Carmen Sandiego is the latest rebooted animated series on Netflix which is based on an older property, in this case many edutainment video games and multiple prior animated series.
The Carmen Sandiego story is pretty simple; she is a master criminal who steals treasures from around the world. However, this series is a bit different from what has gone before in that this is a younger Carmen who has a new and exciting origin story that changes the context of her modus operandi. Carmen was abandoned as a baby in Argentina and was raised by the criminal masterminds at VILE (Villians International League of Evil) Academy in the Canaries. However, as she grew older Carmen realised that her surrogate parents were taking the riches of the world for themselves and thus depriving the world of culture and heritage. She philosophises, “I realised stealing isn't a game. It does harm people, especially when you're willing to steal lives," and so she decides to embark on many international heists, where she tries to retrieve and return the treasures that have been plundered by her former guardians.
The first two episodes are great at building the character of Carmen but after that the show turns into a caper of the week serial but with a light continuity that builds on the mystery of her parentage.
The show itself is beautifully animated with a stylish noir art style, reminiscent of Batman: The Animated Series or Samurai Jack.. At times, the film-noire tropes come into play as shadows and odd angles are key to the animation style.
There are many highlights from the show but one standout moment is the filmic almost balletic sequence in the Sydney Opera House, as Carmen battles a VILE operative in the rigging above the stage whilst Bizet's opera, Carmen, is performed below. The cinematography is stunning and elegantly done. Another thrilling moment involves a high speed super car chash through the streets of San Francisco, recalling that Steve McQueen classic, Bullitt.
The voice acting is good overall with lead voice actor, Gina Rodriguez, growing into the role and becoming more natural as the series progresses. Finn Wolfhard of Stanger Things plays Carmen's able remote assistant Player and plays his role well, however the two siblings, Zack and Ivy, from Boston over-egg the pudding and come across quite cheesy, almost Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins bad. However, this is a small blip in the over high quality voice acting.
Overall, Carmen Sandiego is a fun kids show with a smattering of educational facts thrown in for good measure. If you're looking for a way to teach your kids history, art and geography in a fun and non-edutainment way, then Netflix's Carmen Sandiego is the way to go.