The holiday season is in full swing, which means it’s time to gather the family and rewatch all those Christmas classics. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is doing its part to help upgrade your family traditions by releasing four beloved holiday films on 4K Ultra HD for the first time.
“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” “A Christmas Story,” “Elf,” and “The Polar Express” all made their 4K debut November 1, bringing crystal clear holiday cheer to your home. Whether you’re looking to gift these classics for the holidays or purchase them yourself to watch with the family, there are plenty of reasons to unwrap these movies this Christmas.
While all four films are getting the 4K treatment for the first time, none of the releases come with any new bonus features – simply the pre-existing legacy content. However, for holiday classics such as these that are honored with repeat viewings every year, the jump in quality alone makes each of these worth the upgrade.
“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation“
The Story: As the holidays approach, Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) wants to have a perfect family Christmas, so he pesters his wife, Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo), and children, as he tries to make sure everything is in line, including the tree and house decorations. However, things go awry quickly. His hick cousin, Eddie (Randy Quaid), and his family show up unplanned and start living in their camper on the Griswold property. Even worse, Clark’s employers renege on the holiday bonus he needs.
Our Thoughts: After a handful of lackluster re-releases, this all-time holiday favorite finally gets the treatment it deserves on 4K Ultra HD. Enhanced visuals, a remastered audio track, and the same hilarious, warm and fuzzy holiday charm– what more could Clark Griswold ask for? Well, maybe a few new bonus features, considering the extras are just the film’s trailer and the same old audio commentary track from multiple past releases. Still, the movie alone is more than enough here.
“A Christmas Story“
The Story: Set in a 1940s-era Midwestern town and told from the viewpoints of a seven-year-old boy, who only wants one thing for Christmas — a Red Ryder BB gun — the episodic tale chronicles not only his schemes to convince his mother and father to buy him one, but also offers a warmly nostalgic look into 1940s middle-class American life. From the stories of, and narrated by, Jean Shepherd.
Our Thoughts: Forget that new HBO Max sequel and stick to the classics. This timeless classic from 1983 is making the jump to 4K, and the quality of the transfer is quite an achievement. In every way, the new version is an upgrade with enhanced sharpness, color and clarity, while still feeling authentic to its ’80s roots. While the bonus features may not be new, there are over two hours of extras for fans to dive into this holiday season.
The Story: This hilarious Christmas film tells the tale of a young orphan child who mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag of gifts on Christmas Eve and is transported back to the North Pole and raised as an elf. Years later Buddy learns he is not really an elf and goes on a journey to New York City to find his true identity.
Our Thoughts: “Elf” is a December staple, and this release is head and shoulders above its 2008 Blu-ray counterpart. The holiday colors are bright and vibrant and the details are razor-sharp, combined with a well-balanced audio track. This may be the most revisited Christmas movie of the modern era, and this 4K Ultra HD release ensures that tradition can carry on for many holidays to come.
“The Polar Express“
The Story: When a doubting young boy takes an extraordinary train ride to the North Pole, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery that shows him that the wonder of life never fades for those who believe.
Our Thoughts: People either love “The Polar Express” or hate it, there’s hardly any in between. Well, this upgrade can’t change the story, or the film’s pacing problems, but it does somewhat enhance the 2004 CGI motion capture animation. The new 4K release marks the best that the film has ever looked, but still, the uncanny valley behind the characters’ glazed, lifeless eyes is very much present.
“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” “A Christmas Story,” “Elf,” and “The Polar Express” are available now on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray + Digital.
Zach Goins is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association based in Raleigh, N.C. Zach co-founded Inside The Film Room in 2018 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the website and co-host of the podcast. Zach also serves as a film critic for CLTure.org.