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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Holiday > Satire > Slapstick > Animation > Large Frame Format > A Christmas Story 4K (1983)/Elf 4K (2003)/National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 4K (1989)/Polar Express 4K (2004/all 4K Blu-rays w/Blu-rays)/Tom and Jerry: Snowman's Land (2022 DVD/all Warner)

A Christmas Story 4K (1983)/Elf 4K (2003)/National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 4K (1989)/Polar Express 4K (2004/all 4K Blu-rays w/Blu-rays)/Tom and Jerry: Snowman's Land (2022 DVD/all Warner)

4K Picture: B+ Picture: B/B-/B-/B/C+ Sound: B-/B/B/B/C+ Extras: B-/C+/C/B-/C Films: B-/C/C-/B-/C+

Now for holiday cheer in Ultra High Definition, et al...

Bob Clark's A Christmas Story 4K (1983) continues to be one of the holiday classics hundreds of others have been trying to be, with Peter Billingsley as Ralphie (with adult narration by author/humorist Jean Shepherd,) Melinda Dillon (Close Encounters Of The Third Kind) as the mom and Darren McGavin (Kolchak: The Night Stalker) as the dad. It is the best of the four films here and has aged very well.

Clark died too young in a controversial auto accident with his son and left us too soon, but his catalog of films (from horror classics to an exceptional Sherlock Holmes film to a horror spoof and the original Porky's) keep standing the test of time and this is as successful as any of his films at this point. It captures a United States that keeps sadly becoming more and more distant.

A new sequel with Billingsley all grown up is on the way, but a related but little remembered sequel was made with Charles Grodin taking McGavin's role and Kieran Culkin (an unusual choice, he's now an actor in his own right) as an older version of Billingsley called My Summer Story aka It Runs In The Family, which was released in 1994. We actually have a review for it here on the site, which you can access at the following link:


Jon Favreau's Elf 4K (2003) was also a big hit with Will Ferrell as the child-like title character annoying James Caan throughout the film. Having Ed Asner, Bob Newhart, Mary Steenburgen and a then-up-and-coming Zooey Dechanel did not hurt it becoming a hit, but it was never my film or kind of film. My fellow writer liked it more than I did and is in the camp of being a fan of it.

People still talk about it and talk of some kind of sequel is out there, so who knows, but a repeat of this one would be a mistake, so we'll see.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 4K (1989) is one of the more senseless sequels to the Chevy Chase hit from 1983 with the hilarious theme song ''Holiday Road'' by guitarist/genius (and former Fleetwood Mac member) Lindsay Buckingham, but even that song is not here in any form as Chase's dad shows how not to deal with holiday decorations, or much of anything else.

Badly directed by the really bad Jeremiah S. Chechik, whose hideous remakes of the classic French thriller Diabolik and classic British TV spy series The Avengers add up to make him one of the worst commercial filmmakers of our time, and that says something. Looking at this again, I was reminded what happens when a director keeps making the worst possible choices at every turn. What a train wreck!

Speaking of trains, Robert Zemeckis' Polar Express 4K (2004) has also become a holiday classic of sorts, a hit in its time with earlier CGI animation so odd, you have to see it to believe it. Out of the period where Zemeckis got carried away with visual technology more than maybe he should have, this has as many good moments as off ones and bad ones (Why Aerosmith? Why!?!?!) and is just too bizarre too often not to see at least once.

I remember when this came out that some were saying this was the future of entertainment, but most such projects like this (one of the Final Fantasy films, Zemeckis' own Beowulf) bombed so bad that when one even works half as well as this one did, people can still watch it and actually enjoy it. It is worth a look, though I always wondered with some different ideas and decisions, how this could have worked so much more.

Finally, we have Tom and Jerry: Snowman's Land (2022) in yet another holiday special that goes back to their original, expensive MGM animated Technicolor shorts (though the color here is not that strong, but still good) as the ever-conflicting duo have to put their rivalry on hold to save Larry The Snow Mouse (yes, you read that right) and Jerry's nephew Tuffy is there to help. Running a somewhat short 76 minutes, it has more amusing moments than expected, even if it offers little new otherwise.

I like how it is a return to form with no live action, contemporary music or hardly any talking, the makers let the duo be their fun, amusing, silent selves (save some yipping or yelling) and so you will get at least a few chuckles and if you have children, they may get a few more. I liked it even more than the hit theatrical film, though we have yet to see a real classic with the duo lately. This is at least a step in a direction that works.

Now for playback performance. The 2160p HEVC/H.265, HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on all four films (all 1.85 X 1, save 2.35 X 1 on Polar Express) look as good as they ever have, with Lampoon grainer than I remember the 35mm print I saw being. Express was in IMAX and 3D, released in the Blu-ray 3D format, so you are still missing something here despite this being an upscale. The 1080p regular Blu-ray versions of each film are not as good, but Lampoon and Elf still look especially poor and are all the previously-issued Blu-ray editions. The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Jerry looks good for the format with decent color and clarity.

As for sound, all four films are here in DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes, save Story in DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono. Lampoon originally was issued in simple, old, analog Dolby A-type noise reduction Dolby System with mono surrounds, to the 5.1 here is a new upgrade. These all now sound as good as they ever will, though I was surprised Express was not upgraded to DTS:X or Dolby Atmos considering it was made for a very big screen, but it still plays well enough sonically. The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on Jerry is just fine for what it is, but I wonder if it would sound better lossless.

Extras on all four releases include Digital Movie Code, while the discs repeat all the previous releases in other formats (save all the extras from the Elf Blu-ray tin set) as previously reviewed elsewhere on this site and the Blu-rays here include all of them, while the 4Ks offer the audio commentary tracks. Jerry has three episodes from three different TV shows they had in the past, starting with a show from their 1970s Filmation series entitled ''Snowbrawl'', then working up to later (''Ho Ho Horrors'') shows, all monophonic, save the last one (''The Plight Before Christmas'') in stereo, all lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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