"A MISER BORTHERS’ CHRISTMAS"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


    MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5 stars)

    Not Rated
    Studio: Warner Bros.
    Available on DVD November 10
    Official Kids WB site

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
The long-awaited sequel to “The Year Without a Santa Claus” sees the Miser Brothers still at each others throats. Their cousin the North Wind hatches a plan to sabotage Santa for the holidays, framing Heat Miser and Snow Miser in the process. The two dueling brothers need to put their differences aside so they can save Christmas and give the North Wind his comeuppance.

WHAT I LIKED
When I was a kid, my absolute favorite Christmas special was “The Year Without a Santa Claus,” and I was all about Heat Miser. In retrospect, this Rankin-Bass special ran a bit long, but I still love to hear that old song, which makes the entire show worth it.

Because of this, I think “A Miser Brothers’ Christmas” is long overdue (having broadcast in 2008 and hitting DVD this year), and I’m glad that Heat Miser is getting his spotlight again. The story is somewhat similar to the classic Christmas special, pitting Heat Miser against Snow Miser. What’s great about this is that the filmmakers bring back the classic song sung by the brothers in a new production number.

Several years ago, it seemed that all animation was going the CGI route, and while CGI has its place and is an excellent form of animation, it looked like we were losing our other forms. Fortunately, 2009 has seen a resurgence of stop-motion animation with feature films like “Coraline” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” and this home video special helps bring back that old charm. I’m giddy about resurrecting the Miser Brothers in a special that plays very true to the original.

Another thing that’s great about this special is that many of the voice cast is still around to reprise their roles. Mickey Rooney is Santa Claus again, with George S. Irving coming in to play Heat Miser as well. I’d like to see another one get made.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Not a whole lot. This was a charming revisiting of the classic stop-motion animation of the 70s. I can’t complain, really.

DVD FEATURES
The DVD comes with a featurette that explains the process of making a stop-motion animated film and the painstaking chore that it is.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Kids and anyone who loved “The Year Without a Santa Claus” from their childhood.



"A MUPPETS CHRISTMAS:
LETTERS TO SANTA"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


    MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)

    Rated TV-G
    Studio: Disney

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
This Muppets Christmas special finds our favorite plush friends trying to mail their letters to Santa at the last minute on Christmas Eve. Upon returning home, they discover that Gonzo has forgotten to mail three letters, including one from their dear friend next door. So the Muppets take it upon themselves to hand-deliver the letters to Santa in the North Pole before Christmas Day hits.

WHAT I LIKED
As a child of the 70s and 80s, I love the Muppets. They sort of disappeared for a while, but now they’re coming back, with some made-for-TV and direct-to-DVD movies and specials. It’s sad that Jim Henson has been gone for two decades now, but the loveable Muppets still have their sarcastic and irreverent edge.

This hour-long special isn’t terribly unique in terms of set-up and story. We’ve seen this kind of thing before – beloved characters making a trip to see Santa in person. However, what makes this work isn’t the generic story but rather how the zany characters spice it up. All the popular Muppets (including my favorites, Beaker and the Swedish Chef) make cameos in the film, along with plenty of celebrities like Nathan Lane, Uma Thurman and Whoopi Goldberg.

Add to the mix the relatively new Muppet Pepe the Prawn, who is one of the Santa naysayers, and you have a charming Christmas special that kids will enjoy while parents get the jokes that fly over their heads.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
As someone who grew up with Jim Henson behind the Frog (amongst other characters), specials like this give me some sad thoughts because I remember the Muppets in their heyday. Whether it was “The Muppet Show,” the successful string of movies or “Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas,” I will always remember these characters as part of my childhood. And I long for more Muppet mayhem on my television. I suppose my big complaint is that this show left me wanting more.

DVD FEATURES
The DVD has a nice selection of special features, including deleted scenes and a “Muppets Stocking Stuffer Smorgasbord,” which has interview clips of the human stars and the Muppets themselves, very hilarious.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Muppet fans and kids.



"I WANT A DOG FOR CHRISTMAS,
CHARLIE BROWN"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


    MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)

    Not Rated
    Studio: Warner Bros.
    Available on DVD November 24
    Official Kids WB site

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
It’s time for Rerun Van Pelt to get his own Peanuts special. Linus and Lucy’s younger brother Rerun is dying to get a dog for Christmas. His mother doesn’t want to get one for him, and Charlie Brown won’t let him have Snoopy. So Rerun (with some help from Snoopy) goes on a mission to find the most perfect dog for his own home, courtesy of Snoopy’s off-kilter brother Spike.

WHAT I LIKED
Like “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” the Peanuts characters will forever be associated with Christmas for me, even though they aren’t traditional Christmas stories. This is because the original Peanuts special was “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” It seems natural to have another Christmas special with the Peanuts gang (in addition to “It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown!”).

One of the best characters for the television specials is Snoopy, and you get plenty of him in this show. Additionally, it’s nice to see his brother Spike get some screen time. And while Rerun is a modified version of Linus, he gets some good lines. Much of this special seems to be assembled jokes from Charles Schultz original comic strip, and that’s how the earlier television specials were made.

As a 40-minute episode, “I Want a Dog for Christmas” makes nice family viewing for the kids this holiday season. And why not make a triple feature with the other two Charlie Brown Christmas specials, also available on DVD.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Let’s face it, while Rerun is cute, he’s not one of the staple characters on the show. Snoopy and Woodstock have their screen time, but with the focus on Rerun, we spend less time with the better Peanuts characters in the back seat.

DVD FEATURES
In addition to the feature special, there’s another holiday-themed story, “Happy new Year, Charlie Brown,” which will give this DVD some life beyond December 25th. Wrapping up the special features is “Sibling Rivalry: Growing Up Van Pelt,” which gives some history behind the character of Rerun Van Pelt.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Peanuts fans and kids who like these TV specials.




    

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