Sometimes, a sequel can be a really bad idea. Disney learned this the hard way through their ‘dreck-to-video’ animated sequels of the 1990’s. However, Warner Home Video appears determined to learn this hard lesson all on their own.
Their new holiday special A Miser Brothers’ Christmas puts the feuding brothers, who first appeared in the 1974 special A Year Without a Santa Claus, center stage, with Toronto’s Cuppa Coffee Studios filling in for stop-motion legends Rankin/Bass.
Unfortunately, the Misers are shoe-horned into a wince-inducing story that knows how to achieve the look of Rankin/Bass’ classic cartoons, but can’t capture the spirit.
Mickey Rooney, George S. Irving Star in Warner Premiere’s A Miser Brothers’ Christmas
Heat Miser (George S. Irving, reprising his role from the 1974 special) and Snow Miser (Juan Chioran, replacing Dick Shawn) are the constantly feuding spirits of heat and cold, barely kept in check by “Mother Dear,” Mother Nature herself.
However, brown-nosing sibling North Wind (Brad Adamson, channeling Kelsey Grammer’s Sideshow Bob) has a plan to eliminate Santa Claus (Mickey Rooney, also reprising his role) and become the new spirit of Christmas. In a series of highly-contrived plot twists, the Misers must work together to save Christmas, and finally earn a place on the the “Nice” list.
If the above paragraph sounds like a spoiler, that’s because it is. A 10-year-old could tell you how A Miser Brothers’ Christmas will end, and they’d be right about 90% of the time. Also, consider it a public service: if you know how the story goes, you won’t need to watch it and so avoid this hunk o’ junk.
Never mind that this special pretty much recycles the ‘omigod, Christmas is in peril!’ trope that fueled A Year Without a Santa Claus. The scriptwriters also use The Amazing Coincidental Machine™ to further the plot at crucial points, such as when a key piece of evidence implicating North Wind arrives in the nick o’ time. The less said about the corny dialogue and lame characterizations (in a reversal of women’s rights, Mrs. Claus loses all her spunk and character, simply becoming a toothless worrywart), the better.
William Kevin Anderson and Sonia Levitin’s songs are mediocre at best, especially when they try to update Maury Laws’ classic ragtime tune that introduced the pair in the original special.
In a strange case of multiple personality disorder, Cuppa Coffee faithfully replicates Rankin/Bass’ original designs for Heat and Snow Miser, but offer new designs for Santa, Mrs. Claus and Mother Nature. If you’re setting up A Miser Brothers’ Christmas as a sequel, why change the character designs so much?
It all adds up to an eye-rollingly bad time.
Other than the inevitable trailers, there’s the ‘What Makes Stop-Motion Go’ featurette, which shows how Cuppa Coffee animated A Miser Brothers’ Christmas. Adults will find it fascinating, but it may not play well with younger kids.
The Final Analysis
You’d think Warner Bros. would have learned their lesson from the failure of their 2006 live-action remake of A Year Without a Santa Claus. But no, they had to return to the already dry well and pull out this Christmas turkey.
A Miser Brothers’ Christmas knows the words to the Rankin/Bass song but they can’t capture the melody. And that’s why it gets a 3/10.