It's Christmas time in Munster-land but little Eddie Munster (Bug Hall) just isn't feeling it this year. His Christmas spirit is fleeting and he just can't get excited about the holiday. In order to help him get out of his Christmas funk, his father Herman (Sam McMurray) and his mother Lily (Ann Magnuson) decide to get him involved in a few activities so that he can't help but get into the swing of things a little more. To start things off, Eddie has to compete against Grandpa Munster (Sandy Baron) and Marilyn (Elaine Hendrix) in a Christmas decoration contest but before you know it, Grandpa's wacky experiments have plopped Santa Clause (Mark Mitchell) himself into their happy home at 1313 Mockingbird Lane. While the Munsters are perfectly happy to have Santa as their guest, there's a big problem with this - he's not done making the toys for Christmas and needs to get back to the North Pole to finish the job and get them to all the good little boys and girls around the world on time or Christmas will be ruined.
Those of us who are familiar with the original cast of The Munsters are going to have a very difficult time accepting new cast members in the roles that the original performers made so very much their own. While it isn't anyone's fault that age (or in some cases death) made it unreasonable for the original cast to reunite, the fact of that matter is that Fred Gwynne, Yvonne De Carlo, Al Lewis, Butch Patrick and Pat Priest are so closely associated with those characters that seeing other faces under the familiar make is, quite simply, weird. It's still the same sort of material that made the show good family entertainment in the first place but here it's being performed by strange dopplegangers. Remember that scene in KISS Meets The Phantom Of The Park where the android band members that look like KISS show up and rock out on the stage? Everyone in the crowd knew right away it wasn't the real KISS, just like anyone familiar with the original television series that this movie is spun off of will know that these aren't the real Munsters.
To the cast's credit, they're not at all terrible in their parts. They all hit the right notes and do a decent job of impersonating their predecessors but there are still too many differences that are too easily spotted for this to earn a get out of jail free card in that regard. Judged on its own merits, the movie isn't bad however. Yes, it does deal pretty much exclusively in Christmas movie clichés but the darkly humorous macabre touches that were always scattered about through the TV series is still here and it's still as amusing and charming as it ever was. The gags can be quite funny at times even if some of the puns are groan inducing. The production values are good - the costumes look right and sets and props are colorful and quirky looking. The story is pretty sugary and not wholly original but it serves its purpose even if the writers aren't reinventing the wheel.
The problem is that lack of inseparable original cast members coupled with the cliché jokes and storyline is hard to overlook. Young kids will probably enjoy this a lot more than those of us who have any memory of the original series whatsoever as the material might seem more fresh to them. It's all fine family entertainment, and it's reasonably well made - it just doesn't do much to stand out from all the other Christmas specials that are spat out onto DVD every year around the Holidays.
The 1.33.1 fullframe aspect ratio for this transfer presents the film in its intended format and for the most part, it looks great. Colors are nice and bright without looking overcooked or boosted while black levels stay strong and deep. There are only a few scenes that show just the slightest bit of edge enhancement and there are no compression artifacts whatsoever. Print damage is pretty much non-existent and flesh tones look lifelike. Detail levels are strong in both the foreground and the background of the picture and really, there's nothing to complain about here. It all looks surprisingly good.
The sole audio track on this disc is an English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix. Dialogue is distinct and easy to understand while the music and sound effects are properly balanced in the background. There are no problems with hiss or distortion to report and while a little more channel separation would have made a few scenes a bit more lively, The Munster's Scary Little Christmas doesn't sound bad at all.
Extras include promo spots for other Universal DVD releases, static menus and chapter stops - nothing to see here...
While the feature looks great and sounds pretty good, in the end this is a barebones presentation of a mediocre movie. The fact that the originally cast members are not around doesn't help things much despite the best efforts of their replacements. The feature has its moments, however, and it's not a bad family-friendly way to kill some time around the Holidays - it just isn't worth watching more than once. Rent it, if that's what you're looking for.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.