DVD Reviews

A Very Special Christmas DVD Review!

Rather than choosing one of our Christmas DVD’s, we’ve chosen…5 of them!
 
Here is our rundown of all things Christmassy in the DVD Zone.
 

5) Elf
Buddy the Elf is no ordinary Elf. In fact, he’s not an Elf at all. As an infant, Buddy adventurously crawled into Santa’s sack one Christmas eve and was accidentally taken back to the North Pole where he was adopted by one of the Elves. A few years on Buddy is three times taller than everyone else, has no natural capabilities in hand crafting toys and is beginning to question his origins. Papa Elf tells him that his Father lives in New York City and has no knowledge of Buddy existing as his Mother put him up for adoption and died shortly afterwards. Don’t worry, it gets more cheerful from here.
So off Buddy goes to meet his Father, Walter, who is less than impressed when Buddy arrives at his office in full elf uniform and starts singing to him. Buddy suffers a fair bit of misfortune in New York including getting accidentally drunk in a post room, being hit by a taxi cab and getting into a fight with a toy shop Santa. However, some good does come out of all of this when he meets the blonde haired, blue eyed Jovie, a beautiful little Elf who works at the toy store. However, Jovie has also lost all of her Christmas Spirit, as has the majority of New Yorkers, including Walters wife and son.
Christmas Eve is soon upon us and Santa’s sleigh breaks down and crashes into Central Park. The engine is broken and the presents need delivering and the rawkus has attracted quite a crowd of people curious as to what ‘fell from the sky’.  Santa tells Buddy that the only thing to make his sleigh fly is Christmas cheer, and what’s the best way to spread Christmas cheer? ‘By singing loud for all to hear’. Expect a good old rendition of Santa Claus is Coming to Town, a lump in your throat, a warm feeling in your belly and very happy ending.
Will Ferrell is the perfect oversized Elf and his love of Christmas, Syrup and his Father lead him into some quite interesting situations. Predictable yet well executed, Elf will never have the classic status of something like Home Alone, but it is still a great Christmas movie that sets out to do exactly what it wants to do.
4) The Grinch
‘Inside a snowflake like the one on your sleeve, there happened a story you must see to believe’
It’s Christmas in Whoville, and all the Who’s are frantically rushing around doing their Christmas shopping, grabbing bargains and knocking each other over. One of these Who’s, Cindy Lou, becomes frustrated that everyone, even her family have lost sight of what Christmas is all about. Feeling glum. She looks for a distraction and her adventurous little mind stumbles across the story of The Grinch, a hateful creature who lives on Mount Crumpit, overlooking the town. The Grinch hates Christmas, everything about it he loathes and despises, the only thing he seems to tolerate is his dog, Max. Nobody knows the reason behind his hatred, but what we do learn is that his heart is ‘two sizes too small’, withering away inside his green, fluffy chest.

Cindy Lou wants to find out why the Grinch is so hateful so she speaks to his Mothers. She learns of his unfortunate childhood and the bullying he received at school in front of his childhood sweetheart Martha May. Little Cindy Lou decides that she wants to reignite the fire in the Grinch’s belly so she goes to Mount Crumpit to invite the Grinch to the Whobilation (Whoville’s most important celebration), hoping this might encourage him to show a bit of festive spirit. The Grinch however sees this as an opportunity to get into some mischief, but he ends up enjoying himself and getting involved with the festive activities. Things turn sour when the Mayor proposes to the Grinch’s childhood love Martha with a ring the size of Mount Crumpit and makes a mean joke about the Grinch in front of the whole town. The Grinch then tears the town apart and burns the Christmas tree before returning to his cave to wallow in self pity once more.

Hating the Whos, he builds a sleigh and steals all the presents and trees from every Who in Whoville. Although a successful haul, it fails to dampen the spirits of the Who’s below who start singing. Cindy Lou wants to wish the Grinch a Merry Christmas so ascends the great Mount Crumpit. The Grinch, angered that he hasn’t destroyed Christmas doesn’t notice Cindy Lou and his sleigh starts slipping towards her. A mixture of the singing, the realisation that Christmas isn’t something you can steal and the sight of the endangered Cindy Lou causes the Grinch’s heart to grow three sizes and he saves Cindy Lou’s life.
Not only is this film funny, but in true Dr Seuss style, it has a fairly significant message too. Jim Carrey is hilarious as the Grinch, and young Taylor Momsen perfectly illustrates the innocence of youth through Cindy Lou. It has all the elements of a good Christmas movie; a villain, a hero, a moment when the villain becomes the hero and lots and lots of snow. The glue that holds the whole thing together is the enchanting poetic legacy of Dr Seuss.
 

3) Miracle on 34th Street – 1947

Set between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, Miracle on 34thStreet is regarded as one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time. In New York City on the day of the Thanksgiving Parade, the man hired by Macy’s department store to be Santa Claus is intoxicated so the store manager, Doris, hires another man who calls himself Kris Cringle to take his place. This man claims to be the real Santa Clause but Doris, doesn’t believe in the notion of fantasy and has taught her daughter to think the same. Kris Cringle is regarded as insane by the people around him and after an unfortunate dispute with a psychologist; he is despairingly forced into failing a medical exam, proving his insanity. However, people start to see something in him, the improbability of events that occur just don’t add up and even Doris and her daughter start questioning whether he may in fact be the real Santa. Doris hires Fred Gaily, a friend of hers to represent Kris in court where they can fight for his sanity and prove he is the real Santa. All hope seems lost and the light at the end of the tunnel is barely visible, surely what they need is a miracle…

Directed by George Seaton in 1947, it’s a classic Christmas tale and was remade in 1994 by Les Mayfield. For today’s audience, it is very dated.  Even the 1994 version is dated but it’s timeless message will always stay the same.

 
 
2) The Muppets Christmas Carol
I could have chosen the normal A Christmas Carol, the animated A Christmas Carol or even, Scrooge but instead I went with The Muppets, as it is one of my personal favourites.
The story, as we all know, is based on the classic tale written by Charles Dickens about a greedy, hateful man called Ebenezer Scrooge. He is horrible to his employees, to his family and he is the most hated man in town. He is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve who show him the past, present and the future. Firstly, reminded of his past and the moment he lost his one true love because of his reculsive and negative attitude. He is then taken to the present to Bob Cratchit’s house, one of his employees, who has a dying son called Tiny Tim who just wants his family to be together and happy for Christmas. Here he sees that material possessions and money are not what is making this family happy, but the love they have for one another.  Finally, he is shown the grim reality of what the future holds for him and for poor little Tiny Tim.
It’s the perfect redemption story and other adaptations it can be quite eerie. However, this version is by The Muppets so there is very minimal eeriness and lots more silliness instead. Scrooge is played by Michael Caine, and Bob Cratchit and his wife are Kermit and Miss Piggy. The story is told by Charles Dickens, otherwise known as The Great Gonzo and his pal, Rizzo the Rat. It’s a highly entertaining adaptation of a classic Christmas story and its message is just as clear, albeit slightly devoid of some of the novels more poignant moments.  With plenty of songs to sing a-long to, and moments to laugh out loud to, it’s a great family film that doesn’t get boring, in true Muppets style, when things start to get a bit serious, they just do something stupid to make up for it. 


 

      1) It’s a Wonderful Life

A year before Miracle on 34th Street hit the movie theatres, It’s a Wonderful Life enchanted audiences with its beautiful, honest tale of one mans relentless selflessness overcoming all odds. Set in New York, the film follows a troubled young man called George Bailey. George’s family and friends have been praying to the heavens for someone to help him, and so an Angel called Clarence, who is yet to earn his wings, reviews George’s life with the head Angels to decide whether he deserves their help or not.

The film chronologically moves through George’s life from the age of 12 to his present age at the beginning of the film. We see the sacrifices he made as a young man, and how his efforts to travel the world are constantly thwarted by some sort of incident which ends up making him stay. Things repeatedly look hopeful and then everything crashes down around him over and over again. He and his new wife even sacrifice the money saved for their honeymoon in helping the company George started from going bankrupt. George and Mary start a family and his brother, Harry, receives the Medal of Honour for serving in WWII. Things certainly look like they are on the up. That is until the evil Mr Potter, from a rival company, unlawfully acquires money from George and his company goes into bankruptcy. George goes and gets drunk at a nearby bar and after crashing his car into a tree he tries to commit suicide by jumping into a river. However, Clarence the Angel’s moment to shine arrives and he jumps in the river first, knowing full well that George will save him.  Clarence reveals himself to be George’s Guardian Angel, and George tells Clarence he wishes he had never been born, so Clarence shows George what the world would be like if he wasn’t in it. All the good things that happen to George’s family and friends were out of acts of selflessness of George so without him everything goes wrong for everyone. George learns to value and appreciate what he has, and Clarence allows him ‘to live again’ earning him his wings and George a wonderful life.

Despite a mixed reception on its release, It’s a Wonderful Life appears in the BFI’s 100 greatest films of all time list, and AFI’s and IMDB’s. It’s the epitome of a Christmas movie, it’s heartfelt and emotional yet funny and serious all at the same time. The fact that it’s set at Christmas time is the cherry on top of an already magnificently iced cake.
I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to notice a theme with these Christmas movies…New York, bad guy turned good, redemption, morals…? Anyway, why not give one of these films a go and invite that warmness into your heart that only a Christmas movie can bring.
 “Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart and hand in hand.”
– Dr Seuss (1957)
Further Reading in The Information Store:
Elf – DVD ZONE – 791.43

The Grinch – DVD ZONE – 791.43

The Muppets Christmas Carol – DVD ZONE – 791.43

It’s a Wonderful Life – DVD ZONE – 791.43

Miracle on 34th Street – DVD ZONE – 791.43

Why not take a look at our Christmas display of books by the Issue Desk? We’ve got everything from cookery to crafts!
Happy Christmas Everyone!
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