Scholastic is on a bit of a roll right now. We are only a few months removed from the release of Arnie the Doughnut, an all time classic in my opinion, and now we are fortunate enough to have in our midst the incredibly sweet and super fun Ralph S. Mouse and More Exciting Animal Adventure Stories (released yesterday - 9/25/2007).
The title rodent is an indoor mouse with a love of fast cars, peanut butter cookies and most of all - his trusty motorcycle. He calls a woodsy mountain inn home and considers a young boy named Ryan his best friend. Ralph's problem is not uncommon for mice - people don't want him around. After one of his joy rides scares away a couple looking for a place to stay (we get the feeling guests are pretty rare around the inn) the desperate hotel manager issues an ultimatum to the innkeeper (played perfectly by the late Ray Walston, perhaps best known as Uncle Martian from the classic TV program My Favorite Martian) - get rid of that mouse or get fired!
Ralph's zany adventure begins the very next day when he manages to sneak his way into Ryan's school, soon becoming the centerpiece of a class project. Ralph S. Mouse (the S stands for Smart) the film is based on Ralph S. Mouse the book, by the timeless Beverly Cleary. Scholastic presents Ralph in charming half live action, half dimensional (albeit a bit scruffy) animated fashion in a nice video collection, along with Syd Hoff's Stanley and the Dinosaurs and Uncle Elephant by Arnold Lobel. Ralph S. Mouse was filmed 17 years ago and does look that old, but for a young girl who does not judge decor or fashion, but rather simply enjoys a good tale, Ralph S. Mouse is perfect.
The additional animated shorts are enjoyable, but do not match the joy my girl experienced when watching Ralph. In Stanley and the Dinosaurs we see a very different kind of caveman slowly become accepted by the less-sophisticated caveman society, then break out into hilarious song with dinos.
Uncle Elephant is at first, a dark and fairly slow moving tale of Arnie, a young wannabe comedian elephant, whose weak attempt at humor continues to fall on deaf ears. There is a seriously ominous scene and dream sequence as his parents go missing at sea and then an uncle Arnie doesn't know arrives mysteriously the next day, whisking him away quickly. This is a bizarre scenario and may be quite scary (both the missing mom and dad and the unknown uncle taking temporary custody) for a younger child. Fortunately, the action turns happier, upbeat and slightly inspiring. All ends well but I cannot totally shake the odd 5 minutes and circumstances in the middle of Uncle Elephant.
Luckily, the other 80 minutes of this Scholastic Video Collection are solid, humorous and as always, are lined with lessons big and small for our youngsters. I understand that these last two films have appears in prior collections, which is a bit weak for Scholastic. I can imagine a family building a library of Scholastic videos passing on this one for that very reason and if that costs their kids a chance to see Ralph, than that is a shame.