Kid 'Investigators' Try to Solve Fun Mysteries

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Don't let your kids watch the new WB show "Phantom Investigators" alone.... Why should they have all the fun?

This wildly inventive treat, beginning Saturday at 10:30 a.m., features kooky kid detectives with strange powers, supernatural mysteries and some of the most wonderfully weird animation to hit the small screen in a long time.

The pint-sized P.I.s are a quartet of San Francisco middle-schoolers: occult expert Daemona; Casey, a shy shape-shifter; laid-back, telekinetic Jericho; and telepathic Kira, the group's "psychic cell phone." Their mysterious mentor, Professor Navarro, rounds out the group, along with Jinxie, a fanged monster, and Wad, an overgrown, pink lump of living bubblegum.

In the first episode, angry tribal spirits threaten to sink a popular snob's birthday party with thunderous noise and poltergeist activities. Turns out the boy has a shaman's magical staff, and the shaman wants it back.

There's mild vulgarity--expect to hear the word "butt" more than once--yet this off-the-wall, funny-scary tale, with its pop-music beat, doesn't ooze attitude. Laudably, lessons about friendship, empathy and honor, plus a few educational tidbits, take precedence.

It's the unique combination of stop-motion puppetry, computer-generated imaging and live action, however, courtesy of creators Stephen Holman and Josephine Huang, that will keep viewers tuned in: the human characters with three-dimensional puppet bodies and flat, paper heads; spirits wackily portrayed by real actors, or modeled out of various substances; and those marvelously detailed miniature sets that almost steal the show.

"Phantom Investigators" can be seen Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. on the WB. The network has rated it TV-Y7 (may be inappropriate for children younger than 7).

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