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Eloise at Christmastime DVD Review

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Movie & DVD Details

Director: Kevin Lima

Cast: Julie Andrews (Nanny), Sofia Vassilieva (Eloise), Jeffrey Tambor (Mr. Salomone), Kenneth Welsh (Sir Wilkes), Debra Monk (Maggie), Gavin Creel (Bill), Rick Roberts (Brooks), Sara Topham (Rachel Peabody), Victor A. Young (Mr. Peabody), Corinne Conley (Mrs. Thornton), Christine Baranski (Prunella Stickler)

Original Air Date: November 22, 2003

Running Time: 87 Minutes / Rating: TV-G
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Standard Broadcast Ratio)
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Surround (French)
Subtitles: English, Spanish; Closed Captioned

Release Date: November 16, 2004
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9); Suggested Retail Price: $24.99
White Keepcase


Eloise is a six-year-old girl. While her mom travels the world, Eloise (Sofia Vassilieva) spends most of her time in New York City's Plaza Hotel, where she lives with her "mostly companion", rawther British Nanny (Julie Andrews). Eloise has quite the reputation at the Plaza; all of the employees know her routine daily adventures of curiousity and mischief.

Eloise at Christmastime is the second Wonderful World of Disney television movie adapted from Kay Thompson's popular line of picture books. Filmed directly after Eloise at the Plaza, this 2003 film retains director Kevin Lima and all of the relevant cast of its predecessor.

It's Christmastime in New York City, and Eloise anticipates her mother's return home. Meanwhile, in her ritual explorations, Eloise discovers a different return: the daughter (Sara Topham) of Plaza owner Mr. Peabody (Victor Young) has come home to be married on Christmas Eve to Brooks Oliver (Rick Roberts), a Harvard-educated young man that Eloise has her suspicions about.

The Christmas season has Eloise in a festive mood. On their big shopping day, Eloise and Nanny take a ride through Manhattan in a horse-drawn carriage.

Eloise's journeys around the Plaza also uncover that the crabby Mrs. Thornton's days at the Plaza may be numbered, though not as she first assumes. And the precocious girl later learns that her best friend and regular room service provider Bill (Gavin Creel), still has feelings for his ex-girlfriend, the soon-to-be-wed Rachel Peabody who he hasn't seen in years.

The film is comfortable in exploring the Plaza with the same pace and perspective of its rambunctious young matchmaker protagonist. It's never in any hurry to bring you the upbeat conclusion you seem to anticipate, instead choosing to bask in the drama and fun of Eloise's experiences.

From the title, you can imagine that Christmas figures largely in the film, and it does. We see Eloise going shopping around Manhattan (her ease contrasts with Nanny's struggle to find the perfect gift for Sir Wilkes), adding to her growing list of things she'd like to get, and inadvertently and repeatedly thwarting Nanny's efforts to decorate their suite. But Christmas is one element and not the entire film, so we're not simply getting the same character-transformation tale that's been played out in countless other holiday TV movies.

Plaza owner Mr. Peabody chats with Eloise. The precocious Eloise in her vibrant holiday wear.

The central story actually seems better developed and more compelling than the screenplay for Eloise at the Plaza did. Whereas that one split its interest more evenly between its royalty and romance subplots, this film primarily focuses on the potential between Bill and Rachel, and Eloise's efforts to put them together. The setting of Christmas adds a layer of depth, but never dominates.

All in all, Christmastime succeeds as much as and even more than Plaza, again making good use of Eloise's infectious spirit and this time for a more engaging story. Julie Andrews and the remarkable Sofia Vassilieva have winning chemistry, and their characters' relationship adds a bit of resonance to make the rest of this jovial comedy echo a little more poignantly. Even if it's a tiny bit formulaic, Eloise at Christmastime compares favorably with a good amount of the theatrical live action fare that Walt Disney Pictures have put out in recent years.

VIDEO and AUDIO

When Eloise at the Plaza was released to DVD, it was surprisingly presented in a beautiful 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer which matched the aspect ratio of its High Definition television broadcast. One would presume that same treatment would be bestowed upon this film, made directly after that one and aired just a few months later.

But oddly, Eloise at Christmastime is presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen, matching the aspect ratio of its standard television broadcast. If it were framed and aired for 16x9 televisions, it doesn't make sense not to look toward the future and release it to DVD that way.

Read the sign, bucko! Rachel and Bill share an inspired song-and-dance moment.

Nonetheless, Christmastime looks fantastic in this clean and vibrant presentation. The picture is sharp and detailed, with natural fleshtones and an accurate and satisfying color palette. This may have been shot on digital video; there are no imperfections at all and aside from the aspect ratio decision, this video presentation is tres bien.

As far as sound goes, the film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. Akin to the music for Plaza, Bruce Broughton's spirited, elegant score matches the film's tone perfectly, and this time it incorporates familiar Christmas instrumentals. While the soundtrack isn't the most cinematic or expansive, all of the elements are nicely presented. Music features largely, volume is consistent, dialogue and effects are crisp and natural sounding. All in all, no complaints in the sound department either. A French Dolby Surround dub is also included.

EXTRAS

The first of two featurettes, "Absolutely Kay Thompson" (11:36) profiles the author of the Eloise books. Friends of the late Thompson including Eloise illustrator Hilary Knight recall the woman, her career as a singer, her work as vocal arranger for MGM musicals, and of course her famous literary creations. The interview clips paint a nice portrait of the woman behind (and in some ways in) Eloise.

"Making Eloise at Christmastime" (18:05) is a very good featurette on this production, making fine use of a bevvy of interview clips and appropriate snippets from the film. This piece looks at the challenges the filmmakers had in adapting the book, really a series of brief vignettes, into a narrative feature-length film, aided by deciding which of the passingly-referenced characters to focus on. Significant portions are devoted to the visuals (capturing the exuberance of Christmas in New York City) and composer Bruce Broughton's music. Among those commenting are Broughton, director Kevin Lima, screenwriter Elizabeth Chandler, cast members Julie Andrews, Sofia Vassielieva, Gavin Creel, and Christine Baranski.

A still photo of the author in "Absolutely Kay Thompson." 'Eloise' Illustrator Hilary Knight recalls Kay Thompson. Director Kevin Lima in "Making Eloise at Christmastime"

Lastly, "See The Books" offers a two-page gallery of covers and titles for all the available Eloise books. This feature was on the Plaza DVD as well, only there are four new entries (due Spring 2005). (See a list of the Eloise books.)

Inside the case, a blue envelope houses a punch-out cardboard Eloise christmas ornament. There's also a checklist of Eloise books, and a $4 mail-in certificate for owners of Eloise at the Plaza on DVD or VHS.

Like the Eloise at the Plaza DVD, the menus emulate a book and feature animation. This time, as with the feature, though, these selection screens are 4x3, not 16x9. In a nice touch, icons are gifts, bows, and Christmas trees. They're accompanied by score selections at a good volume.

Trailers at the start of the disc are for The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, Mary Poppins 40th Anniversary Edition DVD, The Young Black Stallion, and Where the Red Fern Grow. The Sneak Peeks menu includes a second page with previews for That's So Raven: Supernaturally Stylish, Kim Possible: The Villain Files, and the ABC sitcom "Hope & Faith."

Eloise at Christmastime's Main Menu Bill and Eloise have fun singing Christmas songs together at the piano.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Eloise at Christmastime is every bit as fun as Eloise at the Plaza and makes for solid family entertainment around the holidays and year-round. Like the previous Eloise telemovie, Disney has given excellent DVD treatment for this Wonderful World of Disney production. Video and audio are stellar, and a couple of great featurettes sweeten the disc. Whether it's as a stocking stuffer or as an early Christmas gift for yourself, Eloise at Christmastime is recommended.

More on the DVD

Eloise Books

Eloise: The Ultimate Edition (contains 4 books) Eloise Eloise in Paris Eloise at Christmastime Eloise in Moscow Eloise Takes a Bawth
Eloise: The
Ultimate Edition
(Collection)
Eloise Eloise in
Paris
Eloise at
Christmastime
Eloise in
Moscow
Eloise Takes
a Bawth
Eloise's Eloise's What I Absolutely Love Love Love The Absolutely Essential Eloise Love & Kisses, Eloise Eloise at Christmas (Film Storybook)
Eloise's Guide
to Life
Eloise's What
I Absolutely
Love Love Love
The Absolutely
Essential Eloise
Love & Kisses,
Eloise
Eloise at
Christmas
(Film Story)
Coming Spring 2005
Here Comes Eloise! A Lift-the-Flap Book Eloise Dresses Up Eloise Breaks Some Eggs Eloise Has a Lesson
Here Comes Eloise!
A Lift-the-Flap Book
Eloise
Dresses Up
Eloise Breaks
Some Eggs
Eloise Has
a Lesson

Related Reviews:
Eloise at the Plaza (2003)
The Christmas Star (1986) | Winnie the Pooh: A Very Merry Pooh Year
Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas (2004) | Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates (1962)
Also Directed by Kevin Lima: Tarzan (1999)

UltimateDisney.com | Review Index | Recent Television Movies Page | Disney's Christmas Films

Reviewed November 6, 2004.

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