Gather 'round the VCR Videos: Familiar faces introduce five yuletide visions to your TV. Fast forward for new season's greetings.


You may already have "A Charlie Brown Christmas," "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," "It's a Wonderful Life" and "White Christmas" in your video library, but is that enough? It's nearly Christmas, after all, and that means you must buy. Buy. BUY!

Or at least rent.

If you're convinced, then here's a look at five new holiday videos to check out. Not all are on the level of the classics named above, but the characters involved include Beavis and Butt-head, Pee-wee, Mr. Bill and, once again, Charlie Brown.

"It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown" (Paramount, 23 minutes). While new on video, this special dates from 1992, and its toughest competition has to be its classic 1965 predecessor. Still, it's pleasant, and it might make a nice change if your toddler has now watched the original approximately 8 billion times.

In this show, Charlie Brown is desperate to buy a gift for the little girl he met at camp, but he can't afford it. He tries to sell wreaths and even his comic books to get the money, but even when he does, life defeats him with one of those amusing and persistent Charlie Brown ironies.

There's another Christmas play, and this time Sally has a crucial line. Her improvisation is cute, as are Snoopy's antics and the rest of the Peanuts gang. Cute is about all you'll get here, but maybe that's enough. "It's Christmastime Again" doesn't have the message or the childish charm of "A Charlie Brown Christmas." Still, it has Vince Guaraldi's great jazz going for it.

"Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special" (MGM/UA Home Video, 48 minutes). Let's face it, Pee-wee is cool! Paul Reubens' show won 22 Emmys while it was a regular TV offering, and this 1988 special shows why. It's creative, enthusiastic, funny and bizarre in a way kids will love.

The theme: Christmas, of course, although there's a sketch about Hanukkah, too. Pee-wee and all his Playhouse friends (including the talking chair and a bunch of other clever puppets) are getting in the mood by decorating, singing songs and shouting every time someone says the word "year." And Pee-wee is getting lots of fruitcakes. He learns a lesson about generosity, though, when Santa runs out of presents and Pee-wee willingly gives up all the nice gifts he asked for.

Guest stars are popping out all over the place, including Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, whom Pee-wee forces to make Christmas cards; chanteuse k.d. lang, who frantically performs; Dinah Shore, who sings a hilariously endless version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" (even Pee-wee gives up listening); as well as Oprah Winfrey, Magic Johnson, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Cher, Charo, Whoopi Goldberg basically, lots.

"Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special" is a fun, bright addition to any young kid's collection, and mom and dad might not mind seeing it either.

"Ho Ho Nooooooo!!! It's Mr. Bill's Christmas Special" (StarMaker, 30 minutes). Ho ho noooo is right. This one's a loser.

What fans want of Walter Williams' Mr. Bill, the little clay guy from "Saturday Night Live" who is continually injured thanks to the inconsiderate human klutz Mr. Hands, is a steady stream of comical dismemberments. And in a 30-minute video, we wouldn't say no to a plot, either.

Instead, what we get is relatively little clay carnage in favor of a long, rambling insert by comedian Father Guido Sarducci. Not funny. There's also a primitive computer-animated segment that's a riff on "A Christmas Carol" (we've never seen that before) and a spoof of "The Night Before Christmas." Alas, most of this video is just boring.

"The Magic of Christmas" (Goodtimes Home Video, 59 minutes). Speaking of boring! OK, OK, this video isn't supposed to have a plot. That's the weird thing. This is an ambience tape, along the lines of a video fireplace. Mostly traditional Christmas music accompanies scenes designed to get you in a festive mood. It's very repetitive, but then again, you aren't supposed to stare at it for an hour straight as your faithful reviewer did. I only just now awoke from the coma.

Among the scenes are Christmas lights, a roast turkey on a festive table (not a video for vegetarians), decorations of all sorts, falling flakes, playful kids and many, many shots of skiiers and snowy mountains. The photography isn't spectacular; it's mostly stock footage, some of it from tourism officials. When National Geographic does one of these, it will be worth seeing. In the meantime, this is numbing background niceness on the level of Muzak. It might work best in a store window.

"Beavis and Butt-head Do Christmas" (MTV Home Video, 40 minutes). This, my friends, is the worst example of holiday spirit you'll find -- and probably the funniest. These guys are a hoot. For those of you who get hives at the very mention of these MTV-watching adolescent losers, remember that they're supposed to be stupid.

Among the wicked delights of this special is a parody of "It's a Wonderful Life" called "It's a Miserable Life," in which an angel tries to convince Butt-head that he should kill himself by showing him how nice life would be if he had never been born. (In this unlikely alternate reality, Beavis is a volunteer at a homeless shelter.)

Beavis stars in "Huh-Huh-Humbug," yet another sick version of "A Christmas Carol." In a fantasy about an ideal future in which Beavis is the manager of Burger World and gets to watch porn movies at home, the ghost of Butt-head shows up, offering such pearls of wisdom as: "In life, I was your partner. But now I'm some dead guy with cool chains."

More to look for: letters to Santa Butt-head with Beavis in full reindeer harness, and caustic digs at various Christmas music videos. This is most amusing, but it's definitely for mature audiences (or immature older audiences, which isn't exactly the same thing). Huh huh huh. Ho ho ho.

Pub Date: 12/07/96

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