Fox // 2003 // 92 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Jonathan Nelson (Retired) // October 30th, 2003
"So, have a merry Christmas, happy Chanukah, kwazy Kwanza, a tip-top Tet, and a solemn, dignified Ramadan. Now a word from my god: our sponsor." -- Krusty, "Grift of the Magi"
Holidays approaching? Feel like embarrassing yourself in front of the whole family while systematically ruining the holidays for everyone? Need some pointers? Well I've got you covered, courtesy of the Simpsons.
The longest running dysfunctional family celebrates the holidays in true Christmas spirit. In short, they do everything but throw in the kitchen sink to make it memorable. (They would have thrown in the kitchen sink, but it was stolen in one of the episodes, "Miracle on Evergreen Terrace," to be precise.) This DVD set follows Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Margaret (Maggie to the rest of us) on five different episodes from different seasons.
"Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" -- Homer doesn't receive his Christmas bonus and Marge's Christmas fund is blown on emergency tattoo removal for Bart, so Homer takes a part-time job as a Mall Santa to earn some dough. But when Christmas Eve arrives and Homer's paycheck is more D'oh! than dough, it takes an unconventional Christmas miracle to save the Simpsons' holiday.
"Mr. Plow" -- Suckered into buying an expense snowplow, Homer actually puts it to good use plowing snow. But when his best friend Barney moves in on his turf, the friendly competition turns downright mean.
"Miracle on Evergreen Terrace" -- It's Christmas Eve and Bart can't wait to open his presents. But instead of enjoying them, he inadvertently melts the family Christmas tree and claims a burglar is the culprit. When the townsfolk learn of the Simpsons' predicament, they open their hearts, and more importantly their wallets, to them, but when the truth is finally discovered it'll take more than open arms to get the Simpsons' back in their good graces.
"Grift of the Magi" -- Due to budget shortfalls, Springfield Elementary is sold to a toy corporation, but with the Christmas season just around the corner, are their lesson plans educational or market research?
"She of Little Faith" -- Due to Bart and Homer's shenanigans, the First Church of Springfield is destroyed. To help finance the repair costs, the church sells advertising space. Fed up for the last time, Lisa leaves the church forever. With Christmas fast approaching, is there anything the Simpson family can do to win her back to the fold?
If you aren't familiar with The Simpsons by now, you are either a time-traveler from the future or you just woke up from a very long coma. If you are from the former, welcome to the early 21st century and give me a call, I want to discuss patents with you. If you are from the latter, there's still a Bush in the White House so you haven't missed anything.
I received the first Simpsons Christmas special, "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" many years ago on VHS as a gift. It was unopened and hermetically sealed. Since it was Christmas time to begin with, I popped it in the VCR (as was the style at the time), and prepared to snuggle up to a holiday classic with a nice bowl of buttered popcorn. It had been a while since I had seen that rerun on TV, and since no other Christmas specials were going to be on during those 30 minutes, I thought I had found a nice window in which to enjoy this.
So you can imagine my horror when the video abruptly started five minutes into the episode, no opening credits, no couch gag, and grainy blurry picture to boot! The tracking was fine, the heads were clean, and the tape was brand new. Completely unwatchable, but brand-spanking new. I watched the remaining 17 minutes, hoping for an improvement, but little came to that wish. Even the ending was cut short and chopped off. I never told my friend who gave me the gift that it had been such a dud, but I never bought a single episode of The Simpsons on VHS after that joyful experience.
Since then the wonderful world of DVDs came along, and in time, The Simpsons found their way into my home again. In Christmas with the Simpsons, we get five Christmas themed forays instead of the one single episode I "enjoyed" so long ago. I immediately checked out the first episode, the one that still haunted my memories with its poor video transfer that plays in the rewind section of my mind, to see if I would be up late at nights again screaming into the dark. Attentively, with hands shaking, I started the first episode.
And the opening credits filled the screen. The picture was sharp and clear. Everything that was gone was restored.
And that's how the DVD saved Christmas.
The five episodes on this disc may not have the same healing powers for you, but they do contain five enjoyable Christmas themed shows perfect for the holiday season, even if the season in question happens to be the 4th of July.
The DVD presentation is quite sparse and coarse, borderline amateurish. There are no opening sequences, commercials, or fancy animated menus; it starts directly on the main menu for episode selection. While some may applaud the terseness, it gives the disc a slapped together at the last second feel. The menus are also slow in their response times, with an awkward pause in-between clicks of the remote. Each episode must be watched individually, for there is no "play all" option, and subtitle selection and language choice must be done on an episode by episode basis as well.
The video quality of each episode is cleaned up slightly from their original TV broadcast, presented here in their original full frame aspect ratio. Unlike the season box sets, this edition only contains Dolby Surround 2.0 audio. It is clear of distortion and hiss, but it's still lackluster.
Extra content wise, this disc contains one segment entitled "Mr. Burns' Finest Moments." A couple minutes long, it showcases a smattering of clips featuring everyone's favorite liver-spotted billionaire, but it is hardly his finest moments. The relevance to the inclusion is also questionable, since none of them is Christmas related. A short funny derision, but cheaply tacked on this disc.
Ever so slowly, Fox is releasing all the seasons onto DVD, so you may already have some of these episodes. The first one aired in the first season, and "Mr. Plow" in the fourth. If you already own the box sets, this edition is pretty pointless, except to get a few of the later episodes on DVD before their season sets come out. Also, the lack of better sound, especially for the shows that have already been remastered into 5.1, is a drawback for this double-dip. It's not necessarily needed, but if it has already been done, why not include it?
If you just want your Simpsons Christmas style, this release may be right for you. Even at the price of $13, this makes a good stocking stuffer for the Simpsons fan in your household, but if you are collecting the seasons as they come out, you can probably pass on this release. Still, it makes a fine gift when coupled with the special Halloween themed release.
Guilty of exploiting a holiday gimmick, but since this isn't a crime, no fines will be leveled. Case dismissed.
Review content copyright © 2003 Jonathan Nelson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Mr. Burns' Finest Moments
* Official Site
* The Simpsons Archive