Chief Justice Michael Stailey wonders what exactly is a nasty wasty sot?
Fun is on the loose with three Dr. Suess holiday classics!
"Loose" being the operative word, two of the three are neither holiday-related nor classics.
My growing frustration with Warner Home Video's release strategy is well documented by now, and what better way to illustrate my feelings than with Dr. Suess' Holidays on the Loose! Every year for the past six years, Warner Bros. has released How the Grinch Stole Christmas, either as a stand-alone title (DVD or Blu-ray) or as part of a Christmas collection. Just exactly how many copies of this 26 minute animated special does one household need, especially when you can find it running continuously on TNT and TBS and is now available for digital streaming?
This year, you can find The Grinch being pimped out as part of Santa's Magical Stories Collection and fronting Dr. Suess' Holidays on the Loose! Since we've already reviewed it twice for Verdict, there's little sense in belaboring the point that the talents of director/animator Chuck Jones, Boris Karloff, June Foray, Thurl Ravenscroft, composer Albert Hague, and Ted Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) captured the pure essence of Christmas magic back in 1966. However, unlike a vintage wine, age and overexposure is killing the timelessness of it all. The copy you'll find here is the Deluxe Edition from 2006, literally taken from that packaging and stuck in this one.
Adding insult to injury, it's bookended by Halloween is Grinch Night (1977) and The Grinch Grinches The Cat in the Hat (1982), both of which pale in comparison to the feature presentation. In fact, of all the Dr. Seuss animated adaptations, only How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Cat in the Hat (1971), and The Lorax (1972) can be considered classics. The majority of the DePatie-Freleng shorts—including the two B-sides here—are shallow also-rans in story, song, and production value.
Halloween is Grinch Night attempts to show us Halloween in Whoville…or does it? The great Hans Conried (The Hobbit) uses his vocal talents to supplant Karloff, bringing life to this thin tale of a sweet-sour wind signaling the return of The Grinch and the resulting fear it imposes on one Who family. Sesame Street composer Joe Raposo's heavy-handed musical score—none of which is the least bit memorable—overwhelms what little narrative exists, turning The Grinch into a vaudevillian song and dance man. Even The Grinch's dog Max gets a somber ballad (as sung by The 'Burbs Henry Gibson) about being abducted from his family. So what does all this have to do with Halloween? Aside from the title card, nothing. It's obviously autumn in Whoville, but nothing about the holiday is seen or referenced. And what exactly does The Grinch plan to do upon his return to Whoville? Well, he apparently has a large truck full of some hallucinogenic substance that conjures images of bizarre Seussian creatures (many of which look like sperm) and abstract geometric backgrounds. What he intends to do with this substance is never made clear, since the sour-sweet wind dies down and diffuses his Grinchiness before he reaches the bottom of Mt. Crumpit. To be honest, the only real value of this story is that Max finally abandons his abusive master to live with little Ukariah Who.
You may think you've stumbled upon a vintage Smuckers or Pepperidge Farm commercial, but it's actually actor Mason Adams narrating The Grinch Grinches The Cat in the Hat, another pointless animated short. Now living somewhere other than atop Mt. Crumpit, a happy Grinch wakes to greet a cheerful sunny day, that is until his mirror image convinces him of his real purpose in life. So off he goes to terrorize the world, running smack dab into the ever optimistic Cat in the Hat. So irritated by is he by the Cat's disposition that it becomes his mission to ruin the Cat's day. What results is a Roadrunner/Coyote-esque game of Cat and Grinch, punctuated by more forgettable Joe Raposo musical numbers. As you might have guessed, the story has nothing to do with Halloween or Christmas; just more unnecessary filler for another unnecessary release. Oh, and Max is back to living with and being abused by The Grinch, which means he needs a Dr. Phil intervention.
Presented in their original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio, the Deluxe Edition of How the Grinch Stole Christmas is the beautifully restored version. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the other two shorts. First, the quality of the DePatie-Freleng tales is several steps below their predecessor. The character designs and backgrounds are reminiscent of Saturday morning television, the color consistency is way off (The Grinch goes from green and minty white to yellow and orange), and there's a fair amount of dirt, grain, and cell degradation evident throughout. And while the feature presentation gets the Dolby 5.1 Surround treatment, the other two are the original 2.0 Mono tracks suitable for ignoring.
The bonus features are limited to the How the Grinch Stole Christmas Deluxe Edition disc, all of which you're likely to have seen before…
Commentary—Join animator Phil Roman and the one-and-only June Foray for their reminiscence of creating the short.
TNT's How The Grinch Stole Christmas Special (19 min)—The late Phil Hartman hosts this "Cult of Seuss" look behind-the-scenes of making this classic animated short, featuring interviews with Chuck Jones, Audrey Geisel, Albert Hague, Thurl Ravenscroft, Tim Burton, and Danny Elfman.
Dr. Seuss and The Grinch: From Whoville to Hollywood (15 min)—A hip hop themed (seriously) featurette looking back at Ted Geisel's career and the creation of The Grinch. Look for Rico Rodriguez (Manny from Modern Family) as one of the peanut gallery kids.
Songs in the Key of Grinch (8 min)—Interviews with composer Albert Hague (Fame) and the great Thurl Ravenscroft.
Grinch Song Selections—Video jukebox for the short's four musical numbers.
Grinch Pencil Tests—Gallery of concept art and storyboards.
Who's Who in Whoville—Bios of Dr. Seuss, Chuck Jones, Boris Karloff, and June Foray.
I love these characters as much as anyone, but at some point we need to stop the madness. If you already own How the Grinch Stole Christmas—and by this point, who doesn't?—there is no need to even glance at this release.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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