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DVD Review: Patrick Henry: Quest for Freedom

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"I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" – Patrick Henry, Address at St. John's Church, Richmond, Virginia, March 23, 1775

It's one of the most famous speeches ever given. But the average person probably knows little about the speech itself or the man who gave it — Patrick Henry.

American Animation Studios founders John Derrick and Doug Zanger set out to make the History's Heroes DVD series to tell stories just like this one. The series will tell stories of American heroes that most schoolchildren would otherwise miss. Patrick Henry is just one of those heroes.

The movie features Boomer, a wise-cracking bald eagle that not only helps to tell the story but inserts commentary during key events to help the target audience (kids age 8-12) understand what's happening and what's being said. The humorous moments are few and far between. However, the character is used effectively to interpret Henry's trademark oratory.

The video tells only a little about Henry's life and abruptly ends after his famous speech. But it does a great job of helping the audience understand why Henry's speech was so important. War with Great Britain was an almost certainty in 1775 but Virginia was reluctant to join the colonists' quest for freedom. As a result of Henry's stirring oratory, Virginia threw its support behind the move for independence.

The filmmakers have done a pretty good job of telling at least part of Henry's story. There are, however, glaring omissions, such as the fact that he served five terms as Governor of Virginia during the Revolution. He was also was of the key proponents of the Bill of Rights.

The film also suffers technically as the animation is not as smooth or sophisticated as most young viewers have become accustomed to through a steady diet of feature films from Pixar and Dreamworks. The characters sound too "southern" — more like the Beverly Hillbillies than real Virginians. Despite these flaws the film is still enjoyable and serves its primary purpose: to teach young viewers about history through entertainment.

The filmmakers should be applauded for this admirable first effort in the History's Heroes series. Educators will no doubt find the films useful whether in the classroom or in a homeschool setting. Hopefully the production quality will continue to improve with further releases so that History's Heroes can become an essential part of history classes everywhere.

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