Sunday, October 3, 2010

Book Review: Adventures in Odyssey: Cause & Effect (52)

This review is from: Cause & Effect (Adventures in Odyssey) (Audio CD)
Album 52 comes on the heels of album 51 which marked the re-launch of Adventures in Odyssey. That album marked a total shift in style, characters, and even talent for the show. In this album, Andre Stoika is still not natural to me as Whit, and I doubt he ever will be. The absence of so many old AIO characters is still jarring, and the presence of too many new characters with too similar voices gets confusing.

Still, some of the changes are welcome. Eugene hanging out at Whit's End is cool (even if a little odd, since Katrina is mentioned but never heard from). The Parker family, particularly Mom and Dad, are the strongest AIO family in quite some time; too bad they are really only in 2 episodes.

All of the changes represent a massive shift in the show as Odyssey tries to maintain relevance. It really seems, especially in this album, to be more of a spin-off series than a continuation of the AIO of albums 1-50. I really think album 51, 52, and following should be referred to as "The New Adventures in Odyssey". Nevertheless, they are still top-notch quality shows with excellent morals and teaching for kids.

Below is a quick review of each show on the album:

Mystery of the Clock Tower - This episode is a serious mystery (unlike the Emily Jones Detective Agency mysteries) that actually allows listeners to figure out the clues along with characters. Clever listeners will be able to figure out the solution before Whit and the gang. The one thing that keeps this episode from being so classic is that it simply isn't as emotionally compelling as it could have been. One of the central characters (Wendy) doesn't even appear vocally in the show. 4/5 stars

Wooton's Broken Pencil Show - I reluctantly have to admit that this show is actually very clever. I don't generally care for Wooton, but this episode made me find some depth to the character, and I found myself laughing in spite of myself. 5/5 stars

Stage Fright - This is another mystery and slight allusion to Phantom of the Opera. It has a fairly childish conclusion and is generally not as clever or strong as it could have been. 2/5 stars

Fast as I Can - AIO occasionally tries to tackle the Spiritual Disciplines, and they've done fairly good episodes about some of the practices in years past. This episode is only the latest, but unfortunately it comes off more irreverent and indifferent than it should, not taking the disciplines seriously. One thing that did make me smile is the goof when Whit refers to them as the "spiritual disciples" early on in the show. Frankly, though, it would have been better to ignore the disciplines than to handle them so callously and irreverently. 1/5 stars

Opposite Day - This semi-cute episode deals with the important issue of social networking and friendships. It actually had an important lesson for me, proving that AIO does still have some original morals and ideas left up their sleeves. It's a good reminder that real, genuine friendships aren't easily made and don't come in large quantities. Being a good friend to your real ones is much more important than being a friend to everyone. 3/5 stars

The Owlnapping - One of the weakest storylines in the album. This story is as old as dirt and has been done on almost EVERY kids show. It deals with the importance of using symbols, traditions, etc. correctly. It has a good point: "When we start to think that traditions can help us, we are in danger of replacing God" But the point has been made so many times that it takes away from this episode. 2/5 stars

Square One - Not the strongest but certainly not the weakest episode on the album. It's a fairly sweet episode about trust, friendship, and letting friends be who they are. 3/5 stars

A Thankstaking Story - Clever Spoof of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Pretty hilarious. 4/5 stars

An Agreeable Nanny - This is an interesting nod to Mary Poppins as the Parker kids get a new nanny. It's funny and has a good point for younger audiences. 4/5 stars

The Malted Milkball Falcon - Another Emily Jones Detective Agency mystery, this one a bit better than Stage Fright, but still fairly weak. It deals with responsibility and honesty in a way that helps remind kids that even white lies are real lies. 2/5 stars

Grandma's Christmas Visit - This is a nice, sweet episode dealing with the dangers of replacing Christ with busyness and traditions. It's also a nice follow-up to Grandma's Visit from the last album. Listening to it in early October may have been strange, but it put me in the mood for Christmas already. 4/5 stars


Overall, this album is a nice but not outstanding addition to the AIO cannon and a decent follow up to album 51. No episodes stand out as either very strong or very weak, but it does provide the launching pad for good family discussions. Not all the episodes are designed with the "whole family" as was true of earlier albums, but the album does have something to please nearly everyone.

Looking forward, album 53 promises to be a real treat: a 12-part mystery about money, plane crashes, and green rings. Don't miss it!

*Please note: Anatomy of the Soul was provided free of charge by Tyndale Press for review purposes. The author of this review received no financial compensation and has not been influenced by Tyndale Press, the author, or any entity concerning this product.