The turkeys aren't even in the oven and already some of the big Christmas videos are jingling into town. One early bird -- Jon Favreau's "Elf" -- might be the holiday DVD to beat, if for no better reason than watching Will Ferrell blunder around the Big Apple in bright yellow tights.
"Elf" is the story of orphan Buddy (Ferrell), an infant Santa mistakenly whisks away to the North Pole. Christmas elves raise Buddy to adulthood, when he decides to head for New York in search of his natural father.
The movie is sticky-sweet with Christmas sentiment, but watching the antics of Ferrell in his full man-child incarnation is worth every saccharine moment. Hilarious situational jokes involving a full-grown Buddy and tiny elf-furniture or a department store fistfight with a fake-Santa make "Elf" a movie that will bring together fans of cornball Christmas flicks and slapstick physical comedy. (And isn't that what the season is all about?)
"Elf" is an Infinifilm DVD, which means it goes beyond the standard "movie in one menu, features in another" format. Activating the Infinifilm feature lets the viewer experience behind-the-scenes extras at relevant points in the movie. For example, during a scene in which the 6-foot-3 Buddy stumbles around the minuscule elf-town, an option appears that allows viewers to watch a mini-feature demonstrating how filmmakers used forced-perspective camerawork to make Buddy appear so large. When the mini-feature ends, "Elf" resumes where it was interrupted. Infinifilm provides access to interesting information and adds value to watching repeat screenings of the movie.
The "Elf" bonus disc boasts deleted scenes, access to the film's music and behind-the-scenes material. The "Fun 'N Games" menu features a read-along story with Buddy, a remote-control activated adventure game and some sing-along elf karaoke -- because adults singing with high voices is a gag that never gets old.
Current DVD Releases
The Chronicles of Riddick (Universal: DVD $29.98; VHS $22.98; PG-13; available Tuesday) Vin Diesel is back as Riddick, the character he made famous in the 2000
sci-fi flick "Pitch Black." The DVD includes commentaries, behind-the-scenes materials and deleted scenes. It also can be used in any XBox game console to play the first level of "The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay," a game for the XBox by Vivendi Universal.
The Kids in the Hall: The Complete Season Two (A&E: four-disc DVD $59.95; NR; available Tuesday) The Canadian comedy troupe known for its bizarre irreverence is returning to DVD with a second collection of sketch comedy from its popular TV show. The set includes 20 episodes; commentary by the Kids; an oral history with the Kids, writer Paul Bellini and producer Lorne Michaels; two fan-selected best-of compilations and 30 minutes of never-seen footage.
Macbeth (A&E: DVD $24.95; NR; available Tuesday) Ian McKellen and Judi Dench star in this famous 1978 production of the revered Shakespeare play. The DVD features an introduction to, and explanation of, the play by McKellen, a timeline of Shakespeare's life, and accomplishments and biographies of the actors.
-- Justin Rude