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The Suite Life of Zack & Cody on DVD: Taking Over the Tipton • That's So Suite Life of Hannah Montana • Sweet Suite Victory

"The Suite Life of Zack & Cody" Sweet Suite Victory DVD Review

Buy The Suite Life of Zack & Cody: Sweet Suite Victory from Amazon.com The Suite Life of Zack & Cody: Sweet Suite Victory
Show & DVD Details

Executive Producers: Danny Kallis, Irene Dreayer, Jim Geoghan

Creators: Danny Kallis, Jim Geoghan / Writers: Billy Riback, Howard Nemitz, Adam Lapidus

Director: Rich Correll

Cast: Cole Sprouse (Cody Martin), Dylan Sprouse (Zack Martin), Brenda Song (London Tipton), Ashley Tisdale (Maddie Fitzpatrick), Phill Lewis (Mr. Moseby), Kim Rhodes (Carey Martin)

Notable Guest Stars: Estelle Harris (Muriel), Brian Stepanek (Arwin), Alyson Stoner (Max), Adrian R'Mante (Esteban), Charlie Stewart (Bob), Allie Grant (Agnes), Monique Coleman (Mary Margaret), Vanessa Anne Hudgens (Corrie), Kathryn Joosten (Grandma Marilyn)

Running Time: 68 minutes (3 episodes) / Rating: TV-G
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio) / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned; White Keepcase
DVD Release Date: August 7, 2007 / Originally aired between 2005 and 2006
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9); Suggested Retail Price: $19.99

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By Aaron Wallace

Though "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody" hasn't produced the kind of mania that "Lizzie McGuire", "That's So Raven", and "Hannah Montana" have, it's nearly as popular as those Disney Channel mega-hits. Ratings are solid and day-long marathons, big-name celebrity guest stars, and special "event" episodes are regular occurrences. Its titular stars, young twins Dylan and Cole Sprouse, have signed on with DualStar Entertainment as the next set of Olsen & Olsen media moguls
and their supporting duo of Ashley Tisdale and Brenda Song each have hit TV movies to their credit. The show entered its third season this summer, becoming only the third series in Disney Channel history to pass the once-ironclad limit of 65 episodes.

It's easy to understand "The Suite Life"'s appeal. The premise is an exciting one, for starters. Living in a hotel, as Zack (Dylan Sprouse) and Cody (Cole Sprouse) Martin do with their lounge singer mother Carey (Kim Rhodes), has been chronicled on television before. The Disney Channel aims it focus on those for whom this residency might be most adventuresome, though: tween twin brothers. It just so happens that the show is targeted to roughly the very same age group, for which the prospect will be equally intriguing. The allure of zooming through corridors on luggage carts, around-the-clock maid and room service, and an unending cavalcade of new guests are alone enough to pique interest. If likable characters and gripping storylines are thrown into the mix, you've got all the makings of TV gold.

Unfortunately, "The Suite Life" only throws one of those two elements into the mix. The colorful characters turn up dutifully and in mostly good form but the storylines almost always leave something to be desired. Rudimentary and familiar, episode plots are the last reason you'd ever tune into "Zack & Cody". You would tune in, though -- or at least you should, if the show falls anywhere within your realm of interest -- for a few other reasons.

Carey (Kim Rhodes) stands firmly on middle ground during her twin sons' frequent bickering. Zack (Dylan Sprouse) and Esteban (Adrian R'Mante) have a heart-to-heart about what it is that women want.

The aforementioned thrill of youthful resort life is worth a lot more if it's experienced on-screen by the kind of varied and atypical personalities that would compliment such a bustling, zany, and unusual lifestyle. That's exactly what "Suite Life" delivers. The starring twins, whether feuding or scheming together, present a kind of welcome humor in their take on life that borders on sarcastic. They share screen time with another, older duo: hotel employee Maddie Fitzpatrick (Ashley Tisdale, High School Musical) and hotel heiress London Tipton (Brenda Song, Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior). While the show never deals with such issues in depth or with too serious a tone, the class divide between the two young women creates a dynamic ripe for exploring common trials of friendship. This leads to interesting character interaction on a regular basis. Together comprising the primary cast, these four tween-to-teen stars make lobby life a lot fun.

They're surrounded by a group of adults who are comparatively quite wacky. This is perhaps to the satisfying amusement of younger viewers but to older audiences, it's an obvious attempt at broad and basic humor. One might object that an older audience's take is of little consequence to a Disney Channel show, but I find "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody" to be accessible for viewers of any age.
It's not something you'd set aside precious primetime viewing for, but then it isn't on during primetime and so reasonable expectations can make way for reasonable enjoyment. Perhaps that's because of the entertaining-despite-their-absurdity cast but more than likely, I think it's that the fantasy of permanent vacation is one that even adults like to indulge in.

Its humor may occasionally err on the side of silly and forced comedy. Its characters may sometimes err on the side of stereotypical or unrealistic. Its writing may almost always err on the side of clichι. Nonetheless, there's a great deal of charm in "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody", a series that overcomes all its many flaws to delight and excite in a way that no other currently-in-production Disney Channel series can. This isn't great television but I dare say that's true of a few other series you've taken to before as well. There's no guarantee that you'll keep coming back for more but at least a small dose of this series is medicine you can easily swallow.

The "Band in Boston" isn't Aerosmith, but rather a music group that Zack (Dylan Sprouse) sees as his ticket to fame and fortune. Cody (Cole Sprouse) is frustrated that his bandmates don't take competition as seriously as he does.

That's where Sweet Suite Victory comes in, the latest single-disc DVD compilation of "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody" episodes. Whereas the first such release presented five episodes in total and the second offered a three-part cross-over special and a bonus episode of the show, this newest DVD serves up only a measly three episodes. The first emerges from the debut season and stands out as one of the series' worst while the others hail from season two and fare quite a bit better. All three episodes are described and appraised, along with the rest of the disc's slim contents, in the remainder of this article.

"Band in Boston" (22:38) (Originally aired May 20, 2005)
The twins and their band compete against Maddie and London's band in a music competition hosted at the hotel, though the internal rivalry threatens to make a loser out of all the participants. Cody is flustered by Zack's nonchalant approach to music-making while London is offended that Maddie deems her singing voice unsuitable for a microphone. One of the show's earliest and weakest episodes, this is filled with an annoyingly overactive laugh track that overshadows the story and accompanying jokes.

Max (Alyson Stoner, a.k.a. Sally from "Mike's Super Short Show") shows Cole the newest ad in Zack's presidential campaign. Mrs. McClusky from "Desperate Housewives" stops by Tipton land to keep lonely Maddie company on her birthday.

"Election" (22:38) (Originally aired March 21, 2006)
Employing a school-set sitcom staple, this episode finds Zack and Cody competing against one another for the office of class president. As usual, Zack is all flash while Cody is all business and neither seems to get things right.

"Not So Suite 16" (22:37) (Originally aired March 24, 2006)
Maddie is tiffed when London plans her own random birthday extravaganza on the date of Maddie's actual birthday.
Zack and Cody are forced to choose between the conflicting "Suite 16" parties while London tries to balance both of her divorced parents being on the guest list. This episode features a mini High School Musical reunion as well as a guest appearance from a recurring "Desperate Housewives" star.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Each episode is presented in the series' native 1.33:1 fullscreen. "The Suite Life" is filmed on digital video rather than film, giving the show a bright, hyper-colored, glossy, and sometimes soft appearance. The lighting, though intensive, is pretty good, which helps to achieve a better look than some of the show's similarly-produced brethren. Aside from occasional edge enhancement, the disc's video quality doesn't show any problems that aren't inherent in the episodes' production. The same goes for audio. The episodes are presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and are easily heard and understood.

Muriel (Estelle Harris) gives her performance a little too much oomph in one of the Season One "Suite Life" bloopers. Brenda Song hosts "Sweet Lift Challenge" from an elevator monitor screen. The twins stir up a little dust in the main menu of "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody": Sweet Suite Victory DVD.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

There are two bonus features on the disc. The first is a funny gag reel (4:35) from the series' first season that provides a nice behind-the-suite glimpse.




Browse through more photos, posters, and
memorabilia from The Suite Life of Zack & Cody
As is often the case with DVD gag reels, I wish it was longer but am happy that it's included.

The second is "'The Suite Life''s Sweet Lift Challenge", a virtual set-top trivia game hosted by a very un-London-esque Brenda Song. The game challenges players to climb from the hotel basement to the penthouse level by answering a series of trivia questions. I don't use the term "challenge" here lightly. Many of the questions will be tough for those who don't know the real-life stars well and the ever-diminishing time allotment increases the difficulty. I'm not complaining; it's nice to have a game that's neither tedious nor insultingly easy for a change. Along the way, you're likely to get a number of questions wrong, but you'll learn plenty of interesting tidbits.

The nicely animated main menu takes you inside the elevator shaft, where doors open to reveal a lobby tormented by the mischievous Zack and Cody. An instrumental rendition of the theme song and sound effects play softly in the background. The sub-menus are all still screens but are at least accompanied by theme music. There isn't a Scene Selection menu but each episode (accompanied by a "Play All" option) is divided into several chapters. The standard white keepcase in which the disc is housed also includes an ad booklet, an episode selection card, a fold-out locker poster promoting December's High School Musical 2 DVD, and the magic code for the Disney Movie Rewards program, in which this is a participating title.

The disc opens with previews for The Jungle Book: Platinum Edition, Return to Halloweentown, and Meet the Robinsons on DVD. From the main menu, one can also see sneak peeks at "Hannah Montana": Pop Star Profile, High School Musical: The Concert: Extreme Access Pass, The Santa Clause 3, and the Disney Channel's "Cory in the House."

London rings in her birthday like a true diva in "Not So Suite 16." Zack takes his campaign vehicle out for a spin in "Election."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

As Disney has unfortunately decided against complete season sets of "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody" (at least for now and the foreseeable future), the multi-episode compilation sampler is the only way to bring the series home. It's a flawed show but despite spotty writing, acting, and production, there's a likability factor open to just about any interested viewer. Sweet Suite Victory offers a pair of enjoyable bonus features but with only three episodes, the disc isn't recommended even if the show itself is.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
New to DVD: Cory in the House: All-Star Edition • Full House: Season 7 • Home Improvement: Season 7 • Disturbia
Featuring Suite Life Episodes: That's So Suite Life of Hannah Montana • Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior • Disney Channel Holiday
The Suite Life of Zack & Cody: Taking Over the Tipton • Phil of the Future: Gadgets & Gizmos
Hannah Montana: Livin' the Rock Star Life • Hannah Montana: Pop Star Profile
Lizzie McGuire: Box Set Volume 1 • That's So Raven: Raven's Makeover Madness • The Even Stevens Movie
High School Musical (Remix) • High School Musical: The Concert - Extreme Access Pass • Cow Belles • Twitches
The Parent Trap & The Parent Trap II: 2-Movie Collection • The Parent Trap (1998)

Related Interview:
Click to read our interview with Brenda Song, star of "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody" and four Disney Channel Original Movies.
Brenda Song, star of "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody"

The Suite Life of Zack & Cody on DVD: Taking Over the Tipton • That's So Suite Life of Hannah Montana • Sweet Suite Victory

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Reviewed August 7, 2007.