When it comes to enjoying a tasty holiday cheese ball, Judge Dennis Prince would prefer not to spread any munster [sic] on his cracker.
Our reviews of The Munsters: The Complete First Season (published September 22nd, 2004), The Munsters: The Complete Second Season (published November 9th, 2005), The Munsters: Family Portrait (published October 16th, 2008), The Munsters: The Complete Series (published October 30th, 2008), and The Munsters: The First Family Of Fright (published August 4th, 2004) are also available.
It's Christmas and the graveyard folks are coming out to play.
The greatest difficulty facing a production like this is overcoming the facial differences of a new cast in comparison to the original players. Even if utilizing the exact same appliances, no two actors will look the same and, sadly, that serves as the constant distraction in this return to 1313 Mockingbird Lane. Fred Gwynne, Yvonne DeCarlo, and Al Lewis defined the characters of Herman, Lily, and Grandpa, respectively, for all time, their own features melding with the makeup to establish the comprehensive look of the creepy characters. While others would—and did—come along to step into the makeup and costuming, it's never the same as the original experience (just as Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer don't fool us despite their donning of Ace Frehley's and Peter Criss's original KISS garb). Therefore, a revisit to TV's most macabre family must suffer the inevitable comparisons—and this third outing doesn't fare very well. If you didn't care much for 1990's The Munster's Today or 1995's Here Come the Munsters, then you'll likely be let down yet again with 1996's The Munsters' Scary Little Christmas. It's cute, I suppose, but it can't elevate itself to be considered genuinely entertaining to anyone older than six years.
Little Eddie Munster (Bug Hall, The Stupids) is feeling down since he'll be spending this Christmas away from beloved Transylvania. His folks, the hulking but tender Herman (Sam McMurray, Baby Geniuses) and prim yet pallid Lily (Ann Magnuson, Still Breathing) try their best to help the young wolf-boy settle in to his L.A. lair but fanged waif won't bite. Lily decides she and her boy will enter the neighborhood holiday decoration contest while Herman tries to find a way to earn money to buy the gift Eddie really wants this year: the Marquis de Sade Dungeon Action Playset. Meanwhile, Grandpa (Sandy Baron, Seinfeld) resorts to his usual unreliable alchemy to whip up some real snow outside the Munster home, only to accidentally bi-locate Santa Claus (Mark Mitchell, Round the Twist) into the dungeon, possibly unable to complete his Christmas Eve rounds. Now it's a matter of getting Santa back where he belongs, warming Eddie's melancholy heart, and smiling nicely as the "ugly one," Marilyn (Elaine Hendrix, Wish You Were Dead) finds companionship with the similarly "disfigured" Tom (Jeremy Callaghan, Something In the Air).
As far as the plot goes, there isn't much new ground being dug up here, the script hoping to cash in on some of the gags that made the original series such fun. Here it's just a resurrection of previously-told jokes that can't hardly coax a grin. A color production, naturally, it appears far to stark in visual execution, destroying the delightful decay of the black-and-white episodes. The settings lack the overall atmosphere that assured we smelled the dankness of the Munsters' home, serving as perfect contrast to the silliness that ensued within. Each of the actors give their best efforts to mimic the originals' mannerisms and, to a degree, it's amusing. Poor post-production looping, however, dashes any hopes of this one capturing your interest for the full 90 minutes. And while the show has its heart in the right place—conjuring up holiday joy and goodness even among the unnatural Munsters—it simply seems childish in execution.
As far as the DVD goes, this bare-bones disc provides a 1.33:1 full frame transfer, preserving the production's original broadcast format. The image quality looks like a made-for-TV production, generally clear yet not terribly detailed (even when upscaled) with colors that are deeply saturated and sometimes bleed a bit. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is suitable, offering clarity to the dialog but not much fullness elsewhere.
A production like this does earn a stay of execution simply because it attempts to deliver the Christmas message in a non-offensive way. If you must see it, try a rental. Also, it might serve as a good opportunity for a post-holiday meal snooze.
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