The description 'family comedy' can be a signal to strike fear into the hearts of both
youngsters and parents. Everyone who has cringed through "wholesome"
entertainment knows the dangers of being assaulted by squeaky clean characters living in
'Leave It To Beaver'- inspired worlds of sickly artificiality. Luckily that's not the case
with The Braniacs.com, a pleasant little charmer for kids to enjoy and not feel like
they're being talked down to.
The plot has been around in various guises for years, probably because the message is
always worthwhile if the treatment's up to scratch. Here it involves young Matt Tyler
(Michael Angarano) who feels neglected by his father David (Kevin Kilner). Dad's been
widowed for 4 years and spends all his time running a toy company he's hoping to expand
with the help of bank manager Ivan Lucre (Dom DeLuise). When yet another camping trip is
cancelled Matt and his buddy Danny (Kevin Jamal Woods) decide to raise money from kids
around the world and soon have the required millions to buy out Tyler Toys. Communicating
as a "Max Headroom"-ish cyber character known as 'Mr Chips' Matt takes over the
company and institutes the kind of work practices real factory bosses ought to look at if
they really want to improve productivity.
Naturally things spiral out of control when nasty Lucre shows his hand and the Feds
come snooping in search of the revolutionary microchip Matt's sister Kelly (Vanessa Zima)
has been working on without knowing it's been used as collateral for the boy's fundraising
activities. There's no shortage of incident in this entertaining package directed by
"Power Rangers" veteran Blair Treu and it has appealing players who help carry
off a story that's a little too goofy at times but has a good heart. The star of the show
is Michael Angarano who is one of the brightest juvenile performers we've seen in a while.
The romance between dad and bank employee Miss Banks (Melrose Place/Baywatch star
Alexandra Paul) is nicely done and the message about the importance of quality time is
delivered in friendly style.
Best of all this treats its target audience (6 to 12 year-olds) with respect and gives
them old-fashioned fun with toys and modern fun with computers to be entertained by. With
the exception of a too-hammy Dom Deluise, its smoothly performed and the whole enterprise
has a bouncy feel to it that adds up to good value for money.