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WARNER HOME VIDEO

MOVIE INFO
Director:
Tim Hodge
Cast:
Various
Writing Credits:
Phil Vischer

MPAA:
Not Rated.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Standard 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 48 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 10/29/2002

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Tim Hodge and Writer Phil Vischer
• “Behind the Scenes”
• Concept Art
• Progression Reel
• Previews
• Ye Olde Silly Synth
• Trivia Challenge
• Sing-Along
• Very Veggie Christmas Tunes
The Toy That Saved Christmas Storybook
• Millward’s Mirror Morpher
• Character Bios
• Family Fun Activity
• Bob and Larry’s Countertop Recipes
• Easter Eggs
• DVD-ROM Materials


PURCHASE
DVD

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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


VeggieTales: The Star of Christmas (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 11, 2002)

During my prior experiences within the world of VeggieTales, things stayed pretty secular. Though the series offers a gently Christian take on events, the DVDs I’ve seen integrated those themes to a moderate degree and didn’t delve heavily into religious topics. As someone leery of heavy-handed proselytizing, that pleased me, and I felt those programs worked fairly well.

For their newest DVD, however, the folks behind VeggieTales headed toward more overtly religious territory. The Star of Christmas provides a program that revolves around the most significant holiday on the Christian calendar. I worried this might result in a pushier program, but that wasn’t the case. I didn’t like Star as much as prior VeggieTales episodes, but that didn’t occur due to heavy religious content. Instead, the show remained as loose and semi-irreverent as usual.

Star starts in a somewhat disconcerting way. We see all of the VeggieTales gang as different characters, but Star never presents them as participants in a play. Maybe I’m just a moron, but this confused me. Are we supposed to believe that Bob and Larry are real beings who’re playing parts in Star like human actors would do? I dunno, but I suppose it’s irrelevant for less nit-picky – or smarter – folks than myself.

Anyway, we go back to London circa 1880, where we meet struggling stage musical writers Cavis Appythart (Bob/Phil Vischer) and Millward Phelps (Larry/Mike Nawrocki). They create a stage production called The Princess and the Plumber. Bob intends for this piece to unify London and teach the town how to love for Christmas, but they only have three days until Christmas Eve to finish it. While Larry labors to finish the script and songs, Bob tries to solidify other elements. He casts diva Effie Pickering (Madame Blueberry/Jacquelyn Ritz) to star in it and also attempts to enlist the support of Crown Prince Frederick (Mr. Lunt/Vischer); with his attendance, the show’s sure to succeed.

However, a problem arises when they learn that Edmund Gilbert (Junior Asparagus/Lisa Vischer) plans to stage a church pageant that features the legendary Star of Christmas. That object attracts all the attention and mucks up the plans for Plumber. Cavis needs to figure out a way to make his show more impressive than Edmund’s. Out of desperation, he attempts to steal the Star, which leads him down a slippery slope of deceit.

From there, it seems pretty obvious where Star will go. Actually, its progression appears predictable from very early in the production. Cavis will get overwhelmed by his ambition and resort to less than admirable methods to achieve his desires, but in the end he’ll realize the errors of his ways and learn an important lesson. Hey, it’s kiddie programming – there always has to be a lesson learned!

One reason I liked prior VeggieTales escapades occurred because it didn’t telegraph the messages too strongly. Star feels somewhat more forced in that regard. To be sure, it doesn’t truly beat us over the head with its morals, but those elements seem heavier than normal, and they make the show come across as a bit preachier than usual.

However, this is a fairly minor gripe, as The Star of Christmas mainly works well. Nothing about the production stands out to any great degree, but other than the issues I already noted, nothing about Star falls flat either. Not an exceptional piece of work, Star still provides a generally entertaining program that should please most VeggieTales fans.


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

The Star of Christmas 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. If you’ve seen prior VeggieTales releases, you’ll know what to expect here, as Star provided another solid visual presentation.

Sharpness seemed to be consistently positive. The picture looked crisp and detailed at all times, as I witnessed no signs of softness or fuzziness. However, some jagged edges appeared, and a few examples of moiré effects occurred as well; these were minor but occasionally noticeable. Edge enhancement caused no concerns. Print flaws also appeared absent during this clean image.

Apparently the world of VeggieTales offers a very bright and varied palette, and Star followed with a strong batch of colors. The tones remained appropriately cartoonish and bold, and they were displayed in a very solid manner. At no time did any of the colors show signs of bleeding, noise or other concerns, as they always looked tight and distinct. Black levels were also nicely deep and rich, and though shadow detail was only a minor consideration, all of those sorts of shots came across as appropriately clean and visible. Ultimately, The Star of Christmas provided a very satisfying visual experience.

Also fairly strong was the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Star of Christmas. For the most part, this soundfield stayed with an emphasis on the forward spectrum, where it offered nicely broad and engaging audio at times. Though not tremendously more involving when compared to other VeggieTales pieces, Star did provide somewhat more active audio. Elements moved nicely across the front and appeared less speaker-specific than normal. The effects meshed together well, especially during the film’s “action” sequences. For example, the chase through the church demonstrated nice directional sound, and the scenes in the rocket car zoomed around the room nicely.

The surrounds also added more audio than normal. The rear speakers never became terribly significant partners, but they kicked in some good material at times. In addition to the segments noted above, we heard doors open and close in the back, and the surrounds generally became livelier than I expected.

Sound quality seemed consistent with prior releases. Audio quality seemed to be fine across the board. Dialogue was consistently warm and natural, and it showed no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Effects sounded clean and accurate, and when appropriate they came to life quite vividly. For the most part, bass response was a bit tepid, and the subwoofer received little work, but some rich low-end did crop up at times. Music demonstrated fairly positive dimensionality. Again, the bass could have sounded warmer and deeper, but I thought the range of the tunes remained quite acceptable throughout the show. In the end, The Star of Christmas didn’t give us a stellar auditory experience, but I thought the mix worked quite well as a whole.

This release of The Star of Christmas contains a fairly nice roster of supplements. We start with an audio commentary from writer/actor Phil Vischer and director Tim Hodge, both of whom sat together for this running, screen-specific piece. For the most part, the track offered a positive experience. It started really strong as we learned the genesis of the program and the different influences upon it. We also heard how the production of Big Idea’s theatrical flick Jonah affected this one’s creation. After an energetic start, however, the commentary started to wane somewhat midway through Star. Hodge and Vischer still gave us some decent information during the feature’s second half, but some empty spaces appeared, and when they spoke, they tended to make general comments about the on-screen action that didn’t provide much useful information. Nonetheless, the track seemed strong enough as a whole to merit a listen.

Next we find a quick glimpse Behind the Scenes. This eight-minute and 16-second program shows clips from the movie and includes interviews with writer/actor Phil Vischer, producer David Pitts, director Tim Hodge, music director Kurt Heinecke, and actor Mike Nawrocki. Despite the brevity of the program, it offers a reasonably concise and informative piece that covers the origins of Star and go over some anecdotes about its production. Some of these seem quite entertaining, and “Behind” definitely merits a look.

Concept Art includes 10 drawings used to design characters, sets, and other objects. The Progression Reel lasts two minutes, 39 seconds and really offers a storyboard to film comparison. We watch the rocket car sequence and see the piece’s evolution.

The “Features” area finishes with some Previews. This section includes ads for the Jonah video, Jonah Sing-Along Songs and More!, The Toy That Saved Christmas, Larryboy – Leggo My Ego, Larryboy and the Angry Eyebrows, 3-2-1 Penguins!, and 3-2-1 Penguins! – Runaway Pride at the Lightstation Kilowatt.

More extras appear in the “Fun!” section. Ye Olde Silly Synth offers a very odd supplement. You select any of three Christmas songs (“Jingle Bells”, “Deck the Halls”, and “Auld Lang Syne”) and then pick one of three musical styles (bossa nova, rock, or disco). Finally, you choose a word from “Bob”, “cheese” and “green”. As a result, you’ll hear the song played in that genre but all the lyrics will consist of the word. Very weird, but oddly amusing.

Fans can try the Trivia Challenge at either “easy” or “hard” levels. Actually, both seem equally difficult. Some of the questions are gimmes, but most require at least a little thought. You receive no reward for correct completion, unfortunately, and the same questions appear if you replay the game.

Next we get a Sing-Along presentation for “While By My Sheep”. This 100-second clip shows Junior Asparagus as he croons the song. It displays the lyrics at the bottom of the screen, and the audio button allows you to turn on or off the vocals.

Very Veggie Christmas Tunes offers a simpler version of the sing-along feature. It provides audio-only renditions of “Away In a Manger” and “He Is Born, the Holy Child”. We see lyrics onscreen and can sing along if we want to do so.

After this we locate a storybook for The Toy That Saved Christmas. This allows you to read the tale independently or have it read to you. The presentation seems somewhat static and suffers from the absence of any original voices.

To see various Star characters distorted in funhouse images, go to Millward’s Mirror Morpher. For information about the film’s roles, Bios provides cute listings for Cavis, Millward, Moyer “The Destroyer”, Seymour Schwenk, and Miss Effie Pickering.

The Family Fun Activity provides a little game designed to get folks to demonstrate their affection for each other. Bob and Larry’s Countertop Recipes gives us a 202-second piece actually features Madame Blueberry, who teaches us how to make Turtle of Damascus cookies.

In addition, a few Easter Eggs appear on the DVD. Go to the “Features” menu and click to the left from “Progression Reel”. This highlights a star. Press “enter” and you’ll watch a short clip of director Tim Hodge as he plays the harmonica for an on-screen character.

If you go to the “Fun!” domain, click right from “Family Fun Activity”. This highlights another star. When you hit enter, you’ll hear a jingle written by Cavis and Millward.

In the “Previews” menu, click right from The Toy That Saved Christmas. Yes, this activates another star. When you hit enter, you’ll get to see the “Wanted” poster for Charles Pincher.

Lastly, Star includes some DVD-ROM materials. These include Weblinks to bigidea.com and bigideafun.com plus some “Coloring Pages”. Those let you print out two different images you can then color. Lastly, the “Arcade Game” offers a simple but surprisingly fun sledding contest. Its biggest problem stems from a glitch: sometimes when I crashed, it would restart me in a place that immediately resulted in another collision, and since that cost you chances to finish, it caused problems.

Although I didn’t think The Star of Christmas seemed as good as prior VeggieTales productions, that conclusion mostly reflected the high quality of the earlier efforts. Without such comparisons, Star came across as a reasonably amusing and charming enterprise that simply failed to become anything particularly special. The DVD offered very solid picture and sound as well as a fairly nice little package of supplements. With a list price of less than $20 families should give The Star of Christmas a look.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.421 Stars Number of Votes: 19
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