A number of readers have been asking about “Arthur Christmas,” which opened in theaters last Thanksgiving but didn’t follow the usual pattern of landing on home video a few months later. That’s because the distributor knew it was more likely to sell big during the following year’s holiday season. So here it is, along with a Blu-ray upgrade of a Disney favorite and a pair of locally produced holiday films, among many others aimed at families.
“Arthur Christmas” (Columbia, 2011, PG, $30.99, featurettes). This animated feature comes from the folks at the British Aardman Studios (the Wallace & Gromit films, “Chicken Run,” “Pirates! Band of Misfits”), and it suggests that “Santa” is more a family-run military-style operation than a singular, magic, jolly old elf.
The frantic prelude sets up the high-tech means by which Santa manages to visit every home on the planet, then, thankfully, calms down for the story of misfit youngest son Arthur, who, of course, will ultimately have to save the day.
The storyline isn’t all that far afield from a number of other films that have come up with their own comic interpretations of the Santa legend. But, of course, it’s all in the telling, and this one is funny and clever enough to gloss over its few miscalculations, with a nonstop string of sight gags and quips, along with the modern requisite snarky one-liners. (Also on two-disc Blu-ray, $40.99, and three-disc 3D, $55.99.)
“The Muppet Christmas Carol: 20th Anniversary” (Disney/Blu-ray + Digital, 1992, G, two discs, $26.50, audio commentaries, featurettes, bloopers, trailers). This delightful, tune-filled umpteenth reinterpretation of Dickens’ classic is a lot of fun in its own right but it also gets a tremendous boost from Michael Caine as Scrooge. He’s terrific, playing it straight to all the Muppet madness swirling around him. And, as you might expect, this Blu-ray edition looks fabulous. (Also on DVD, $19.99.)
“Christmas Oranges” (Covenant, 2012, PG, $19.99). Locally filmed adaptation of the popular book has Edward Herrmann as a Scrooge-like character running an orphanage with an iron fist, and he’s the main draw for this sentimental yarn. The central plot has a young girl looking forward to a holiday visit from Herrmann’s brother (Bruce Newbold) as he brings oranges to the impoverished youngsters. Simplistic but easy-to-take family fare.
“12 Dogs of Christmas: Great Puppy Rescue” (Sony, 2012, PG, $22.99, featurettes). Former Utahn Kieth Merrill wrote and directed this locally filmed sequel to his “12 Dogs of Christmas,” set during the Depression, as now-teenage Emma puts on a holiday show to literally save the farm.
“12 Days of Christmas” (Lifetime, 2005-08, 12 discs, $39.95, 12 movies). This box set of holiday-themed TV movies is aimed directly at fans of the Lifetime Channel, those who enjoy syrupy but uplifting tales of love and redemption during the Christmas season. The films are: “The Road to Christmas,” “Recipe for a Perfect Christmas,” “Home By Christmas,” “A Christmas Wedding,” “Holiday Switch,” “A Very Merry Daughter of the Bride,” “Under the Mistletoe,” “Holiday Wishes,” “Christmas in Paradise,” “Deck the Halls,” “His & Her Christmas” and “Will You Merry Me?” Stars include Linda Hamilton, Wendy Malick, Christine Baranski and Jennifer Grey.
“Rankin/Bass TV Holiday Favorites Collection” (Warner Archive, 1976-81, $18.95, four cartoons). These beloved TV specials are animated holiday treats: “The Little Drummer Boy, Book II,” with voices by Greer Garson and Zero Mostel; “Pinocchio’s Christmas,” Alan King; “The Leprechaun’s Christmas Gold,” Art Carney; and best of all, Walter Matthau as “The Stingiest Man in Town,” a “Christmas Carol” adaptation. (Available at www.WarnerArchive.com)
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