It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 26-Nov-2003

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Family Deleted Scenes-9 (8:47)
Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:04)
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 84:41
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (49:57) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Kirk R. Thatcher
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring David Arquette
Joan Cusack
William H. Macy
Whoopi Goldberg
Matthew Lillard
Case ?
RPI $26.95 Music Mark Watters


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Polish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
French
Spanish
Dutch
Swedish
Finnish
Norwegian
Danish
Polish
Greek
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, partly during credits

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Given the number of Christmassy DVDs that have arrived this week for review, I am led to the inevitable conclusion that once again that dreadfully over-commercialised holiday is about to be sprung upon us all. I've got to agree with Scrooge on this one: bah, humbug! Now where are the DVDs featuring the real reason for Christmas? Oh well, suppose I will just have to make do with It's A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie instead, even though I really was looking forward to that DVD of Handel's Messiah...

    We all know the Muppet Theatre right? Did you know that despite it being left to the Muppets by its original owner, Scooter's uncle, it indebted up to the rafters with Bitterman Bank and Development. Old man Bitterman was quite willing to let the matter slide but he's now dead and his daughter (Joan Cusack) is running the business. She is not so willing to let things slide and intends to force compliance with the original contract - pay up all the Muppets owe by 24th December or else they are all out. She has better plans for the building. When the Muppets find out about the problem, they vow to save their theatre. But since this is the Muppets, the path to salvation and debt-free living is not a happy one and inevitably things don't go well for them.

    So bad are things that Kermit becomes rather despondent, which attracts the attention of an accountant up there, Daniel (David Arquette). When the people who are supposed to do the right thing in such cases don't do anything, notably Glenn (William H. Macy), Daniel takes the problem to the Boss (Whoopi Goldberg). Daniel ends up being sent to help Kermit. Unfortunately, all that Kermit can do is wish that he was never born - and Daniel shows him what life would have been for his friends if he hadn't.

    So how many references can you pick out as being "borrowed"? Well, A Christmas Carol is certainly one, It's A Wonderful Life is another - but there are plenty more, including Moulin Rouge, The Grinch and Crocodile Hunter. Ultimately, this is what lets the film down badly - it is far too derivative. When this fatal flaw is combined with some rather flat Muppetry, the result is nothing to really get too excited about. The film really should have been called It's A Muppet Wonderful Life - it would have been a far more apt description of the film. Of the "borrowed" stuff, perhaps only Moulin Rouge succeeds even moderately. Some like the Crocodile Hunter is just plain annoying.

    This is the first time that the Muppets really show the lack of the guiding light of those guys that actually created them, which is perhaps the saddest indictment of the film. Voices are obviously different for some characters and the humour really falls wide of the mark. Sure the kids might enjoy this once or twice but there is far better out there from the Muppets. A sadly wasted effort that really is hard to recommend at all.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    The movie was quite obviously made for television as we get appropriate, extended black scene fades at fairly regular intervals - just the right sort of distance apart to insert the ad breaks of commercial television. Funnily enough, this was the first time I really found it annoying - but then again it is way too obvious to ignore as most of the time there is not a natural reason for the scene fade. The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced. This of course accords to the presentation of digital widescreen television broadcasting.

    There is certainly little wrong with the transfer but it just lacks the sort of necessary extra edge to really lift it to being something memorable. The picture is decently sharp, but you can see the soft edges that at times are hard to hide. Detail is very good, but lacking just that extra edge to make it super sharp. Shadow detail is good, and the overall transfer is free of grain so the clarity level is good too.

    The traditional bright Muppet colours are still to be found here and are the saving grace of the transfer: this is one aspect of the transfer that does meet expectations. The whole thing is quite vibrant and the tones are very consistent throughout. There is no oversaturation in the transfer and colour bleed is not a problem.

    There were no significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer, although pan shots do tend to be a little short of solidity - no doubt as a result of the source material since it is a consistent, albeit minor, problem. There were no significant film-to-video artefacts in the transfer, but higher definition displays might well highlight some of the minor aliasing more than mine. The transfer is very clean and I don't recall anything much in the way of film artefacts.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming at 49:57. This is in one of those advertising scene fades so is not at all noticeable and certainly not disruptive to the film at all (which is more than can be said for the black scene fade itself).

    There are eleven subtitle options on the DVD. There appear to be no problems with the English efforts.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are five soundtracks on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, a German Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, a French Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, a Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack and a Polish Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. I stuck with the English soundtrack of course.

    The dialogue comes up well in the soundtrack and there are no more than the usual audio sync issues with the Muppets, other than the faux kung-fu bit where the sync is deliberately out by a long way.

    The original music score comes from Mark Watters and is really an unmemorable effort.

    Quite why they decided to go the whole hog with a full bit rate six channel Dolby Digital soundtrack I don't know. Given the target audience, there is hardly any great need for one and the film just does not use it at all well. Sure the low frequency effects channel kicks in at times, but only when needed, but you can just about forget about the rear surround channels. I don't think I heard anything out of them for the whole film. Well, okay, maybe that is not quite true but there really was very little action there at all. Everything is very frontal and really could have been as well handled with a good surround encoded two channel soundtrack. Certainly the soundtrack is very clear and open but nothing at all memorable.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There is certainly not a whole lot here and frankly the DVD-9 format is very underutilised - especially when you see what is on the Region 1 release.

Menu

    Bland and that's about all that needs to be written.

Deleted Scenes (9) (8:47)

    Starting with an "interview" with director Kirk Thatcher by Pepe (presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1), what follows is a selection of mainly loppings from the film to improve the pace (presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1). Nothing terribly wondrous here and everything dropped was for a good reason. The transfer is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The quality is very good.

Theatrical Trailer (2:04)

    Of excellent quality, but actually rather boring. It runs too long and is in that typical American over-the-top style that galls me when I watch American television. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Now this is interesting. Basically the Region 4 (and Region 2) release misses out on extras but gets a widescreen presentation whilst the Region 1 release gets extras but has a Full Screen presentation of the film. For the record, the Region 4 release misses out on:

    To be fair, it sounds like the featurette is the same thing that starts the deleted scenes section on the Region 4 release, so probably we don't miss out on it. The Region 1 release misses out on:

    Personally there is nothing that sounds that exciting in the Region 1 extras package, but Full Screen presentation may mean Pan and Scan and that I could not suffer. If you want extras, go Region 1. If you want widescreen presentation, go Region 4 (or Region 2).

Summary

    It's A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie hardly ranks as the best thing ever done involving the Muppets. Very derivative, hardly anything really amusing to laugh at and a rather average extras package sort of makes up a package that I would very easily be able to avoid and know that I had not missed anything essential.

    Two things do annoy me greatly about the package though. Why oh why do we have to endure the MGM DVD logo at about twice the volume of the main programme? It is really starting to annoy me that I have to grab the remote to turn the volume down in order to save damage to house and my hearing through the d*** thing (which incidentally you cannot step past as MGM DVDs are mastered to lock out the remote controls - another annoyance). Is there really any point to this assault on my hearing? Secondly, you best get on the stop button real quick at the conclusion of the film otherwise you will interminably endure the copyright notices for a whole bunch of European nations. Once they start, nothing bar ejecting the DVD will stop them from playing all the way through to the very last one. As usual, the remote controls are locked out, hence ejection is the only option. This is now not just a mild annoyance but rather downright bloody frustrating. Start using some common sense MGM.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Thursday, November 13, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Aconda 9381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Amy F

Comments (Add)
I disagree with the review. You just have to be in the right mood (and like muppets) - Gavin Bollard (bio - updated 9 Nov 2005)