There's not a whole lot one can say about America's Funniest Home Videos: Home for the Holidays: you'll either enjoy or completely avoid this set of three holiday-themed episodes from the long-running (15 years!) if intellectually vacuous ABC show. Of course, anyone expecting Oscar Wilde when host Bob Saget walks out to deliver his monologue gets what they deserve. If watching people stumble backward into their Christmas trees or children (and adults) reacting wildly to their Christmas presents is your idea of fun, than this DVD is for you. I found it quite funny, a perfect antacid after the family has stuffed themselves with turkey and mashed potatoes and unable to do much else.
The DVD offers up three shows, the first and most recent is a one-hour (read: 39 short minutes!) from 2003, while the other two are half-hour episodes from 1996 and 1997 with a total running time of 83 minutes. This reviewer already discussed the basic set-up of the show in a review of Shout! Factory's earlier America's Funniest Home Videos, Volume 1 with Tom Bergeron.
This time, the focus is on the holiday season. As captured by amateur videographers, Christmastime becomes a veritable death trap, where Santa tumbles down a flight of stairs, children scream in terror at the sight of jolly old St. Nick, a string of Christmas lights become vine-like monsters, and a determined poodle bares his teeth, growling at anyone reaching for a Christmas present.
The clips (which overlap a bit from show-to-show) are a mixed bag, but mostly are pretty funny, especially when a fall accidentally has just the right timing, or a facial expression inadvertently has a look comically in tune with the best silent comedians, such as one great clip of a children's party gone wrong, where a man in an elaborate costume, flailing about and losing his balance, terrifies a group of children.
Also funny are the extreme reactions by children and their parents to long dreamed-of gifts. One child is so overcome with emotion upon getting a Gameboy that he actually weeps. Another good clip features a Marmaduke-like Great Dane obsessed with "Santa's" fake beard, which the pooch apparently mistakes for a white bunny rabbit. The giant dog attacks the poor man until the beard has been ripped from the man's face.
It's mildly interesting comparing Bob Saget, who hosted the show during its first six seasons, with Tom Bergeron, who has hosted since 2001. Saget had been such the butt of jokes that The Simpsons even referenced his famously unfunny persona, in an episode where Homer takes Marge to see Bob Seger in concert only to realize at the last minute that his tickets are for Bob Saget. In truth, the writing for both Saget and Bergeron is virtually identical and the laughs are pretty equally tepid , though it's true, on the 1997 show especially, that one can read a lot of barely-contained contempt in Saget's delivery. In the 1997 show Bob wraps things up with a tasteless joke that goes over like a lead balloon - you can almost hear crickets chirping. Bergeron is cornier but classier in the Johnny Carson mold; there's also less talk over the clips on his show, compared with the Saget shows, where the host provides annoying, cartoony voices over the action.
Video & Audio
America's Funniest Home Videos: Home for the Holidays is presented in its original full-frame format. The image is fine for what it is, the older episodes reflecting a slightly more antiquated technology, but basically everything looks fine, including the modest stereo sound. There are no alternate audio or subtitle options, but the program is close-captioned. There are no Extra Features
October-November is Christmastime, at least as far as holiday-themed DVD releases are concerned. It may be a bit early to stock up on holiday videos, but America's Funniest Home Videos: Home for the Holidays is a mildly amusing alternative to the usual round of Miracles on 34th Street and Frank Capra classics. Recommended.
Stuart Galbraith IV is a Kyoto-based film historian whose work includes The Emperor and the Wolf - The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune and Taschen's forthcoming Cinema Nippon. Visit Stuart's Cine Blogarama here.