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CHRISTMAS WITH THE SIMPSONS

Review by Chastity Campbell

Starring: Homer Simpson, Marge Simpson, Bart Simpson, Lisa Simpson, and Little Maggie Simpson                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital, Surround
Video: 1.33:1 Standard Fullscreen 
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 92 Minutes
Release Date: October 14, 2003

Bart: “There’s only one fat guy who brings us presents, and his name ain’t Santa!”

Film ***

Joy to the world…Christmas With The Simpsons has come to DVD!  

I have never been what you would consider a hard core Simpsons fan.  Over the years I’ve watched the show off and on, without too much consideration as to whether I was a fan or not.  In more recent years, I’ve tended to steer clear of cartoons in favor of my true television love, Sci-Fi!

When I received Christmas With The Simpsons, it was a true pleasure to be able to watch not only some of the best cartoon comedy around, it was an opportunity for me to once again check up on old Homer and Bart so as to remind myself what I had been missing over the last few years.

This DVD will draw you in as soon as you push play!  Animated menus allow you to roam the disc easily to get from the featurette to any of the five episodes included.

The first episode, Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire is one of the earlier season episodes.  The animation is of a slightly lesser quality than what we are used to now, however that just made me realize how long this show has been on the air.

This episode is heart wrenching as it shows you how Homer tries to provide a nice Christmas for his family.  After a bad day in a Santa suit and an even lousier day at the track, it will take a miracle for the Simpsons to have any kind of Christmas at all.

Mr. Plow is one of my favorite episodes of this show.  Homer buys a snowplow and opens his own business. The town drunk Barney realizes how much money is at stake and buys his own plow to become the Plow King.  Homer, through trickery, takes the Plow King out of the picture, but ends up saving Barney when an avalanche comes crashing down.

In Miracle On Evergreen Terrace, Bart accidentally burns down the Christmas tree and tells everyone it was a burglar.  Before you know it, the news of their misfortune has spread through out Springfield and the Simpsons find themselves on the receiving end of everyone’s holiday spirit.  But when the town finds out it was Bart who ruined Christmas, will they be able to forgive and forget?  Don’t count on it!

Grift Of The Magi finds Homer at his wit’s end and Bart in a butt cast.  A mob boss loans $200,000 to Principal Skinner in order to make the school handicap accessible, but the deal falls through when the Principal can’t repay the loan and the school is bought out by a huge corporation searching for just the right combination of cuddly and cute to bring Tickle Me Elmo to his knees. 

I thoroughly enjoyed watching this episode.  It made me remember just how crazy people got when Tickle Me Elmo first hit the shelves.  I was working at K-Mart while attending college and had to help throw people out of the stock rooms, while they swore up and down that we had plenty of Elmos, we were just hoarding them for ourselves!  Umm, yeah, that’s it…I’m hoarding Elmos! 

The final episode on this DVD is She Of Little Faith.  Okay, the Simpsons have done some crazy things over the years, but when Bart and Homer build a rocket and accidentally (notice whenever Bart is used in a sentence, most of the time the word accidentally will follow... hmmm) burn down the First Church Of Springfield, they try to help raise money to rebuild by selling advertising space.   Lisa is outraged, and with the help of a big Hollywood guest star, becomes a Buddhist.  

You can’t really critique the animation for their performance, except to say that the Simpsons have definitely improved with age.  The style of artwork and colors have lightened and brightened over the years to produce the dysfunctional family we all love to make fun of.  Um…doughnuts!

This DVD did contain episodes that garnered a nice Hollywood guest starring list.  Linda Ronstadt, Adam West, Alex Trebek, Clarence Clemons, Gary Coleman, Joe Mantegna, Tim Robbins, and Richard Gere all lent their vocal talents to make these episodes stand out as some of the very best. 

I really do like the Simpsons, and though my attention may have waned over the years, this DVD did remind me how much fun a cartoon can be.  If you have the chance, pick it up and give it a spin.  You don’t have to be a fan to follow this dysfunctional family’s antics, you simply have to be willing to spend some of your time working your funny bone!

Video **

The 1.33:1 Standard Fullscreen transfer into the digital realm had a few minor flaws associated with the original prints of this cartoon, but nothing that would cause me not to purchase this disc.   

There was quite a bit of dirt and grain visible in the print for the first two episodes.  The disc over all had nice dynamic color schemes.  Bright vivid colors with seamless animation to most scenes make for a good visual experience.

There was some visible haziness to scenes in the first episode on the disc titled “Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire”, but the other episodes did not display this problem.

It’s a cartoon, and one that’s been around for quite a while.  The age shows in the prints, but it is forgivable considering the characters are animated!

Audio ***

The 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround blend was a nice, but not the best I’ve heard.  There was some white noise present, throughout most of the disc along with what might have been digital clipping in some of the scenes where Homer is yelling for one reason or another. 

Overall though, the background sound effects were balanced really well with the spoken dialogue.  The guest stars’ audio seemed to be mixed a bit better than the normal episodic dialogue, but that’s the nature of having famous people guest star with cartoons.  They get all the extra perks! 

Features *

“DOH!”

Mr. Burns finest moments are presented in a really fun to watch featurette.  Pull the slot machine handle and watch Mr. Burns spin his wicked web of money grubbing hilarity!

English, Spanish, and French language options are available, and you can further enhance your viewing pleasure with subtitles in English and Spanish.  

Not a lot of extras, but the featurette is fun to watch, and you will be entertained with the whole disc!

Summary:

This disc didn’t contain a lot of extra features, the animation is not the best out there, and Homer has gotten a bit Krusty in his old age,  but gosh diddle de darn,  isn’t that part of the reason everyone’s been watching as long as they have?!   Pick up Christmas With The Simpsons and let Bart, Homer, Marge, Lisa, and Maggie show you the true meaning of Christmas!