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MGM Studios DVD presents
It's A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie: SE (2002)

Rachel: You can pay me the considerable debt you owe me by midnight on the 24th or vacate this theater.
Kermit: But...but...but the 24th is Christmas Eve.
Rachel: Yes. It also happens to be the due date for payment on the theater. It's funny how one day can mean so many different things.

- Joan Cusack, Kermit the Frog

Review By: David Krauss   
Published: October 23, 2003

Stars: The Muppets, David Arquette, Joan Cusack, Matthew Lillard, William H. Macy, Whoopi Goldberg
Other Stars: Mel Brooks (voice only), Carson Daly, Kelly Ripa, Molly Shannon, Joe Rogan
Director: Kirk R. Thatcher

MPAA Rating: PG for mild thematic elements
Run Time: 01h:28m:25s
Release Date: October 07, 2003
UPC: 027616896551
Genre: holiday

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B C+B+A- B+

DVD Review

When I first started watching It's A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, I had no idea it was a made-for-television film that originally aired on NBC. But it didn't take me long to catch on. Why else would the entire cast of Scrubs drop in for a cameo? Or a group of Muppets shamelessly subject themselves to a painful Fear Factor spoof? It certainly explains the peacock tattoo on the bottom of Kermit's foot and all those not-so-subtle references to "must-see TV." But, wait a second... I thought The Muppets were big stars. Surely they didn't need to sell their souls to a devilishly self-indulgent, self-promoting network just so they could make their next film. And in the name of Christmas, too!

I know, I know, the late Jim Henson loved good satire, and The Muppets have mastered the art form over the years. But the legendary puppeteer must be turning over in his grave at the thought of NBC's brazen manipulation, which makes his endearing, wisecracking crew of stuffed characters look like they're auditioning for their own weekly sitcom. Why Miss Piggy stood for this degrading injustice baffles me. Listen, ma cherie. Vous deserves better.

I don't mean to be a Scrooge about this Muppet holiday movie, but after a few scenes it's brutally apparent that, hard as it tries, It's A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie can't compete with its big-screen, infinitely more polished cousin, A Muppet Christmas Carol. Despite a formidable cast that includes David Arquette, Joan Cusack, Whoopi Goldberg, William H. Macy and the voice of Mel Brooks, Very Merry is a cut-rate quickie that possesses little flair or originality.

Let's start with the story. Do we really need yet another takeoff/variation on It's A Wonderful Life? This time, it's Kermit the Frog who believes the world would be a better place if he never hopped across it, prompting an earthly visit from the celestial Daniel (Arquette) to convince him otherwise. Kermit's crisis is caused by Rachel Bitterman (Cusack), a rhymes-with-witchy bank officer who's so deviously venomous she makes Ebenezer Scrooge look like Tiny Tim. A few days before the premiere of Kermit's Christmas spectacular, Rachel threatens to shut down Muppet Theater unless Kermit can cough up a whopper of a mortgage payment by Christmas Eve. Of course, Rachel connives to make the deadline impossible to meet, foiling the adorable Muppets at every turn and driving poor Kermit to the brink of repti-cide. Does she get her comeuppance in the end? Is the Pope Catholic?

Very Merry scores points by not only sending up Frank Capra's classic film, but also taking jabs at a number of other holiday institutions, from O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi and Dr. Seuss's How The Grinch Stole Christmas to Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and A Christmas Story. And the spoofs don't stop there. Writers Tom Martin and Jim Lewis furiously lampoon anything and everything that pops into their heads—Cirque du Soleil, The Crocodile Hunter and Moulin Rouge—plus all the NBC junk. The script contains some funny lines and laugh-out-loud situations, but no one knows when to quit, and the constant bombardment of uninterrupted shtick quickly becomes exhausting. Maybe in this instance, the DVD's lack of commercials works against the film, as the audience doesn't get a breather from the bunk.

Kids won't mind the frenetic pace, but they won't get many of the humorous references either. (How many eight-year-olds are fans of Scrubs?) Yet in the end, It's A Very Merry Muppet Christmas does manage to inject the audience with some old-fashioned holiday spirit, tug the heartstrings and provide wholesome family entertainment. But Kermit, Miss Piggy and the rest of the Muppet gang work awfully hard to achieve those results. Hopefully, next time around, they'll be allowed to control their own destiny.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The full-screen print shows almost no wear and flaunts vibrant colors, although a bit of a dark pallor afflicts the film much of the time. Images, however, remain clear throughout, with fine shadow detail, contrast and puppet-tones. (Fleshtones are pretty good, too.) The faux exterior scenes involving Arquette and Goldberg up in heaven especially impress, with crisp lines, vivid details and beautiful saturation lending the film a welcome brightness. For a TV movie, MGM has produced an above-average transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0French, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The DD 5.1 track is a nice surprise and performs adequately, although true surround effects are subtle at best. The music score and production numbers possess good presence, levels remain stable, and dialogue is understandable throughout. Once again, for a made-for-television movie, the track more than suffices.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
11 Other Trailer(s) featuring Good Boy, Just for Kicks, Muppets Party Cruise Video Game, Christmas Carol: The Movie, Prancer, A Freezerburnt Christmas, Second Star to the Left, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Hamilton's Mattress, Hi 5!, Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Kids
7 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Outtakes/bloopers
Extras Review: MGM obviously cares about this DVD release, supplementing Very Merry with a healthy plate of extras. As if the numerous spoofs in the film aren't sufficient, the producers have piled on yet another satire with—surprise!—an NBC connection. The Peacock Network owns the Bravo cable channel, and while "Queer Hog for the Straight Frog" might have been a hoot, the producers chose instead to roast Bravo's other flagship series, Inside the Actor's Studio. Hosted by that charming, diminutive Muppet, Pepe the King Prawn (doing his best impression of the urbane James Lipton), Inside Pepe's Studiofeatures a clever and often amusing 20-minute interview with Very Merry director Kirk R. Thatcher. In addition to a standard Q&A, the sketch includes film clips, cast interviews, production footage, and video from both the initial read-through and music recording session. A bit lengthy, but fun overall.

Pepe returns to introduce seven chapters of bloopers, many of which are hilarious. What's especially refreshing about this collection is that the outtakes seem genuine, not manufactured like those tacked on at the end of Pixar films. Blown lines, puppeteer errors, off-the-cuff quips and technical gaffes comprise the bulk of these good-natured mistakes—and few characters come away unscathed. Along the same lines, a group of seven deleted (or extended) scenes is also included, most of which are fairly dull.

Capping off the special features are a Christmas stocking-full of various trailers, and tongue-in-cheek bios of Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, and Pepe.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

Although it's far from "must-see" TV, if you're tired of all the traditional Christmas classics, It's A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie is certainly worth a rental. Kids will squeal at this lighthearted, often silly holiday confection, and even Mom and Dad will chuckle now and then. Should it find a home on your shelf next to It's A Wonderful Life and White Christmas? Heaven forbid.


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