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Powerpuff Girls - Twas the Fight Before Christmas

Warner Bros. // G // October 7, 2003
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted October 29, 2003 | E-mail the Author
'Twas the Fight Before Christmas is a holiday special starring the Powerpuff Girls, the three sugar-'n'-spice-'n'-everything-nice superheroic concoctions that headed up what was once Cartoon Network's flagship series. The badnik in this Christmas installment is Princess Morebucks, a spoiled brat who's willing to devote every cent of her father's seemingly unlimited wealth to becoming a member of the Powerpuff Girls. The delusional Princess is miffed to discover that everyone around her thinks she deserves a spot on Santa's "Naughty" list, and she sets out to the North Pole to take a gander at the master list for herself. No need to check it twice: Princess is the only person chalked up under "Naughty". After some quick work with a pencil and its oversized eraser, Princess dupes Santa into thinking she's the only nice girl in the entire world, filling stockings across the globe with an armful of coal. For reasons I've yet to discern, Princess fills her nemeses in on her plan, and the girls chase her all the way to the North Pole to try to warn Santa before the sun rises on a present-less, coal-tastic Christmas morning.

One of the aspects I enjoy most about The Powerpuff Girls is its over-the-top battle sequences where the girls duke it out with oversized monsters, scattering shards of teeth and drenching the streets of Townsville with the bodily fluids of its attackers. There's very little of that in 'Twas the Fight Before Christmas, despite the fact that its title hints that there's a decent amount. Pretty much every ounce of action is condensed into a lengthy chase to the North Pole, running seven and a half minutes. Other than that, the emphasis is placed squarely on a warmed-over premise, lacking any real wit or humor. There were only two moments I found funny at all: one was Bubbles' long-winded, meandering explanation to her sisters about coal-riddled stockings and bare Christmas trees, and the other was a brief shot of some shattered Betty Wetty dolls at Santa's workshop. I also liked that Santa wasn't portrayed as the hopelessly jolly fellow seen in most holiday schlock. I'm reasonably certain that this is the first time I've heard St. Nick mutter "IIIIIIIIIIII'm Santa Claus. Checkit." They're not enough to redeem the rest of the special, unfortunately, which is largely dull and uninspired.

The animation of this Christmas special is on the same level of the television series, with a few minor missteps. When Princess delivers her "Christmas present" to the Powerpuff Girls, she starts spouting off a tirade about how she deserves to join their ranks. In the first and somewhat lengthy shot of that sequence, her lips don't move at all. There's also a brief moment where the animation gets rather choppy, when Princess carves out a chunk of ice with a laser beam and chucks her oversized frozen visage at the Powerpuff Girls. In part of the chase, the girls soar over a huge body of water. A simple splash of blue paint would've looked much better than the bargain-basement 3D rendered water that was tossed in for no particularly compelling reason.

Even with its slim runtime, 'Twas the Fight Before Christmas seems to plod along for far too long. It's little more than 44 minutes of leftovers from innumerable other specials, half-heartedly microwaved and tossed out for release on home video. Despite the surprisingly high quality assortments of extras on previous Powerpuff Girls DVDs, this release doesn't offer much more than the lackluster special, limited pretty much to a pair of mediocre music videos and a brief holiday episode of Dexter's Laboratory.

Video: The full-frame image is roughly comparable in quality to the other Powerpuff Girls releases, which is to say -- great! Razor-sharp, bright, and colorful, the presentation is free of all of the usual flaws. There are no flecks, compression artifacts, video noise, or edge haloes to distract. The closest the image veers towards a flaw comes in the form of very noticeable aliasing around the animation's thick black lines. All in all, though, it's a strong presentation and almost certainly an improvement over its airings on basic cable.

Audio: The Dolby Digital 2.0 surround track (192Kbps) is also substantially higher in quality than I'd expect from a broadcast on television. The music scattered throughout is the most notable aspect of the soundtrack, roaring from every speaker and boasting a hefty low-end kick. Some of its sound effects, such as coal careening from a closet, runaway reindeer, and the smashing of a super-sized snowball, were also accompanied by some decent activity in the lower frequencies. The matrixed rears were frequently active with ambient sounds and the loud whoosh of the girls as they soared across the screen. Dialogue comes through crisply and clearly, without a flicker of distortion in even the loudest portions. Very nice.

'Twas the Fight Before Christmas is closed captioned and features subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.

Supplements: The featured extra is a bonus episode of Dexter's Laboratory, though at eight minutes in length, I wouldn't say it really deserves being labeled as an 'episode'. Anyway, "Dexter vs. Santa's Claws" also follows the holiday animated action theme, with Dexter relentlessly pursuing Saint Nick, convinced that it's really his pop hiding under a hat and fake beard.

The disc includes two music videos, beginning with Cherish's "Chemical X" (2:04) from the "Powerpuff Girls: Power Pop" CD. A variety of bands instantly spring to mind when I come across the phrase 'power pop', but this sort of faceless, paint-by-numbers teen-synth-pop isn't it. "We Three Girls" (1:18) is, not surprisingly, a spoof of the holiday classic sung by the Powerpuff Girls, in the same electro-pop vein as the bulk of the music featured in the series. Both videos primarily consist of repurposed clips, with "Chemical X" tossing in some embarrassing Flash-quality animation for filler.

Finally, "Family Favorites" is a trailer gallery featuring Scooby-Doo and the Monster of Mexico (1:31), Robbie the Raindeer: Hooves of Fire / Legend of the Lost Tribe (1:03), Mary-Kate and Ashley: The Challenge (1:04), and Saddle Club: The First Adventure (1:19). There's also a thirty-eight second preview for the Powerpuff Girls video game "Relish Rampage" for the PlayStation 2 and GameCube.

All of the disc's video-based extras are full-frame and feature Dolby Digital 2.0 audio (192Kbps), aside from the 16x9-enhanced Robbie the Raindeer trailer and the letterboxed Cherish video.

'Twas the Fight Before Christmas comes packaged in a snapper case, and the inside flap lists the disc's ten chapter stops. A Christmas ornament is tucked into the shrinkwrap, along with a $3 rebate with the purchase of two other Warner holiday titles. The disc's static menus are enhanced for widescreen displays.

Conclusion: 'Twas the Fight Before Christmas carries a $19.98 sticker price, five bucks higher than the four compilations currently available. Those other DVDs feature more material and a lot more in the way of extras, including bonus Powerpuff Girls episodes and even some audio commentaries. The supplements on this DVD didn't particularly grab my interest, and the 44 minutes of mediocre material presented here doesn't justify its higher list price. Rabid devotees of the series will still probably want to add this DVD to their collection, but for more casual fans, I'd recommend a rental or an inevitable reairing on the Cartoon Network.

Related Reviews: DVD Talk also has reviews of several other Powerpuff Girls releases, as well as A Christmas Story and Spider-Man, both of which are given brief nods in 'Twas the Fight Before Christmas.
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