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It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie DVD

Boo, get off the stage!
D. W. McKim (December 15, 2003) -
One of the funniest, most spirited Muppet productions in a long time is released on DVD and is given the attention it deserves even if some areas aren't fully realized.

Since the project originated as a made-for-TV movie and it was initially uncertain if it would eventually come out on DVD (last year, a copy of the film was available on VHS directly from NBC), the film is given some great care in terms of extras and while ranking above the treatment the original three Muppet movies were given in their DVD releases, it still falls short when compared with the DVD's of Muppet Christmas Carol or Muppet Treasure Island.

There is not a widescreen option for the film, nor a audio commentary. Oddly enough, there aren't even any subtitles which is usually a pretty standard feature for DVD's these days even those that don't offer any other kind of extras. There are at least some different audio tracks with Spanish and French versions.

That's not to say that there aren't a nice sampling of extras though. There's some little things like trailers for other projects (some Henson-Muppet related, some not) and some filler-style Muppet biographies, but the good stuff all falls under the "Inside Pepe's Studio" banner.

"The Inside Pepe's Studio" feature itself is a hilarious interview with director Kirk Thatcher with Pepe doing his best Bravo Inside the Actor's Studio take-off. The interplay between Pepe and Kirk is funny on its own but we also get treated to documentary footage throughout which kind of (but not totally) makes up for the lack of commentary. High points include footage of the read through and audio recording sessions and even some visuals of a young Kirk Thatcher interacting with Jim Henson (Pepe makes fun of Kirk's long hair and 80's pants as this part plays!)

There's also bloopers and deleted scenes which can either be viewed separately or all together. Both of these features carry the "Inside Pepe's Studio" logo and have an introduction by Pepe and Kirk. The content of both features don't disappoint either - the bloopers are of course hysterical as the Muppeteers always stay in character allowing for some wonderful candid moments. The deleted scenes are also great to see as each of them are fun for any Muppet fan to watch. Among the more interesting scenes are a gut-splitting continuation of the snowman narrator running gag and a somewhat shocking revelation in Kermit's extended interview with Carson Daly where he mentions the Muppets had inherited the theatre from Scooter's uncle (which they didn't know was in so much debt). The implication here is that J.P. Grosse has passed away which is kind of an odd little tidbit for Muppet history. It’s not that often we hear of a Muppet dying, even though certain characters do go away for a time every now and then.

Order "A Very Merry Muppet Christmas" on DVD.
There's even a couple extra deleted scenes hidden away as Easter Eggs including one with Kirk and Muppeteer Bill Baretta doing a scene of a reporter interviewing a security guard where Pepe has made an escape from the alternate Kermit-less universe. Another Easter Egg can be found of Kermit's induction into the Hollywood Walk of Fame which is a special treat since it is more random and not particularly related to the film.

Still, the DVD falls short of what it could be. In many cases, the good parts of the DVD actually remind the viewer of what's missing. For instance, when we see clips from the movie in the "Pepe's Studio" bits, they are in widesceen which means that they had the widescreen version easily available to put on the DVD but didn't. (In fact in the UK, Columbia Tri-Star released this DVD in widescreen with a 1.77:1 aspect ratio. It's just negligence that we didn't receive the same treatment.)

Also in the documentary, we see footage of the filming of a deleted gag in the film involving Fozzie's joke with some pies but this bit isn't included in the deleted scene reel. The deleted scenes are all great and I'm happy that they're there, but all-in-all there's seven minutes worth (including the Pepe-Kirk intro) and there had been reports of nearly 30 minutes trimmed from the final cut. Most disappointing is that the infamous cameo from Snoop Dogg which both Muppet and Snoop Dogg fans were hoping would eventually see its way as a DVD extra is also not included.

Another area that doesn't quite work too well is the animated menus where we see photos of Muppets animated "South-Park" style. There's two reasons why this falls short. For one, Muppet fans were "spoiled" with some great menus with live Muppets in the Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island DVD's so when one sees crude animation of photos, it seems cheap and like a rip-off. But the main reason it doesn't work is because most Muppet fans are by now so used to seeing really bad photos of the "poser Muppets" with the pupils of the eyes manipulated poorly that it takes awhile to register that these menus are supposed to be a take-off of South Park style animation. After all, the photo on the DVD itself has the poser Muppets looking all askew and expressionless so the viewer's probably already thinking about that when the menu first pops up.

So, while the DVD extras don't quite live up to their full potential, what we do have is certainly adequate and wonderful bonuses. But ultimately the real star of the DVD is the film itself. Not only is it nice to see a wider audience (including other countries) be able to enjoy the film since it wasn't in the theatres, but the film seems to work better on DVD without commercial interruptions and with the clarity that the format allows the movie which often makes great use of color and cinematography (most notable Whoopi’s garden paradise and the “Everything Matters” musical number with Kermit and Gonzo).

While many fans thought the celebrity cameos of NBC stars were a little overdone in its network airing, watching the film on DVD takes some of the sting out of the experience since the viewer thinks of the project more as a movie in its own right as opposed to an NBC project. The cameos are all actually used pretty well - if Miss Piggy is going to get a bit part on a sitcom, why not use the cast of an actual show instead of some fictional set-up?

If Kermit grants an interview plugging his Christmas show, it's nice to see him doing so with an established host (though I would have liked to see him talking to Leno or Conan more than Carson Daly). Overall, a much better use of cameos than what was done in say, Muppets From Space. Dawson's Creek and Hollywood Hulk Hogan anyone?

Muppet fans can spread the joy of the season sharing this DVD with friends or family perhaps as a double feature with Muppet Christmas Carol (or even Muppet Family Christmas if you're able to watch it without tearing up at how horribly mutilated the otherwise brilliant special was chopped up).

Perhaps next year, we can even add DVD's of John Denver & The Muppets' Christmas Together and (dare we dream) The Great Santa Claus Switch to our new Muppetational holiday traditions!

Editor's Note: If you are wondering where the Easter Eggs are on this disc, here are the details.

  1. The first hidden deleted scene can be accessed from the main menu by highlighting "Merry" in the Very Merry Christmas logo.
  2. At the top of the special features menu, highlight the "special features" title for the next deleted scene.
  3. To access the Walk of Fame, highlight Miss Piggy's ring in the picture of Kermit and Piggy in their Moulin Scrooge outfits on the deleted scenes menu. The ring button is in the bottom right hand corner.

Or if you're able to directly access titles, the Easter Eggs are titles 24, 25, and 26.

Discover what you may be missing!
Learn the differences between widescreen and pan-and-scan DVDs.

 

 
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