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|Kevin Krock, editor|
Eloise is back and looking not one day older. The second made-for-TV movie was first aired on Wonderful World of Disney in 2003 and was made directly after the first Eloise, presumably to capture her on film before that nasty awkward stage hits. The rest of the original cast is back as well; most importantly Julie Andrews as Nanny.
Eloise at Christmastime is developed from Kay Thompson's book, and this adventure finds the precocious 6-year-old (Sofia Vassilieva) waiting for her mother's return from Europe for Christmas. While she is waiting, she plays matchmaker for her good friend and room service provider Bill (Gavin Creel). Eloise discovers that the love of Bill's life has returned to the Plaza to marry upstanding Harvard graduate Brooks Oliver (Rick Roberts.) And the love of his life just happens to be Rachel Peabody (Sarah Topham), the daughter of Plaza Hotel owner Mr. Peabody (Victor Young). Will true love win out over class distinctions? Will Eloise's mother get home in time for Christmas? Will Eloise ever pay her room service bill? Most of these questions are answered by the end of the movie.
The story is good fun, the sets are gorgeous and appropriately Christmassy, and the cast is first-rate. Julie Andrews and the young Sofia Vassilieva have great chemistry together, and are well settled in their roles. If you are a fan of Julie Andrews, this is a must-own DVD. She really gets into the part, swigging too much eggnog and dancing around with Christmas garland wrapped around her; quite the opposite of the regal, proper Andrews of Princess Diaries or even Mary Poppins. She is a hoot in this role. Gavin Creel has performed on Broadway and sings several show tunes and Christmas carols. He will most likely star in many future Disney films; keep an eye on him.
There are two featurettes presented: Absolutely Kay Thompson and Making Eloise at Christmastime. The Kay Thompson featurette is mainly still black-and-white photographs interspersed with colleagues and friends of Thompson reminiscing about her. My 7-year-old found this feature yawn-inducing, but it's well worth watching if you are a fan of the book series. Rex Reed explained that, Kay never needed a therapist, because she had Eloise. Eloise was her alter ego, a character who was allowed to do all the naughty things Thompson wanted to do but that a woman in her 50s probably shouldn't have. Hilary Knight, illustrator of the book series, talks about her and Thompson's creative process in writing the books.
Making Eloise at Christmastime will cause your 7-year-old sit up and pay more attention. This is basically your standard, this is us shooting the movie and we loved making this movie, and everyone was fabulous etc. etc. type feature, with a few notable exceptions. Since the book Eloise at Christmastime did not really have any plot to speak of, writers had to come up with a plot that would still respect the tone and ideas in the book. The director would take specific pages from the book and film little vignettes in exact detail for the movie. They took great care in re-creating the flavor of the book, right down to the mistletoe on Weenie the Pug's collar.
Video, Audio, and Interface
The movie is presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen, the same aspect ratio it had in its standard television broadcast. In other words, it looks just like it did when it first aired last year. And that's not a bad thing considering how gorgeous the colors are. The picture is crisp and sharp. The audio is clean and matches the scenes perfectly. Most of the music is orchestral arrangements of Christmas carols and melodies, which adds that extra touch of holiday atmosphere. The interface is similar to the first Eloise movie; the Eloise book opens to display the menu options to the tune of the Nutcracker. It's very basic, but there are not a lot of extras to navigate through on this disc.
The Final Evaluation
But it's only a TV movie, you say. Shouldn't I save my money for something released in the theatres? I would encourage you to reconsider Eloise at Christmastime. Even though this disc was first a TV movie, the high quality of the movie and the nice extras allows this film to outclass several theatrical released DVDs this Christmas.
Need a gift for your little girl, niece, grandchild or other deserving little person? Buy Thompson's book (first released in 1958!) and add the Eloise at Christmastime disc. Most Julie Andrews fans will want to have this in their collection as well. Actually, most families looking for a new Christmas movie to enjoy should pick this DVD. Eloise continues to be a crowd pleaser.
Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Lisa here.
Kevin Doc Krock is been a long-time animation buff and home theater fan. He's been following the rise of the DVD format in the home market since its introduction, and he hopes to help you make the most of your family's home theater viewing time and video collections.
You can contact Kevin here.
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