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Wayside: The Movie DVD Review

Buy Wayside: The Movie from Amazon.com Wayside: The Movie (2007)
Show & DVD Details

Director: Ricardo Durante / Creator: Jon Derevlany / Writers: Lin Oliver, Jon Derevlany

Voice Cast: Kathy Najimy (Mrs. Jewls), Michael Cera (Todd), Kedar Brown (Principal Kidswatter), Sergio Dizio (Louis), Jayne Eastwood (Miss Mush), Lisa Ng (Dana), Denise Oliver (Maurecia), Martin Villafana (Myron)

Original Air Date: October 1, 2005 / Running Time: 49 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / 5.1 Dolby Digital (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: None; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: September 25, 2007
Suggested Retail Price: $16.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5); Black Keepcase

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By Albert Gutierrez

By a show of hands, how many of us have been turned into apples when we were children? Who here has tried to sell toes for five cents apiece, gotten trapped on the nineteenth story, or actually ate Mushroom Surprise? Anybody? Come on, someone must have played a rousing game of Way-High-Up Ball or tattooed a potato to their ankle. No one? Oh well.

Even if you never experienced such oddities, they are depicted as normal events in stories from Louis Sachar's Wayside School book series, which began in 1978 with Sideways Stories From Wayside School. By 1989, further stories could be found in Wayside School Is Falling Down, and 1995 saw the series' conclusion with Wayside School Gets A Little Stranger.
In addition to these adventures, two Sideways Arithmetic books were released, teaching readers that elf + elf = fool, Miss Mush is tall enough to reach the flagpole, and pop quizzes aren't a surprise anymore if they fall on a Friday. Unfortunately, the absurd and wacky charm found in the books has been translated into a disappointing cartoon series that was launched late in 2005 with the hour-long special known as Wayside: The Movie.

The movie focuses on first few days of Todd (voiced by Michael Cera), a new student at Wayside School. Wayside was supposed to be a one-story school with thirty classrooms next to each other, but the builder looked at the blueprints sideways and constructed a thirty-story school with classrooms on top of each other. Most of the children don't mind, as it means they have an extra large playground and on Science Day, they can perform gravity tests, which is how Todd is introduced to the offbeat teaching methods of Mrs. Jewls (Kathy Najimy), who professes on the thirtieth floor.

The simplistic and unimpressive logo for the movie foreshadows the simplistic and unimpressive movie itself. Todd is overjoyed when the walls stop caving in, but Maurecia would have preferred the two of them be crushed together.

Frequently seen among Mrs. Jewls' students are a skater named Maurecia (Denise Oliver), the pompous class-president-wannabe Myron (Martin Villafana), and his best friend Dana (Lisa Ng). The three get the most (and only) attention despite being accompanied by oddball characters like Sharie, who always sleeps; Stephen, who wears a Halloween costume; and the upside-down John.

Todd immediately stands out among the students as a normal kid, and is immediately mistaken for a monkey. He tries desperately to fit in, even though Mrs. Jewls continually throws his desk out the window, then cites him as being a troublemaker for not sitting in his seat. Eventually, three infractions gets him sent home on the dreaded kindergarten bus, bringing back memories of his old school and how he inadvertently destroyed all the kindergarteners' toys. Wanting to put that behind him, Todd tries helping out at the school and making it "normal", with minimal success. When he notices that the walls seem to be moving in on the classroom during Principal Kidswatter's (Kedar Brown) frequent announcements, his concerns go ignored. The only one that seems to be on his "side" is Louis the Yard Teacher (Sergio Dizio), who finds out he accidentally cross-circuited the trash compactor to the PA system. Also, it seems the builder accidentally switched the trash compactor with the thirtieth story, thus turning Mrs. Jewls' classroom into a large compactor.

I really wanted to like Wayside. I was a big fan of the books in elementary school, so news of an animated series was met with both anticipation and apprehension. However, the end result is too far gone from the book that in most cases, it's "Wayside" in name only. Sure, there are a great deal of elements from the books that make their way into the movie, but most are changed to suit the confines of a cartoon series, and ultimately the changes greatly outweigh the consistencies. Mrs. Jewls' class of 28 students in the books is now expanded to thirty, yet only a few actually have major roles. And many, if not all the characters differ greatly from their print incarnations. Take the main character of Todd, for example. In the books he tries hard to be good, but ends up going home on the kindergarten bus every day. He's got a love-hate relationship with Joy, and is Maurecia's favorite ice cream flavor (it's a long story). In the movie, Todd is the "new kid" replacing the now-absent Benjamin Nushmutt, Joy has also disappeared, and Maurecia has not once mentioned an affinity for ice cream. Oh well, at least Todd still ends up on the kindergarten bus.

Kathy Najimy provides the voice of Mrs. Jewls, the teacher on the thirtieth floor of Wayside School. Poor Todd is trapped on the kindergarten bus with a particularly vile little girl.

I shouldn't fault the movie for not being a faithful adaptation of the books. After all, no movie ever truly is, and this one really serves more as the introductory piece to the television show, which I have yet to see since I don't have digital cable, where Nicktoons Network is found.
But according to some quick research, aside from recasting Todd, Louis, and Mr. Kidswatter's voices, little else is changed. Summaries of several episodes reveal that they are "new" adventures, i.e. very few stories from the books are used. That's a pity, as I would have loved seeing the writers tackle Myron's thought-provoking "Freedom" story, the substitute teacher Mrs. Drazil, or Allison's misadventures on the 19th story.

I feel sorry for young children who have read the Wayside School books and discover this show later on. It's a letdown as an adaptation and a letdown as a cartoon. Even if Wayside lived up to its namesake, it would still be a pain to watch. The animation is reminiscent of "Fairly OddParents" and "Powerpuff Girls", offering overdrawn thick lines and little fluidity in movement. It's not a particularly pleasing form, and the lack of engaging characters and interesting stories make the animation all the more unbearable.

Despite the grief I give to Wayside, there are a few humorous bits. A busted PA system leads to Principal Kidswatter inadvertently driving a young student to tears ("stupid mic, stupid mic!" is heard by poor little Mike), and minor characters like Louis and Miss Mush are given some entertaining one-liners. The memorable replacement of "door" with "goozack" is intact, and the entire "Todd's a monkey" introduction scene is probably the best, and most faithful, part of the movie. It's just too bad that everything else is a waste of time.

Mr. Kidswatter abuses his out-of-service microphone while Louis watches in horror. If I had to pick one character that most resembled how I felt while watching "Wayside: The Movie", it'd have to be the irate Mr. Kidswatter.

VIDEO and AUDIO

The movie arrives on DVD in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, enhanced for widescreen TVs. Beyond looking ugly in design, there's not much to heap complaint or praise upon.
At least the colors are strong and prominent. Audio is served up in Dolby Digital 5.1, with your choice of English, French, or Spanish language. There's nothing particularly stimulating to report on here. No DVD subtitles are provided, but there is English closed captioning.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

You'd think that we could have at least gotten a bonus episode or two from the actual series, but instead all we get is previews for various "Spongebob Squarepants" DVDs and "Avatar: The Last Airbender." These trailers play when the disc loads and are available on the main menu.

The static 16x9 menu offers no music, perhaps preferable to hearing Skye Sweetnam's vocals in the theme song. The cover art succeeds in making the movie look more appalling than it really is, with such a cheap design that you'd think this was something in the $1 bin.

Miss Mush is overjoyed to hear that Todd wants some of her deadly Mushroom Surprise! Myron promises to deliver a substandard unfunny cartoon series while campaign manager Dana has disturbingly large bucked teeth.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Stick to the books! Wayside: The Movie offers a few genuinely funny moments, but it's a far cry from quality children's entertainment. The DVD is a waste of time and money, even for the few fans there may be for this wretched adaptation. If you see this on store shelves, just walk away and shut the goozack on your way out.

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Reviewed September 23, 2007.



Text copyright 2007 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2005 Nelvana Limited and Corus Entertainment, and 2007 Paramount Home Entertainment.
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