Saturday, October 28, 2006

Movie Review: Eloise: Little Miss Christmas (DVD)

U.S. Release Date: 10/10/06 (DVD)
Running Time: 1:06
Rated: NR
Cast: Mary Matilyn Mouser, Tim Curry, Lynn Redgrave, Kathleen Gati, Rob Paulsen, Matthew Lilliard

Director: Wes Archer
Producers: Scott D. Greenberg, Sidney Clifton, Ted Green, Ken Lipman
Screenplay: Steven Goldman and Ken Lipman, based on Kay Thompson’s “Eloise”
Music: Megan Cavallari
Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment

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Based on the 1950’s “Eloise at the Plaza” children’s book by Kay Thompson, the Eloise: Little Miss Christmas animated DVD attempts to outshine its 2003 live-action predecessor, entitled Eloise at Christmastime. With its slight variation in name, Eloise: Little Miss Christmas strives to appeal to a younger, more cartoon-oriented crowd. However, the film barely moves with its minimal holiday spirit, and similar to Me, Eloise, Little Miss Christmas still annoys more than it enthuses.

One week before Christmas, excitement begins to mount in the eyes of the children who reside at the Plaza Hotel on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Margarita, Tyler, Bruce, Bobby, Yuko, and most importantly Eloise (Mary Matilyn Mouser) all plot to partake in a Christmas Extravaganza. This Extravaganza will be performed by the kids and for the entertainment and cultural education of the adults.

However, Christmas is a busy time of year in the hotel industry. While Mr. Salamone (Tim Curry) barks orders to his bellhops and cooks, he informs them that on Christmas Eve, Mr. DuCat (Matthew Lilliard), a hotel inspector, will arrive to examine the Plaza down to the tiniest detail. For the children, this means: no Extravaganza in the main ballroom. Simultaneously, Salamone’s nephew Edwin plans to spoil the fun.

With names like Lynn Redgrave and Tim Curry, as opposed to Julie Andrews and Jeffrey Tambor (from the 2003 version), Little Miss Christmas cuts its budget and its quality. Furthermore, can’t Anchor Bay Entertainment find another voice besides Rob Paulsen? After Yakko, Eubie, and Bill, his voice is too recognizable and overused. Conversely, the quality of the voices is the least of the film’s flaws.

Again, the difficult aspect is accepting Eloise as a legitimate six-year-old protagonist. Eloise is smart enough to place the words “Holiday Show” in hand quotes to be politically correct, yet smug enough to believe that toys overshadow peace on Earth and goodwill at Christmastime. She is apparently responsible enough to walk herself and her dog around downtown New York City to purchase to her own gifts, yet reckless enough to have a balanced naughty and nice list. Moreover, age six is no age to allow children to perform magic tricks with a box and a real saw!

Most annoyingly, Eloise: Little Miss Christmas makes cheap attempts to rhyme in its narrations. By no means, is Little Miss Christmas on par with The Night before Christmas or any other classic Christmas story for that matter.

In addition, with a mother who shows up late to her daughter’s prized play just to stop by, supply a hug, and say hello, Little Miss Christmas does a poor job of depicting its characters as model, providing family members. What’s more, although they do find a hint of hope come the closing, the kids fall victim to envy, jealousy, and greed faster than you can say, “I absolutely love the Plaza.”

Even though the film’s inspector, Mr. Ducat, was duped by the holiday spirit to graciously hand out a “five out of five” hotel star rating, to do the same for this DVD would be a grave injustice. Underneath its ooey gooey Christmas overtone, Eloise is still largely rotten. Sadly, it’s the same old façade, just dressed up for the season. (** out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2006