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Case Number 05501: Small Claims Court

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Max And Ruby's Christmas

Paramount // 2004 // 102 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Packard (Retired) // November 2nd, 2004

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All Rise...

Two bunnies. A snow woman. Sibling rivalry. Judge David Packard takes a close look at what can happen when you throw all of these things together.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Max And Ruby: Bunnytales (published February 6th, 2011), Max And Ruby: Everybunny Loves Winter (published September 29th, 2010), Max And Ruby: Rainy Day Play (published May 8th, 2011), Max And Ruby's Halloween (published September 14th, 2005), Max And Ruby: Springtime For Max And Ruby (published April 18th, 2005), and Max And Ruby: A Visit With Grandma (published June 15th, 2010) are also available.

The Charge

Celebrate with Max and Ruby!

The Case

Having made the successful hop from book to animated television series, author-illustrator Rosemary Wells' tales of two bunnies now arrives on our favorite medium with Max & Ruby's Christmas. This compilation of 12 episodes (six episodes plus six "bonus" episodes) from the Nickelodeon cable network series follows the adventures of seven-year-old Ruby (the bossy and perpetually-happy big sister) and three-year-old Max (the playful little brother with a penchant for mischief).

The six episodes are as follows:

• "Max's Christmas"
The jolly one will soon be making his annual nocturnal trek to deliver toys to the good little hares of the world, and Max peppers his festive sis with his typical one-word sentences ("Why?" "How?" "When?") in anticipation of the big event. Can Ruby stay sane under the constant barrage of questions, or will this be Max's last Christmas?

• "Ruby's Snow Queen"
Max would like nothing more than to play with his new Christmas present ("Gorilla!"), but Ruby drafts him to aid her in constructing a "snow queen." The difference between a snowman and a snow queen? Snowballs.

• "Max's Rocket Run"
Max is ready to tackle the "Rocket Run" on his toboggan, but Ruby and her fellow Bunny Scout, Louise, think that the far safer and far lamer "Bunny Hill" is more Max's speed. But Max is one hare born to fly ("Faster!"), and where there's a hill, there's a way.

• "Ruby's Figure Eight"
As Ruby and Louise ponder the intricacies and challenges of skating a perfect figure eight on the local frozen pond, Max wants to join Roger (possessing a vocabulary of one phrase: "Uh-huh!") and his pals for a little body-checking, stick-slashing fun ("Hockey!"). Okay, so Max doesn't know how to skate. Big deal—that hasn't stopped some of the guys in the NHL.

• "Ruby's Surprise Party"
Ruby is in full obsessive-compulsive mode as she readies the diner for a surprise birthday party for Louise. Max has his eyes and stomach on one thing: the chocolate cake with raspberry fluff icing and butter cream roses. Can Max figure out a way to dine before it's time ("Now?"), or will Ruby sigh, throw her paws up, and send Max to military school?

• "Ruby's Tent"
Ruby and Valerie practice setting up a tent for a Bunny Scouts badge, but Max is "Super Bunny!" Ruby and Valerie will soon find out that, sometimes, super heroes can be a real pain in the ass.

The six bonus episodes are as follows:

• "Ruby's Tea Party"
Tea cakes. Finger sandwiches. Cute dolls sitting at the picnic table. Max in pirate regalia ("Yo ho ho!"). A table cloth-turned-pirate flag is the least of Ruby's horrors: Wait until she sees what's buried in the carrot garden!

• "Max Is It"
Max wants candy ("Dribbler!"), but Ruby and her friends drag Max into a game of "Freeze Tag." It turns out that Max is naturally gifted with abilities of stealth, speed, and the arts of war.

• "Ruby's Science Project"
Ruby and Louise sweat over the construction of a Paper Mache volcano as Max's sweet tooth rears its enameled head yet again ("Candy!"). Max disposes of a variety of healthier snacks in his relentless pursuit of those red-hot marshmallow squirters. Spoiler: this one has a happy ending.

• "Ruby Writes a Story"
There's only one thing more tragic than a rabbit with writer's block: a rabbit with writer's block constantly interrupted by her little brother yelling "Cowboy!" over and over.

• "Max's Dominoes"
Ruby says that "a good hostess always stays calm when things go wrong." Max and his toys are ready to put big sis up to the challenge. Warning, kids: a Bunny Scout badge hangs in the balance!

• "Grandma's Attic"
Grandma gives Max and Ruby full reign of her attic. Ruby wants to play dress-up and "store," but Max is intrigued by the mysterious locked box ("Treasure!") he has found. Does it contain lost Biblical scrolls? Will it open the Gates of Hell? Watch, if you dare!

Let's begin with the positives, starting with the art and animation. The Max & Ruby series sports very sharp, colorful artwork. Characters are outlined in black and filled with bright, bold colors. Backgrounds lose the distinctive black marker-like outlines of the characters and are rendered in detailed patterns and shades rather than solids. This artistic contrast puts the appropriate focus on the bunnies and gives them an almost three-dimensional feeling as they move about in the foreground. Wells' illustrating talents give Max and Ruby—with their large, non-threatening eyes and long whiskers—a unique, cuddly appearance that proves irresistible to young ones. The animation itself is not the smoothest you'll find on television, but it works well here. These characters originated in book form, and the animated technique used, in combination with the contrasting artistic styles between the characters and the backgrounds, conveys the feeling that these characters have popped off the printed page and come to life. The episodes are visually appealing and sure to attract and hold a young one's attention.

The Dolby Digital stereo offering is more than suitable for this genre; dialogue is crisp if not occasionally annoying (yes, Ruby, that means you). The video is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio which, again, is suitable for this type of programming. Kids will be so glued to Max's antics that they'll not question the lack of an anamorphic widescreen presentation. And quite honestly, the children who will most enjoy this series probably won't even be able to pronounce the word "anamorphic."

Before we award this DVD a Bunny Scout badge, a few nitpicks require mention. As the title of the disc indicates, this is Max & Ruby's Christmas. On the cover, Max is dressed in a festive Santa hat, eyeing his present with glee. Ruby, looking a bit wary of the contents that might lie in Max's gift, stands in front of a Christmas tree. A few flurries, along with a snow-covered house and trees in the background, complete the Christmas theme. It may surprise you that exactly ONE of the twelve episodes on this DVD centers around Christmas (and yes, that would be the first episode—"Max's Christmas"). Okay, I'll give you that "Ruby's Snow Queen" could be considered a Christmas episode, but because Ruby won't let Max enjoy his new Christmas gift due to her own selfishness and desire to build that damned snow queen, that would be quite a stretch. I don't consider the Christmas-related extra ("Christmas Morning Match-Up") to count, either—it's an extra (and a weak one at that), not an episode of the series. This isn't to say it's a bad disc; I just find it misleading to blatantly market this as a Christmas DVD when only one episode on the disc really has anything to do with Christmas. That's a whopping 8.3% of the episodes, so caveat emptor if you're looking to pick up some holiday programming for your little one.

Furthermore, I'm at a complete loss to explain how episodes were chosen as regular episodes versus bonus episodes. Assuming the four winter episodes are supposed to tie into the Christmas theme (again, a stretch), that leaves two regular episodes that could just as easily been swapped with any of the six bonus episodes. The "bonus episodes" concept is a marketing ploy designed to make you think you're getting more for your money; I'd much rather see these twelve episodes listed together, especially when there's neither rhyme nor reason as to what differentiates regular from bonus episodes.

The "Special Features" are hardly worth noting. "Christmas Morning Match-Up" displays a silent, static screen of Max and Ruby, surrounded by a bounty of toys. It's your job to decide which toys belong to Max and which toys belong to Ruby. There's no interaction with the disc; you simply look at the toys and mentally note which item belongs to which bunny. Clicking the "More" option takes you to another static screen, showing the toys matched up to Max and Ruby so you can see how well you did. It's a shame that the lively antics and chipper music of the Max & Ruby series, combined with a minimum level of interactivity, weren't applied to this extra. As a result, it's lifeless and boring.

"Nick Jr. Baby Video Sneak Peek" and "Previews" are the typical self-promoting fluff you find on most DVDs today. You'll miss nothing if you skip it. I should also mention that the box trumpets "Full Screen Format" and "Dolby Digital English Stereo" as Special Features, which just goes to show that it's easy to get into the Marketing business these days.

Aside from these strange quirks and weak extras, I still recommend Max & Ruby's Christmas, although I do so for the extremely kid-friendly characters, attractive artwork, and overall fun of the simple stories. It's also a good value: At roughly twelve dollars retail, you're getting over an hour and a half of content sure to keep your little one entertained. Just remember that you're adding what is essentially a bare-bones disc with very little Christmas-related entertainment to your DVD library, regardless of what the box suggests.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 73

Perp Profile

Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• All Ages
• Animation
• Christmas

Distinguishing Marks

• Christmas Morning Match-Up
• Nick Jr. Baby Video Sneak Peek
• Previews

Accomplices

• IMDb
• Nick Jr.
• Max and Ruby Nick Jr. Site
• Rosemary Wells








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