Older Faves and Recent Treats
It seems that the 2007 holiday hype first kicked into gear just after Labor Day, while all-yuletide radio formats commenced on some stations just minutes following Halloween’s Snickers haul. But now viewers should be more in the mood to gather around the boob-tube hearth for a Christmas-y video, and that worn-out tape of a burning yule log just won’t do. To the DVD rescue comes a Santa’s bag jammed with older faves and recent treats, as well as new wrinkles on a certain Charles Dickens warhorse. (Many of these videos, incidentally, are already on store shelves.)
Indeed, the Scrooge factor gets a workout in a the Bedrock-based A Flintstones Christmas Carol (Warner Home Video), while Christmas Do-Over (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) offers Jay Mohr in a Groundhog Day riff as a grump who repeatedly relives Christmas Day.
Meanwhile, yesteryear’s television specials have been dusted off for a new generation. A deluxe edition of the 1965 cartoon How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Warner) offers a can’t-beat-it merging of Dr. Seuss, Chuck Jones and Boris Karloff. The 1974 Rankin-Bass cartoon The Year Without a Santa Claus (Warner) features the voices of Mickey Rooney and Shirley Booth. The Pink Panther headlines 1978’s A Pink Christmas (MGM Home Entertainment), as the cool-yule cat takes Manhattan. And the 1972 drama A House Without a Christmas Tree (Paramount Home Entertainment) stars Lisa Lucas as a young girl at odds with her widowed, yuletide-hating dad (Jason Robards) in 1946 Nebraska.
New cartoon contributions to the holiday party include Tom and Jerry: A Nutcracker Tale (Warner), which entails cat-and-mouse antics at an opera house, and Pooh’s Super Sleuth Christmas Movie (Walt Disney Home Entertainment), as the gang attempts to reroute a lost reindeer back to the North Pole.
Getting back to live action, the Hallmark Channel’s 2006 TV-movie The Christmas Card (Genius Products) stars Ed Asner in a timely drama about war correspondents in Afghanistan. The 1996 slapstick farce Jingle All the Way (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) gets reissued in a “family fun edition,” with Arnold Schwarzenegger in buffoon mode. And a PG-rated pair of 2006 big-screen comedies make their DVD debuts: The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (Disney) again puts Tim Allen in the fat suit, while Deck the Halls (Fox) offers Matthew Broderick and Danny DeVito as squabbling neighbors amid the eggnog and innuendo.
Making its bid as a new holiday classic is A Dennis the Menace Christmas (Warner), with Maxwell Perry Cotton as the tow-headed terror and the still-dashing Robert Wagner as Mr. Wilson. (Suddenly, I feel very, very old...) Of course, a number of cinematic chestnuts are still available in extras-laden editions, including 1942’s Bing Crosby smash Holiday Inn (Universal Studios Home Entertainment), its 1954 semi-remake White Christmas (Paramount) and James Stewart headlining the immortal It’s a Wonderful Life (Paramount) in both black-and-white and colorized versions—and don’t miss Syracuse University grad Sheldon Leonard delivering the sarcastic response, “Get me: I’m givin’ out wings!”
All this holiday cheer should inevitably lead to gift-givers thinking about DVDs as stocking stuffers, too. Disney has a family-geared lineup that includes a two-disc The Jungle Book, with a restoration of the 1967 animated feature plus oodles of extras; the Parisian rodents of Pixar’s cartoon Ratatouille; a baker’s dozen of satiric treats comprise Pixar’s Short Films Collection, Vol. 1; and East Syracuse’s Tom Kenny lending his voice for the sci-fi spoof Meet the Robinsons. Meanwhile, Disney’s TV division contributes more volumes of DuckTales and TaleSpin, and the Disney Channel kicks in with an extended edition of High School Musical 2 (Dec. 11) and the compilation Hannah Montana: Life’s What You Make of It, if only because Lizzie McGuire is sooooo yesterday.
Feature-length animation from other studios include The Reef (Genius), a fish fry with Freddie Prinze Jr., Rob Schneider and other celebrity voices; Surf’s Up (Sony), the latest penguin saga with Shia LeBeouf and James Woods; another installment of The Land Before Time: The Wisdom of Friends (Universal); and Shrek the Third (Paramount), a sequel that’s clearly coasting on previous laurels. Fans of TV cartoons can snap up Warner’s fourth-season, two-disc editions of the noir-drenched The Batman and the adolescent angst of Teen Titans, plus second-season double-disc packages of Cartoon Network’s Ben 10 and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, the latter with yet another Tom Kenny voice. By the way, Paramount’s Nickelodeon Home Entertainment presents SpongeBob SquarePants: Atlantis SquarePantis, with Kenny squaring off against guest voice David Bowie.
For those hard-to-gift kids, DVD box sets might be the answer. Thanks to next summer’s presumed multiplex bonanza Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Paramount is pushing the 12-disc blowout The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, Vol. 1, with seven TV-movies as well as historical lessons and documentaries, and a reissue of its four-disc The Adventures of Indiana Jones featuring the three 1980s Harrison Ford thrillers plus bonus material. Warner weighs in with Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Vol. 5, four discs filled with 60 cartoons, commentary tracks and deep-from-the-vault rarities. (For those with tighter pocketbooks, the two-disc Looney Tunes Spotlight Collection, Vol. 5 culls 30 shorts from the Golden Collection.)
Sony’s “30th anniversary ultimate edition” of Close Encounters of the Third Kind yields three distinct versions of Steven Spielberg’s treasured sci-fi spectacle. The company is also moving the Ray Harryhausen in Color six-disc gift set with the special-effects maestro’s three creature-feature works—It Came from Beneath the Sea, Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers and 20 Million Miles to Earth—presented in black-and-white and colorized treatments, and the double-disc Three Stooges Collection, Vol. 1, 1934-1936, a chronological issue of the team’s first 19 shorts, all lovingly restored, so that humor historians can trace the nuances of every nyuk-nyuk.
But wait, there’s more. Young ladies should appreciate the live-action, PG-rated version of Bratz: The Movie (Lions Gate Home Entertainment), while families will gravitate toward the G-rated tomfoolery of Rowan Atkinson in Mr. Bean’s Holiday (Universal). Those with a jones for oddball musicals can grab the PG-rated Hairspray (New Line Home Entertainment), with John Travolta divine in drag, and the Beatles scampering about in their 1965 spy spoof Help! (EMI Music).
And the teens-and-up demographic is the best audience for the PG-13 thrills of Transformers (Paramount), a giant-size toy store of a movie that doesn’t make a lick of sense; Spider-Man 3 (Sony), with enough super-villains and love interests to fuel five more sequels; Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (Disney; Dec. 4), with Johnny Depp again as the swishy swashbuckler; Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Warner; Dec. 11) cues in more magical growing pains; and The Simpsons Movie (Fox; Dec. 18) has Homer saving Springfield—but only because he royally messed things up in the first place. It’s a last-minute stocking stuffer sure to encourage lots of ho-ho-d’ohs.