Welcome to “Oh, the Humanity!”, the column that reviews videogame-based movies and books. This time, I’m reviewing a 2001 VHS tape I found at my local library entitled Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?: Timing is Everything. Before I start my review, let me take a moment to explain why this VHS counts as a videogame spinoff.
In the 1990s, there was a TV show called Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?. It was a popular show, and they made several videogames based off it. You may already know about this.
The TV show eventually was cancelled, but the game series lived on. In fact, the series was so popular that PBS decided to make a new TV show out of it. Thus, Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? was born. It’s a TV show based off a videogame series based off a TV show. Thank you, The Learning Company, for seriously confusing me.
“Timing is Everything” is episode #406 of the show, and it focuses on the Civil War. The plot is that Mason Dixon, one of Carmen’s henchmen, fails at his attempt to steal a historical sofa (No, seriously! A historical sofa!). Deeply ashamed, he decides to bolster his ego by hijacking Carmen’s time machine and changing the course of history so he can be a Master Thief. The end result is that everybody gets thrown into an opposite parallel universe where Mason Dixon is the world’s greatest thief and Carmen Sandiego is an incompetent goon.
Fortunately, our heroes Zack and Ivy are completely unchanged by the time-meddling for no apparent reason. They decide they have to get the world back to normal by recovering the time machine and undoing the damage done by Mason Dixon.
At least, that would be the plot if it made sense. The heroes recover the time machine without any trouble at all, then they decide to totally forget about using it. Instead, they decide that the best thing to do in the alternate unvierse is to become friends with Carmen Sandiego and try to teach her how to become a great thief again. I have no idea who thought up that plan, but it’s probably the same person who was behind the “stealing a historical sofa” scheme.
Faithfulness to the Game: This movie/episode is kinda faithful to the game, I guess. It has the same general backstory about Carmen and ACME. Also like the game, it throws out random educational facts that will probably never come in handy. Did you know it sometimes took over a minute to take a photograph during the 1800s? That’s a long time! Rawr!
The similarities pretty much end there. The 2001 Carmen Sandiego game starred the lovable duo of agents Shadow Hawkins and Jules Argent. This 2001 video stars the more intense duo of Zack and Ivy No-Last-Name. All new main characters? When I was just starting to get used to Shadow and Jules, too? Aw…
I suppose I should mention the Chief, although I really don’t want to. They completely changed the Chief for this TV show. I mean, wow. Our beloved chief has been replaced by an odd-looking floating head with an annoying nasal voice. It’s…really bad. I mean, really. Almost so bad that I’m tempted to recommend nobody watch this TV show, just to be spared seeing this character.
Entertainment Value: Is this entertaining? Not really. I probably wouldn’t have watched it as a kid. The plot doesn’t make too much sense, and I don’t really like the “SHOUT AN EDUCATIONAL FACT AT YOU EVERY OTHER MINUTE!” kind of educational TV show (my apologies to Bill Nye). When the VHS stopped halfway through the episode, I was somewhat relieved that it had stopped. Especially since that meant I wouldn’t have to see the new Chief anymore.
What’s that? You want to see how unappealing the new Chief is? Fine. He’s at the start of the show’s theme song. He’s only on for a few seconds, but that’s a good thing.
Wait, that’s the theme song for the TV show? Come on! If you’re going to include a theme song, it should be the classic Carmen Sandiego theme, am I right? Of course, I’m right. Do it, Rockapella!