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Hatching Pete / Dadnapped
Double Feature DVD
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When Pete is begged by his best friend Poole to stand-in as their high school's mascot, the chicken, Pete agrees as long as his identity will remain unknown. Poole, who is allergic to the chicken suit but feels he can't quit being the mascot because his family legacy is to be the chicken, readily agrees to keep the secret. When Pete dons the chicken suit, he becomes transforms into an outrageous guy, and the chicken becomes a celebrity except no one knows that Pete is the chicken. With everyone anxious to find out the chicken's true identity, Pete must decide if it's finally time to admit that he's the man behind the beak.
Fourteen year-old Melissa could use some attention from her dad, Neil. That's because bestselling author Neil seems to spend most of his time creating exciting missions for his imaginary son teen spy Tripp Zoome. A daughter-dad vacation gets off to a rocky start when Neil tells Melissa that their vacation to the Grand Canyon will include a stop at a promotional event for his new Zoome book. What is supposed to be a quick detour ends up becoming a rescue mission after Neil is abducted first by overzealous kid fans, and then by two creepy brothers who might be dangerous. Now it is up to Melissa to tap into her inner Zoome and find the courage and know-how to save her dad.
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"Dadnapped" is the wackier of the two. It's almost a tween version of "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" with an familiar cast of Disney Channel regulars in a zany caper. Basically a young girl (Emily Osment) and her dad (George Newbern) bond because he, a popular kid's adventure series writer, is kidnapped. As is common with such comedies, the young characters are the most level headed and ultimately save the day, this time with trash, slime and dental floss for a gag-filled but nonviolent finale.
The actors are stars as far as frequent viewers of Disney Channel series are concerned. Most are given a chance to play roles outside the ones in which they are most frequently seen, particularly Jason Earles, who seems to be in more grown up role than on "Hannah Montana," playing a character named, yes, Merv. Ooooooooo. When this movie was promoted on the channel, they drew attention to "Phill Lewis as you've never seen him before," so part of the attraction was clearly seeing these transformations, though David Henrie of "Wizards of Waverly Place" is probably still eager for an opportunity to play a non-nerd.
"Dadnapped," being more or less a vehicle for the actors, is to my family a little less satisfying than Hatching Pete, which on the surface seems like a silly story about a teen who finds himself more popular in school from being inside a chicken suit at basketball games, but less popular as himself, is like the "Spider-Ma"n situation. There is an opportunity for some richness of character and relationships within the plot. Hatching Pete also benefits greatly from the boy-next-door appeal of Jason Dolley, who also scored well for Disney Channel as a lead in Minute Men.
As in "Dadnapped," various Disney Channel actors (a sturdy stable not unlike that of the early Disney days) have roles in "Hatching Pete," but in this film, the roles offer them a little more character range as well as changes of pace.
Both films offer some bonus material, though somewhat sparse. "Dadnapped" includes what amounts to a tag scene touted as an "extended ending" and a quite nice flash animated comic book style adventure featuring the character the Dadnapped dad created. "Hatching Pete" includes a short documentary about the mascot, which, according to my daughter, was not among the many interstitials from the Disney Channel.
Plus, an enclosed code allows you to unlock two music videos starring Emily Osment and Mitchel Musso -- again very much following a Disney tradition in promoting musical careers like Annette and Hayley Mills. It will be interesting to see where each of these performers go on their respective paths.