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Check It Out

Courier Article by Scott Lehman
Sunday, December 7, 2003

Library Videos Offer a Little Offbeat Holiday Cheer

Every year around this time, we are bombarded with the same things. Miracle on 34th Street and It's a Wonderful Life begin to play around the clock on television. Radio stations play the same half-dozen Christmas songs ad nauseum. So, for anyone who is looking for something a little bit different this holiday season, here are some ideas.

Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean is a wonderful showcase for the talented Rowan Atkinson to show off his own brand of physical humor. The "Mr. Bean" shorts always played like silent films, because his character seldom says a word. Bean is an innocent man-child who always seems to be caught up in funny situations. Yes, it is British, and some people dislike British humor. But give this one a chance – as soon as Bean begins conducting a Salvation Army-type brass band on a street corner, you'll thank me. Best holiday moment: in a bit that seems to have been stolen by more than one sitcom, Bean loses his wristwatch while stuffing his Christmas turkey and subsequently gets the bird stuck on his head.

The Christmas episodes have recently been released on DVD as part of the "Mr. Bean: The Whole Bean" set.

Scrooged starring Bill Murray as TV executive Frank Cross, is a reworking of Dickens's A Christmas Carol. This 1988 film has some especially funny moments with Carol Kane as the Ghost of Christmas Present, and director Richard Donner utilizes a slightly dark tone with Murray's portrayal of the world's meanest television executive. Murray seems to be at his best when he is playing grumpy characters, and his comic talents shine through in this role. Best holiday moment: while putting on a live Christmas Eve TV show, a prop man is trying to attach tiny antlers to a mouse, and Cross has a solution. "Did you try staples?"

Trapped in Paradise was either overlooked or panned by most critics when it was released in 1994, but it is a screwball comedy worth seeing. Picture this: Nicolas Cage, Jon Lovitz, and Dana Carvey as bumbling, ex-con brothers, and Florence Stanley as the team's mother. Two of the Firpo brothers – played by Lovitz and Carvey – are released from prison, and try as he may, Cage's character gets drawn in to their scheme to rob a bank on Christmas eve. Of course, the trio can't seem to get out of town, and must put up with the unbelievable friendliness of the townspeople who don't realize they've invited robbers over for Christmas dinner. Best holiday moment: after crashing the getaway car into a ravine, Alvin Firpo (Carvey) blames it on the blizzard, with a simple "I didn't have snow chains."

A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, is the original sound track from the television special, which has been a perennial favorite since its debut in 1965 as the very first animated Peanuts special. This CD will transport you back to your childhood, and you can't help but picture Snoopy dancing on top of that piano with the rest of the gang grooving in the background. Listening as an adult, one begins to realize how well-written and well-performed this music really was – it has become a jazz essential. Favorite holiday moment: everything is good on this disc, but it is really hard to resist the familiar piano riff of track four ("Linus and Lucy").

Merry, Merry Christmas by the New Kids on the Block. Sure, most people want to go with traditional Christmas artists like Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, or even Burl Ives. But if you are the type that really enjoys those episodes of "I Love the 80s" on VH1, this CD is for you. Sometimes we all need reminding what life was like with Joey, Jordan, Donnie, Danny, and Jon ruling the airwaves. Best holiday moment: as soon as the New Kids start telling you to have a "Funky, Funky Christmas," you'll know that these guys had the right stuff.

Scott Lehman is the web manager for Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library.