TO REVIEW the three new "McGee and Mel" videotapes for children, we turn today's column over to Stephanie McClain, the 8-year-old niece of a certain video columnist. Stephanie's qualifications as a video critic are unsurpassed: She won a writing award in the first grade, she is within the "McGee and Mel" target age of 8 to 12, and she has watched more videotapes (from her columnist uncle's collection) than most kids twice her age.
The three tapes in the series include "The Big Lie," "Do the Bright Thing" and "Skate Expectations." The tapes mix live action with animation and star Joseph Dammann as Nicholas, an 11-year-old who is accompanied on his adventures by McGee, an animated pixie who helps Nicholas to develop his moral values.
Religion is a factor in the stories as Nicholas gets into and out of trouble; the religious messages are subtle and non-denominational. Here are the plots of each episode and Stephanie's pithy comments.
"The Big Lie" has Nicholas telling a lie about a local Indian to impress the kids at school. But the "bad boys" of the neighborhood demolish the Indian's home and injure his animals. Nicholas learns to confront the consequences of his lie and to make amends. Stephanie's opinion: "I liked it. I liked it mostly when the old man smiled and gave Nicholas a glass of lemonade." (We said her reviews were pithy).
In "Do the Bright Thing," Nicholas has to make decisions about right and wrong and how to spend his money wisely. McGee takes a trip into Nicholas' brain to see how 11-year-olds make decisions. Dick Van Patten guest-stars. Stephanie's opinion: "I liked when Nicholas went to the art store and instead of buying an art table he decided to buy a sketch pad and said, 'I want to help some people and save some money to buy a new bike.' "
"Skate Expectations" features a thrilling skateboard race to settle a schoolyard dispute. Nicholas finds he has to defend a smaller, unpopular friend against a popular oversize bully. The lesson teaches that cheaters never prosper. Stephanie's opinion: "I liked it because he liked that boy everybody called a nerd." Stephanie's conclusion: "I liked them all." For the record, so did her grandmother. The "McGee and Mel" tapes sell for $14.95 for each 30-minute episode, from JCT Home Video. JCT Home Video: (800) 223-7479.
'Ninja Turtles' money
Surge Licensing, which owns the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles characters, says the company will break $1 billion in retail sales for the year. That figure includes "TMNT -- The Movie," the subsequent videotape, the live touring show and subsequent soundtrack album, the animated TV series, the two video games, the Halloween costumes, the T-shirts, the plush toys, the action figures (including the new "Turtle Claus" Christmas gimmick), the "TMNT -- Subterranean Sewer Hockey" table game, the pencils, the lunch boxes, the boxer shorts . . . the list goes on.
Not much new makes it to video stores next week, as the studios take time off for the holidays. But we do get: Steve Martin and Rick Moranis starring in "My Blue Heaven," on sale next week for $89.95, along with "Longtime Companion," "El Diablo," "Pledge Night" and "Hiroshima."
"The Amityville Horror 4: The Evil Escapes" oozes into stores for $89.95 next week, as do "Framed," "Torn Apart" and "The Last Fling." "Honeymoon Academy," "Pledge Night," "Blood Games" and "Street Hunter" will sell for $79.95 each. Wrestling fans can look for another volume "World Wrestling Federation Survivor Series" for $59.95.