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The general opinion is that the older you get the less magical Christmas feels. Well, I suppose to some extent that is true, but I still very much look forward to Christmas and love watching Christmas movies. Even with my enthusiasm for Christmas, I have never watched a festive movie in the middle of November, well not until this year anyway. One of the perks of being a DVD reviewer is that we get discs early, so I suppose I cannot really complain too much about watching a Christmas movie in advance! It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas was made specifically for US TV last year, it featured various cameo appearances and promised to a be a Christmas production you would be unwise to miss. However, I approached this disc with apprehension as the last few years has seen a poor upturn of Christmas movies, all of which (except The Grinch) in my opinion have failed to capture the magical atmosphere of Christmas. Hopefully this Muppets movie will restore my faith.

It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas
Movie
This movie starts in traditional Christmas fashion, it’s Christmas Eve and the snow is falling, people are joyful and worries are forgotten for the next few days. However, this is not the case for Kermit who finds himself questioning the point of his existence and wondering if anyone would miss him if he were no longer around. His worries are caused by the fact that the Muppet Theatre is about to close. Rachel Bittterman (Joan Cusack), a cold hearted accountant, has threatened to close the theatre on Christmas Eve unless the Muppets square up their debts. In place of the theatre, Bitterman plans to install a profitable bar. Kermit takes this to heart and finds that the burden is too much for him. Luckily Kermit has a guardian angel in the form of Daniel (David Arquette), a real life angel who notices the frog's sadness and decides to approach his boss, God (Whoopi Goldberg) about helping out.

Daniel is sent back to Earth to try and encourage Kermit, but things don't go quite to plan, in fact the situation is made worse and Kermit wishes he had never been born. Puzzled by this outburst, Daniel decides to grant Kermit his wish, and shows the frog what life would have been like without his existence. It is at this point that Kermit realises that the world wouldn’t be a better place without him, and it becomes clear that he does make a difference to the lives of his friends.

It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas borrows various ideas from other Christmas movies, none more so than from It's a Wonderful Life, the premise of which is heavily featured throughout. However, this turns out to be its major downfall, as it is very unoriginal and also lacks the mayhem of previous Muppet movies. There are some amusing moments during the film, but unfortunately they are few and far between. I often judge a movie by how many times I look at my watch during the film, and even though this Muppet movie only lasts for just under ninety minutes, I still found it rather dull and lifeless. Whether it will hold the attention of children is also a matter of debate and is something I cannot fully answer, but I do know there will be long periods where children won't be laughing. Also the fact that it was made for US TV means that some of the jokes and guest appearances will be lost on UK audiences, for example I consider myself reasonably up on US film/movie stars, but even I found myself wondering who some people were.

It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas
While not having been won over by this latest Muppets outing, I wouldn't put people off purchasing this DVD. There are very few Christmas movies being made these days that actually recreate the wonder of Christmas, and this movie is one of the better offerings. Saying that, if you are a fan of the Muppets and don't own any of their other Christmas movies, then l would recommend taking a look at those first. Otherwise, this Muppets movie is a reasonable start.

Video
MGM have presented the Muppets in widescreen 1.85:1, which is also anamorphically enhanced. Amazingly region one fans only received a full screen transfer, so it is somewhat of a surprise to find a nice pristine widescreen transfer with this disc. Generally this is a competent transfer which is well defined. Sharpness is good and the image is crystal clear. Colours have a vibrant appearance, skin tones were also realistic and black levels appeared solid throughout. There is a minimal amount of grain throughout, but nothing too distracting and probably in line with the original TV transfer. As for edge enhancements there was no obvious sign of these and compression artifacts were nowhere to be seen. Overall, nothing to really grumble about here.  

Audio
There are five soundtracks packaged with this release, all of them are Dolby Digital 5.1 efforts (German, French, English, Spanish and Polish). While the 5.1 track is nice, it is not the most active track you will hear this year. There are some aspects of this movie which make their way to the rears, but for the majority of the movie the action is driven by the front speakers. Dialogue is clear throughout, which is a major benefit considering that the movie is mostly dialogue driven. Overall the tracks on offer are adequate and do the job asked of them.

The menus for this release are static and nothing outstanding, while subtitles cater for most languages, with the following languages available; English for the Hard of Hearing, German for the Hard of Hearing, French,  Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, Danish, Polish, Greek,

Extras
Not a huge number of extras on this disc, MGM have produced only a couple of extras, the first being Deleted Scenes. The scenes are opened by a clever section where the director is quizzed on why he cut the film, and he also explains about the deleted scenes.  Most of the scenes are dialogue based, but there are also some which are accompanied by a song. The scenes have to be played in a continuous clip, with no option to play individual scenes. The deleted scenes last for just over eight minutes in total. The only other extra on this disc is the Theatrical Trailer, which does a good job in setting a Christmas feeling. The trailer gives a little of the story away, however it only has a running time of two minutes so in that time there is only a small amount of the story that is unveiled.

It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas
The lack of extras is a little disappointing considering that the region one disc contained a better
selection, but I suppose it is a catch twenty-two situations, a better transfer or better extras? Sadly we cannot have a combination of both.

Overall
Productions made especially for TV very rarely turn out to be any good, and it pains me to say this but It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas is mediocre at best. It’s not all doom and gloom, there are some funny moments, but there are not enough to raise a Christmas cheer and it shouldn’t take you long to find a better/funnier movie to keep your kids entertained this Christmas. The disc itself is a mixed bag as well. The transfer is perfectly acceptable, while the soundtracks are functional and clear, however it is the extras which let the team down. MGM have presented a bare Christmas sack which consists of deleted scenes and a trailer, obviously region 2 fans have been bad boys this Christmas and don’t deserve more!


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