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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Various
Cast:
Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer, Tress MacNeille, Pamela Hayden, Marcia Wallace, Russi Taylor
Writing Credits:
Various

Synopsis:
See Review.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby 2.0
Spanish Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 88 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 11/2/2004

Bonus:
• “Art and Animation” Featurette


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Simpsons Christmas 2 (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 27, 2004)

I guess 2003’s compilation DVD Christmas With the Simpsons sold well, for Fox decided to roll out a second package along the same lines. Simply called The Simpsons Christmas 2, it packages four shows from the series’ more recent seasons. I’ll present story synopses straight from the DVD’s package and also offer my own thoughts on each program.

Homer Vs. Dignity (aired November 26, 2000): “To make money, Homer lets Mr. Burns hire him to perform increasingly degrading acts. Finally, Homer is forced to choose between wealth and self-respect when Burns orders him to spoil a holiday parade.”

Bad sign number one: when a series plagiarizes itself. That occurs here when Mr. Burns states “There’s a new Mexico?”, a line that was a lot funnier back in Season Five. Bad sign number two: a scene in which Homer gets raped by a panda. A couple of the pranks provide minor amusement, but overall, this is a weak episode. Its only minor connection to the holidays doesn’t help.

Skinner’s Sense of Snow (aired December 17, 2000): “A freak blizzard traps the students of Springfield Elementary inside their school. Their lives at stake, they are at the mercy of the rescue efforts of a woozy Homer and his neighbor Ned Flanders.”

“Snow” improves upon “Dignity” but remains a mediocre show. As with its predecessor on this DVD, it enjoys a cool premise that it only modestly exploits. Some of the bits inside the school when the kids turn on Skinner manage to produce mirth. Otherwise, this comes across as a fairly average program.

Dude, Where’s My Ranch? (aired April 27. 2003): “Homer’s attempt to write a Christmas carol turns into an anti-Flanders ballad that goes to the top of the charts. To escape it, the family heads to a dude ranch, where Homer battles beavers and Lisa falls in love.”

“Dude” stands as the best episode on this disc, though that remains faint praise. It manages a generally good tone, at least, and lacks the puerile humor that marred the prior two shows. Homer’s song manages fun moments, and a few bits at the ranch also stand out as reasonably positive. “Dude” doesn’t live up to the series’ best shows, but it’s pretty decent.

’Tis the Fifteenth Season (aired December 14, 2003): “Homer spends his entire Christmas bonus on an extravagant gift for himself. But when he watches Mr. McGrew’s Christmas Carol on TV, he sees the error of his ways. He becomes the nicest guy in town, leading to a battle of good vs. goody-good with Ned Flanders.”

Chalk up “Season” as another passable but unexceptional program. Like the others on this disc, it enjoys a clever premise, but it doesn’t do a ton to exploit the possibilities. It also relies too much on parodies of TV Christmas specials and doesn’t spoof them in a particularly clever way. “Season” is moderately entertaining.

At the top of its game, The Simpsons is arguably the best TV series of all-time. The Simpsons Christmas 2 doesn’t represent the show at its peak. Occasionally the episodes muster some minor amusement, but don’t expect much from them.


The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus D+

The Simpsons Christmas 2 appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Since all of the shows on this DVD are pretty recent, I expected good visuals, and Christmas mostly lived up to the anticipated levels.

Sharpness varied but usually was solid. Much of the time the shows were reasonably distinct and detailed, but a few soft spots occurred. The programs never became grossly undefined, but they occasionally seemed somewhat bland in that department. Jagged edges and shimmering popped up sporadically but didn’t cause any real problems, and I also observed no issues connected to edge enhancement except for during “Dude”. It displayed substantial haloes absent during the other episodes.

Source flaws were a distraction in some prior Simpsons theme episodes, but these shows looked consistently cleaner. Many of the issues actually related to poor clean up, as they showed stray marks. Otherwise I noticed occasional specks but not many other issues.

Colors looked stronger than I recalled as well. I didn’t find the tones to seem fantastic, but they appeared pretty clean and concise. Most of the time the hues appeared reasonably lively. Black levels were fairly deep, while shadows seemed pretty clear and smooth. Ultimately, the transfers came across as pretty positive.

While the full-season sets of The Simpsons feature Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, the shows on The Simpsons Christmas 2 included only the original Dolby Surround 2.0 tracks. Since the 5.1 mixes haven’t exactly set the world afire, I thought the 2.0 audio seemed sufficient. The soundfields were fairly restricted. They stayed oriented toward the forward channels and didn’t do much. Music offered decent stereo imaging, and some ambient audio popped up in the sides. The surrounds failed to join the party with much force, as they remained generally passive throughout the shows. They presented good reinforcement, though, and added some kick to the programs.

Audio quality was good. Most of the dialogue remained nicely natural and distinct, and only a smidgen of edginess crept into the mix. Effects were clean and accurate, and they showed quite nice bass response. Music also sounded pretty well defined and detailed, and the score demonstrated good dynamics. The audio wasn’t terrific, but it came across reasonably well.

The bargain-priced Christmas includes only one supplement. Art & Animation gives us a multi-angle look at act one of “’Tis the Fifteenth Season”. We can watch a nine-minute and 11-second animatic on its own or flip to storyboards and the completed footage. It’s a fun way to examine the steps of animation. Note that some alternate animation appears during the animatic, which makes it even more interesting to see.

Fans know that The Simpsons hasn’t often fired on all cylinders over the last few seasons, and The Simpsons Christmas 2 reinforces that concept. Its four shows offer some mirth and merriment but real laughs are few and far between during these unexceptional episodes. The DVD presents pretty good picture and audio, and its sole extra offers a neat examination of the steps of animation. Even with a low list price of less than $15, there’s not much reason to get The Simpsons Christmas 2 unless you’re a die-hard Simpsons aficionado. The shows simply aren’t very good.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.8 Stars Number of Votes: 5
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