It’s illegal for any incarnation of a television show not to have a Christmas special. It should also be illegal for anyone to take iconic television characters from the 1960s and use them in a Christmas-themed movie in the mid 90s. It’s hard to be too harsh on the lovable Munsters because the movie is so well-meaning, but the aforementioned recipe does not make for the best holiday treat.

The Munster’s are in California – transplanted from their beloved Transylvania – and Eddie (Bug Hall) is depressed. He’s homesick, misses the snow and his old friends. The bullies kick his hairy face in the mud, and his family has decided to come to the rescue. A sadistic present, a decorating contest and a visit from ancestors from the old country should do just the trick. The clan then goes through the usual gantlet – lacking funds, neighbor’s who think they’re freaks, and then, as improbable as it seems, Grandpa accidentally transports the Jolly Big Guy himself into the Munster’s basement. Could it be up to them to, gasp, save Christmas?

The movie isn’t without its moments. For the most part, it’s an honest shot at a cute movie, and judging by the advertisement for Murder, She Wrote Season 7 that precedes it, the distributors know their audience. Call me easy, but I genuinely laughed when Herman (Sam McMurray) reeled back from the fire on the stove top ala Lon Chaney. Plus, where else will you see Frankenstein as a nude art class model or elves obsessed with “surgically enhanced supermodels”?

To be even more generous, it’s a made-for-TV movie that is just now being released on DVD eleven years later.

On the down side, the movie is lacking the spark of the original series (as if recapturing the genius of Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis were possible), and the idea of coming out with a Munster’s movie five years after the last incarnation of the show was broadcast (and over thirty since the original) seems out of left field. Saving Christmas continues with the non sequitor theme. It’s a 90s piece that feels filmed in the 80s. The jokes range from terrible puns to edgy sexual references aimed at Marilyn Munster (Elaine Hendrix). It tries to recapture the kitsch of the original, but follows the same formula as every other Christmas-cross over. Because of all of this, it ends up feeling like a cult classic aimed at your grandmother’s knitting circle. Like Rocky Horror for Aunt Agnes.

As a DVD, it serves as an advertisement with sneak previews from shows like Northern Exposure and Monk. It seems the sole reason for getting this TV movie on disc is for the small niche that wants it. If you’re a huge fan of the Munster’s, this could be like owning the Star Wars Holiday Special. If you enjoyed the original series, but not enough to own themed bed sheets, I would steer clear.

Grade: C-


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