.0 Dolby Surround soundtrack offers adequate atmosphere and top-notch clarity.

Level 2 of the Discovery Mode really turns up the heat with four-choice questions. Manny's blinking is the most exciting foreground activity of the DVD's somewhat animated main menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The only bonus feature is what has quickly become the Playhouse Disney DVD standard, Discovery Mode. This alternate form of playback can be experienced in two different difficulty levels, each offered in hands-free Auto Play and remote-requiring Active Play.
While the latter neatly quizzes you on moments of the program in regularly scheduled interruptions, the former simply makes an observation and takes you back. The Discovery Mode is provided only on the title special.

The disc also includes a series of Mickey Mote programming tutorial videos.

The FastPlay DVD opens with promos for Disney Blu-ray, the Mickey Mote, Bambi: Diamond Edition, and Tangled. The menu's Sneak Peeks listing repeats them, followed by ads for Disney Movie Rewards, The Search for Santa Paws, "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse", Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2, and Dumbo: 70th Anniversary Edition.

The listings stay still, as does Manny for the most part, while on-site construction occurs around them on the DVD's main menu.

Inside the white keepcase, one finds a Disney Movie Rewards code, a Discovery Mode insert that surprisingly doesn't talk up the Mickey Mote, and a booklet of ads that includes a $3 coupon towards Mickey Mote-compatible discs.

Manny's tools want to be a part of a big construction project like the ones they read about in books. They get their wish, hence the title "Big Construction Job." Butterfly in the new conservatory entrance can only fly so high, and that's the way Nigel, Manny, and the tools like it.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

For its steep price, Big Construction Job is sort of light on content, especially compared to all that's offered on the new "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" DVD. However, the presentation satisfies and, with or without the Mickey Mote, the Discovery Mode truly does enhance the show's replay value. The show itself may not carry the rich character history of "Clubhouse" but the less regimented and interactive "Handy Manny" delivers sufficient bilingual edutainment for the very young.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com / Buy the DVD + Mickey Mote Play Set

Buy from Amazon.com

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Handy Manny Episodes: Handy Manny: Tooling Around Handy Manny: Manny's Pet Roundup My Friends Tigger & Pooh: Hundred Acre Wood Haunt
Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Mickey Saves Santa and Other Mouseketales Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Choo-Choo Express Mickey's Christmas Carol
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Reviewed November 15, 2010.