Join Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo and the entire Muppet gang in It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie! 'Tis the night before Christmas and the Muppet Theater is in danger of being torn down. When bad goes to worse, Kermit begins to believe that the world would be a better place if he had never been born. With a little heavenly help and hilarious holiday shenanigans, Kermit and the Muppets discover what matters most is their love for each other. Featuring a celebrity cast including David Arquette, Joan Cusack and Whoopi Goldberg, plus show-stopping musical numbers like "Moulin Scrooge," this heartwarming holiday classic will bring joy to the world every Christmas season!
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? And why would a group of Muppets shamelessly subject themselves to a painful 'Fear Factor' spoof? The NBC association 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, 'The Muppet Christmas Carol.' Despite a formidable cast that includes David Arquette, Joan Cusack (who almost ruins the film with her heavily exaggerated portrayal), Whoopi Goldberg, William H. Macy, and the voice of Mel Brooks, 'Very Merry' is a cut-rate quickie that possesses little flair or originality. And as time marches on, its shameless connections to trendy TV shows of yore date it badly and limit its already limited appeal.
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 Blu-ray'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 Movie' 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. Thankfully, the recent Muppet resurgence means the Muppets won’t likely sell themselves out again anytime soon. At least let's hope not.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie' arrives on Blu-ray packaged in a standard case. A leaflet with a code to access the digital copy is tucked inside the front cover. Video codec is 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 and audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Once the disc is inserted into the player, the movie immediately begins after a few static notification screens. Special features can only be accessed via the pop-up menu button on the remote.
The biggest difference between this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer from Universal and the one included on the previous MGM DVD is the movie's aspect ratio. Back in 2002, when 'It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie' first aired on NBC, widescreen TVs were still a relative novelty, so the DVD presented the film in a traditional full-screen format, cropping the image down to an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Thankfully, the Blu-ray restores 'It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie' to its original 1.78:1 glory, lending this made-for-television film a much more expansive, theatrical feel. Other than that, the transfers look pretty similar. The Blu-ray print, like its DVD cousin, shows almost no wear and flaunts vibrant colors, although a bit of a dark pallor afflicts the film much of the time. The image, however, remains 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, all of which lend the picture a welcome brightness. Textures are especially well rendered on the Blu-ray, and primary hues pop nicely. Beaker's orange hair, the red velvet theater seats, and Kermit's green felt "skin" are all bold and nicely defined. Though the image as a whole doesn't differ substantially from the previous DVD, the change in aspect ratio is significant enough to possibly entice fans of the film to upgrade.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 improves upon the lossy 5.1 track that graced the previous DVD, offering more brightness, clarity, and nuance. Though made-for-television movies rarely feature super-active audio mixes, the sound here is typical of many musical films, with increased stereo separation and fidelity during the songs, and serviceable front-based audio during dramatic scenes. A few ambient effects, such as chirping birds, bleed into the rear speakers, producing a pleasing surround effect, and dialogue and song lyrics are always easily comprehendible. A wide dynamic scale handles all the highs and lows with ease, and solid bass frequencies lend welcome weight to various scenes. Best of all, no distortion, hiss, pops, or crackles impede all the holiday cheer or any of the Muppet mania.
Despite the increased amount of real estate available on this BD50 dual-layer disc, all the extras from the 2003 DVD have not been ported over to this release. Gone are 'Inside Pepe's Studio,' the clever spoof of the Bravo channel's 'Inside the Actor's Studio' that featured a lengthy, gag-filled interview with the film's director, Kirk R. Thatcher, and a group of tongue-in-cheek bios of Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, and Pepe.
Bloopers (SD, 5 minutes) - Seven chapters of bloopers, many of which are hilarious, can be accessed either individually or as a group via the "play all" function. What makes these outtakes especially refreshing is that they 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. Sadly, an introduction by Pepe in his 'Actor's Studio' guise has been deleted, but the 'Inside Pepe's Studio' logo still appears in the bottom right corner of the screen, which will surely baffle those who don't own the 2003 DVD.
Deleted Scenes (SD, 8 minutes) - The logo also appears on all seven deleted (or extended) scenes, which, like the bloopers, can be accessed either individually or as a group via the "play all" function. Unfortunately, these snippets are rather dull and don't merit much attention. The first is a promotional interview between Carson Daly and Kermit, and the most interesting casts Beaker as a buffed-up bouncer at a nightclub.
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. Universal's Blu-ray presentation restores the film to its original widescreen aspect ratio, and though a few extras have been trimmed from the previous DVD, the solid video and audio transfers make for a fine viewing experience. Though it pales when compared to the classic 'Muppet Christmas Carol,' 'It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie' is innocuous holiday fun and looks bright and festive in high definition.