Fred Claus appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 and in a fullscreen version on this double-sided DVD-14; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. This was a consistently ugly transfer.
Excessive compression created most of the problems. Though the package claimed to be dual-layered, if it was, I got the impression it crammed the entire movie onto one layer and used the other layer for extras. The film took on a gauzy, blocky look, as artifacts made it seem like it was shot through a light screen. Sharpness struggled as well. The movie usually demonstrated adequate definition, but more than a few soft shots emerged along the way. The flick gave us passable delineation and that was about it. The blockiness led to some shimmering and jaggies, and moderate edge enhancement marred the picture.
Colors appeared passable at best. I thought a Christmas flick would provide a rich, warm palette, and Fred tried, but the tones here seemed rather blah. The general murkiness meant that they lacked much vivacity and tended to seem somewhat drab and flat. Blacks followed suit, as dark elements looked muddy, and shadows were too dense. Low-light shots came across as dull and somewhat tough to discern. This was a dreadful transfer that deserved a “D”.
Though I had fewer complaints about the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Fred Claus, I couldn’t find much to praise, either. The soundfield focused mostly on the front spectrum, and music presented the most prominent element. The score showed good stereo imaging, and we got some general ambience most of the time. Some action scenes added pizzazz to the package and used the surrounds, but I didn’t find a whole lot to impress me here.
Audio quality was fine. Speech sounded distinctive and natural, without edginess or other issues. Effects didn’t have much to do, but they were acceptable for what they offered. Music appeared reasonably full and rich. There wasn’t enough here to merit a grade above a “B-”, though, so don’t expect a memorable soundtrack.
We get a few extras here. These open with an audio commentary from director David Dobkin. He offers a running, screen-specific piece that looks at the movie’s opening and its tone, visual choices and effects, cast and performances, characters, story, and the tale’s development, shot design, sets and locations, music, and a few other production specifics.
I may not care for the movie, but Dobkin offers a pretty good little of Fred Claus. He covers a nice array of subjects and does so in a concise manner. Of course, a bit of the usual praise and happy talk emerge, but Dobkin never overindulges in these areas. Instead, he delivers an enjoyable and informative view of the film.
13 Deleted Scenes fill a total of 25 minutes, 36 seconds. As expected, these offer a mixed bag. Some of them are pretty good, while others seem less endearing. Actually, I was surprised how many I liked, a fact that increases my suspicions that Fred Claus would’ve worked better as a short program.
No, that doesn’t mean I think these clips should’ve been presented in the final cut of the flick. It’s already too long, so another 25 minutes of footage would’ve made things worse. However, when these shots are seen in isolation, they’re reasonably entertaining. A little of Fred goes a long way; when the segments are removed from the full package, they prove reasonably entertaining much of the time. Fans will definitely want to give them a look, though I could live without the three barely different introductions to “DJ Donnie”; only the music he dances to changes.
A few ads open the disc. We get promos for Speed Racer, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and Jack Frost. No trailer for Fred Claus appears here.
With a stellar cast and a clever concept, Fred Claus could’ve been a winner. Instead, it offers an experience so insipid and banal that it made me long for the relative pleasures of The Santa Clause; that hit was weak, but it beat this nonsense. The DVD provides atrocious picture quality along with fairly good audio and some decent extras. The premise and stars might tempt you to check out Fred, but don’t give into that temptation; avoid this lump of coal.