Retro Review, Part Two: The Happy Holiday Hearth (DVD)

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Brevity, they say, is the soul of wit. Since I have neither, I decided to draw out the Retro Week review gag a little longer, because in hunting for my review of Aquaria: The Exotic Aquarium, I also stumbled across my review of The Happy Holiday Hearth.

Hey, we all had to start somewhere.

The Happy Holiday Hearth
Reviewed By: Dennis Burger
Reviewed On: 12/22/02

Video Format: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Audio Format: Dolby Digital 2.0
DVD Format: DVD-5
Language Tracks: English
Subtitle Tracks: None
Length: 59 minutes
Rating: NR
Release Date: 11/12/02
Packaging: AlphaPak
Region Code: 1
Studio: Rhino
Catalog Number: 970152



Grades & Ratings:

Expectations & Reactions:

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Dear Diary,

Got an email from Mike today listing all of the new DVDs that have arrived for review. Assigned most of them to other writers, but couldn’t find it in my heart to subject any of my guys to one in particular – something called The Happy Holiday Hearth. Have a feeling that this will be a lot like Aquaria: The Exotic Aquarium, but with a fireplace instead of fish. Shouldn’t be that hard a review, so I’ll take a bullet for the team.

Yours, Dennis

Monday, December 9, 2002

Dear Diary,

Got Mike’s latest shipment in the mail today. Lots of great stuff – can’t wait to watch Transformers Season 2 and that Chuck Jones disc.

And then there’s that fireplace thing. It reminds me of a conversation I had with my father when I was a child in the Seventies: “Son,” he said, “since we don’t have cable television yet, and there are but four channels of drivel on today, let us build a fire so that I can look upon it and be entertained, and laugh and jest with merriment at the licking of the flames.”

“Tell me, Poppa,” I replied,” what is this ‘cable television’ to which you refer?”

“It hasn’t been invented yet, son of mine, Fruit of my Loom, but never you mind – build us that fire.” And so I did.

“Lo,” my father said, “Tis a true shame that we should be bothered with that pesky warmth and fresh cut wood smell.”

“Don’t worry, Poppa,” I came back, “for one day I will go to Hogwarts and learn to conjure flame that casts no warmth, and plays Christmas tunes as well.”

“What is this ‘Hogwarts’ to which you refer, son of mine? ”

“Never you mind, Poppa – it hasn’t been invented yet.”

Of course, Dear Diary, the preceding paragraphs were all bullocks.

Yours, Dennis

Look & Listen:

Sunday, December 22, 2002

Dear Diary,

The time has come for me to review The Happy Holiday Hearth. Oh, joy. I popped it in, with the audio setting on “Crackling Fire” – looks like a fire, all right. Sounds like a fire, too. How in the world am I ever going to find enough to say about the video come time to write the review? The fire is orange, and… well, so is pretty much everything else.

There’s nothing really wrong with the image – no digital breakup of any kind, and it’s well shot, I suppose. Hey, I’ve got an idea. I’ll steal a line from that Aquaria review: It’s a fire. Burning. In a fireplace. On my television. That should do it.

Ever so often, when the logs are burnt down to a point, the screen is awash with a flaming transition, and a new fire is there to replace it. Maybe I’ll mention that. It’s as exciting and relevant as anything else, I suppose. I wonder why they didn’t include an anamorphic widescreen version?

There has to be more to the audio than just “sizzle, sizzle, pop, sizzle, crack, sizzle, etc.” Sure enough, Dear Diary, a quick touch of the “audio” button reveals twenty-three classic Christmas tunes played behind the sound of the fire, all in 192kbps Dolby Digital 2.0. Another touch of the button and the fire sounds go away. How nice.

The songs sound good enough, really, but the renditions are by a generic choir, with traditional accompaniment. No Bing on “White Christmas” – no Bing anywhere for that matter. And no Elvis. Bummer.

This is boring. The audio is competent, with decent bass, and good stereo separation, but really, I would rather nap.

Just looked ahead to see what songs are coming up. Saw “What Child Is This?” Thought of Eddie Izzard’s “Whose Pig Is This?” and got a chuckle, so there’s that.

Extras & Highlights:

At least there aren’t any extras. That much less I have to think of when it comes time to write the review. Man, I’m not looking forward to that.

Menus & Interface:

Getting back to the audio selections, that’s really the only thing there is to the interface. Pop the disc in and it comes up with “Holiday Music,” “Crackling Fire,” or “Holiday Music and Crackling Fire.” No other menus at all. It’s really easy to switch the audio tracks with the remote, but here’s the big kicker – there are no separate chapters. All of the songs are on one chapter. That means no skipping. The fast forward function is also disabled.

I’m sure Rhino did this just to punish DVD reviewers by making them sit through the whole thing. Damn, that’s dash cunning of them.

Storyline & Syllabus:

I think when it comes time to come up with a write-up on the content, I’ll just plagiarize the back of the packaging.

Includes an elegant visual fireplace fire that can be used all year long (chestnuts not included)…Maintenance Free. No Chopping Wood. No Soot. No Smoke. No Fireplace Required.

Well, duh. They also forgot “no warmth, no nice smell, and no point.”

The music consists of twenty-three Holiday classics:

White Christmas
Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow
The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)
It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas
Silver Bells
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
I’ll Be Home For Christmas
The Twelve Days of Christmas
Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly
Jingle Bells
Good King Wenceslas
We Wish You A Merry Christmas
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
Christmas Is Coming
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Ave Maria
O Little Town of Bethlehem
We Three Kings Of Orient Are
Oh Come All Ye Faithful
The First Noel
What Child Is This?

Cast & Crew:

I searched the packaging and disc for anyone bold enough to claim credit for the disc. Couldn’t find any, though.

Conclusions & Afterthoughts:

So, here I sit, Dear Diary, wracking my brain for clues as to how to write a review for this disc. I have to be fair – certainly it holds appeal for someone, and at less than ten clams it isn’t a bad gag gift or novelty item. And here at Christmas time, people will certainly be in the spirit (not to mention spending loads of money), so I’m sure it will sell at least enough copies to warrant replicating the disc, but for the life of me I can’t see anyone putting it on their Christmas list.

Oh well, I’ve sat through worse discs, and I’ve come up with reviews for them, so I’m sure I’ll figure out something.

Yours, Dennis

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