Fiddler on the roof (2007) - Pick
Christmas Classics Gift Set (2007) -Pick
veggietales holiday gift pack (2007) -Pick
Earlier this year MGM released a two-disc special edition of Fiddler on the Roof. This week a bargain one-disc edition hits new-release shelves.
Based on the short stories of Ukranian writer Sholom Aleichem before becoming a stage musical, Fiddler on the Roof rings with Old Testament feeling, from the joyous opening celebration of “Tradition” to the terrible specter of exile and diaspora in the finale.
There are echoes of Job in Tevye’s tart one-way dialogues with God (the raucous “If I Were a Rich Man”), but also traditional piety in “Sabbath Prayer,” the joyful psalm-like recounting of God’s saving acts in “Miracle of Miracles,” and the eternal verities of Ecclesiastes in the haunting chorus of “Sunrise, Sunset.” L’Chaim!
The first week of September is Christmas for DVD releases. No fewer than seven old animated Christmas TV specials have been collected in a one-disc Christmas Classics Gift Set, and are also available separately.
The best of the bunch is Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962), a remarkably faithful one-hour adaptation of Dickens’s story produced by UPA for NBC. Credited as the first-ever holiday TV special, it’s worth picking up alone if you don’t get the whole set.
Of the six remaining cartoons, all but one are well-known half-hour animated productions produced by Rankin-Bass. Three are stop-motion animation: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964), Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town (1970), and The Little Drummer Boy (1968), that last being the only one of the seven that touches directly on the true Christmas story.
The final two R-B productions are hand-drawn cel cartoons: Frosty the Snowman (1969) and Cricket on the Hearth (1967), based (like Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol) on a Dickens novella. (Not included, for R-B fans keeping score, are The Year Without Santa Claus and Nestor the Long-Eared Donkey, among others.)
The last cartoon is the set’s only stinker: the faux-sequel Frosty Returns (1992), created for CBS by “Peanuts” filmmakers Evert Brown and Bill Melendez and produced by “Saturday Night Live” producer Lorne Michaels. An insult both to the original Frosty (which it in no way resembles) and the “Peanuts” specials that it visually echoes, Frosty Returns replaces Christmas with a “winter carnival” and the Frosty magic with politically fraught themes of global warming and corporate badness. Bah, humbug! Coal in the stocking for this crew! Otherwise, the set is worth getting.
More Christmas spirit is available for lovers of VeggieTales with this week’s VeggieTales Holiday Gift Pack — a curiously generic “holiday” title for Big Idea’s overtly Judeo-Christian vittles, especially since every feature in the set mentions Christmas in the title. The four-disc set collects all four VeggieTales Christmas features: Star of Christmas, Very Veggie Christmas, Incredible Singing Christmas Tree and The Toy that Saved Christmas.
Fiddler on the Roof: Comic drunkenness; a scene involving semi-macabre nightmare-horror imagery that may frighten children. Christmas Classics, VeggieTales: Nothing problematic. Okay family viewing.