|A MISER BROTHERS CHRISTMAS (abc family A NEW KIND OF FAMILY, 2008)|
|Why was it such a
Younger readers probably won't believe me, but there was a time when the exact appearance of Rudolph was open to interpretation. Nowadays he's almost always depicted as the stop-motion huge-eyed deer from the 1964 special, but that version didn't start taking over until people who had grown up with it inherited control of human civilization.
Prior to 1996 there was virtually no merchandise based off of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It was a lowly regional drugstore chain that started it by making licensed versions of the Misfit Toys, and even they were shocked when demand exploded for them. Now you can buy almost anything with the TV special characters on it, and they play the soundtrack as part of the Christmas music library in every supermarket. It was never like this when I was a kid. The special was just something indifferent adults left on in the corner to occupy kids' eyes while they watched the newest Dallas.
By 2000 the resurgence was strong enough to result in the return of the Rankin-Bass characters in a new direct-to-video movie, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on the Island of Misfit Toys. I'm sure I'll be getting to that one eventually, because even though it was a video and not a TV special, people say it's extremely terrible and I can't ignore that.
A Miser Brothers Christmas was a somewhat better idea. Most people who've watched The Year Without a Santa Claus have remarked it's the Misers that have saved it from obscurity, and that they should have gotten the entire thing to themselves. Well, here's what you asked for!
The opening scene is Mrs. Claus pacing back and forth in her living room reciting poetry: "Have you ever once heard...of that fateful year...when Christmas almost didn't happen? It was everyone's worst fear." Yeah, I might have heard of a good fifty dozen stories like that.
"But this season didn't begin with such a big fuss. It began with great singing, like all Christmases must!" Cue the Warner Bros. label springing out of a cuckoo clock. The R-B universe isn't small time anymore.
That is the original voice of Heat Miser, who recorded his dialogue at age 85. Mickey Rooney is also back as Santa Claus, but Snow Miser had to be replaced. He sounds more like Paul Lynde, and by that I don't mean Roger the Dress-Up Alien, but...a different Paul Lynde, if that makes sense. They pick up right where they left off, throwing cutting put-downs at each other like "inferno-face." It's not award-winning material, but Rankin-Bass stuff itself was always corny as ethanol. Would you rather have a "hip" and "edgy" modernized take with insta-dated references and minor-celebrity voices? For the most part the Misers have stepped out of a 1970's time capsule, which is what I would have done if I had to bring them back. I like it so far. So sue me.
Heat Miser even says his Smothers Brothers ripoff line again: "Mama always did like you best!" This time, we find out who Mama is....none other than Mother Nature, who's having a tea party with all her children: Wind, Thunder, Lightning, the Tides, etc. The Misers don't want to go, but are forced anyway via lightning-bolt transport, and look really uncomfortable sulking in her paradise.
North Wind, a pompous braggart with a Jay Leno chin, makes the first remarks, boasting to M.N. about how everything on Earth is running smoothly thanks to him.
"But I do
have....one concern. We need to make sure all the good
children of the world get Christmas presents!"
Now we know who's going
to cause trouble this time, but the Misers sure
don't. They've been acting like little kids through the
whole tea, calling Wind "Mama's boy" and making
fake yawns through his speech.
Mother Nature then asks
how the Misers are doing. She shouldn't have brought it
Their bickering turns into a battle in the middle of the table, destroying all the tea. Why, I never!
Santa is going through an inspection of his workshop to make sure preparations are running smoothly. His new head mechanic Tinsel, the youngest elf ever to be appointed in such a position, is tightening the last screws on Santa's new super-turbo sleigh. "Your father would be proud of you," Santa says while lifting up Tinsel in front of a photo on the wall of Tinsel standing next to someone much older. Wow, an implied death at the North Pole? Daaark! ....not really.
Santa is soon flying high in the atmosphere, giving his new sleigh a test run. Everything goes peachy until two of Wind's henchmen fly under the sleigh, unnoticed, and sabotage the thing. Santa starts losing control right as he flies between the homes of the Misers, who are having another war with each other. The result? Santa crash-lands off-camera and hurts his back, confining him to bed for the next three weeks. The Misers think they accidentally hit him. Tinsel thinks the sleigh malfunction is her fault. Wind will get the position he was promised! Unless Mother Nature remembers that whole suspicious speech at the tea party. (She doesn't.)
M.N. puts the blame firmly on the Misers and drags them all the way to Santa's workshop by their ears. She tells Mrs. Claus she has an idea for an appropriate punishment: Heat Miser and Snow Miser must take Santa's place, together, and must learn to cooperate to save Christmas Eve.
Wind, meanwhile, is unhappy. Not because he doesn't get to play Santa yet, but because Santa is alive at all. He launches into a bombastic song about how he's such an egomaniac that he would fire not only Santa, but the elves AND the reindeer and do everything himself. What, can he make six billion presents from scratch, including the iPad? Can he fly? Actually, he can fly, but that's not enough.
It's just coincidental, but when I see a guy who looks like Jay Leno sing about how badly he wants a more beloved person replaced and banished....it just looks appropriate for him.
The Misers are outfitted in Santa outfits and given free reign over the workshop. And the elves just can't win, because THEY want to get rid of them too. They're replaced with the Misers' respective minions, who start molding toys out of ice and iron. It's at this point that they finally sing a reprise of the tune they became famous for. While they're singing, they start battling each other again, and the result is that production grinds to zero. "There's gotta be a way to make them stop fighting!" squeals Mrs. Claus.
Santa has an idea. "You could check their history on the Naughty and Nice List for ideas. But I warn you, it isn't pretty."
They'll always be at odds because everything they do is themed with temperature puns. When planning their route, Heat Miser wants to start in the Southern Hemisphere and Snow Miser wants to start in the Northern Hemisphere. No real reason here; both sides have hot and cold areas. They just have to disagree about everything. Mrs. Claus should have hired the Buddy Bears instead.
Mrs. Claus brings the Misers to the Naughty and Nice Room, where she pulls their files from the archives. She replays their histories as she sings the song "Brothers Should Be Friends."
Heat Miser and Snow Miser make for some freaky looking babies. It turns out they once did get along....for five minutes. Then an ember blew out of the fireplace at the same time as a snowflake blew in from the window, each hit the other elemental's fannies, and they started bashing each other, believing the other did it. In other words, their entire feud is founded on nothing. They don't seem to notice this, but they do get clued in to one other fact as they watch.
"THAT'S why we never get presents...we're always on the Naughty List for fighting each other!" A-doyyyy.
They shake hands, and sing about how they're too much again, only this time in harmony. But the hour isn't through yet.
Wind doesn't like what he's seeing in his crystal pond. He wanted the Misers to botch the job so badly, Santa would have to take the reins on Christmas Eve with his bad back anyway, leaving himself vulnerable to Wind's final attack. But now they're having no problem at all. He's got to make them counterproductive again!
So he sends two more henchmen to attach hot and cold-blowing funnels to each side of the sleigh. Right before the Misers are about to take off, they discover them, and accuse each other of planning to turn the world into each other's preferred climate. Soon they're fighting again, blasting trees, blowing up presents....what'll happen NOW??
Mrs. Claus takes refuge in the workshop lobby, which brings us to the opening scene again, and waiiiit a minute....
When she was telling this story earlier, it was in the PAST tense. How can it take place in the heat of battle when they already established it didn't?
Either way.....this time Wind's plan is working flawlessly. With the Misers in a furious temper tantrum, Santa sees no choice but to get in the sleigh himself and do as best he can. Wind cackles and orders his big attack!
But while he was boasting, Wind carelessly let a prototype Christmas card of himself as Santa Claus fly out the window. It eventually drifts down to the workshop and lands on Heat Miser's face. At the same time, Tinsel notices some important parts in the other sleigh were unscrewed....ON PURPOSE!
The Misers are cleared of causing the crash, and once they realize what kind of danger Santa is now in, they've gotta rush to the rescue! One problem, though.....even though they have another sleigh, there are no reindeer left to pull it.
No grown reindeer, anyway. With no toy sack, they should be able to get off the ground via eight adorable baby deer.
Wind has Santa cornered! "YOU'LL BE TRAPPED IN MY WIND VORTEX....FOREVERRR!!" he shouts. His henchmen uncouple the reindeer and Santa drifts into the vortex! Just when things look hopeless, Tinsel's sleigh comes in from behind.
Snow Miser makes an ice bridge for Santa to cross, but his back isn't letting him make the trip smoothly. Snow Miser has to tiptoe over it to give him a lift, while Heat Miser does the same with the bag of toys. Santa is saved, but the bridge breaks before the Misers can cross back (never mind they could just make another bridge....)
"I guess this is
Not today! The baby reindeer fly in from behind and save them as well. Mother Nature sentences North Wind to 10,000 years of housework, and the Misers are given, as a reward, a placement on the Nice list for once.
Why didn't it fit in?