I’d be hard pressed to think of another time when an animated movie has made me feel nauseous, leastofall as nauseous as this movie. Things didn’t look good from the outset, as we travel along a garish and neon landscape into the North Pole. It’s computer animation at its cheapest, laziest and truly lacking in personality. Aside from the character trait of grating that is.
Santa is forced to call a press conference when yet another of his Reindeers’ lets him down. With three days before Christmas Eve, a replacement is needed ASAP! The North Pole reindeer try-outs are the only way to get on Santa’s elite team – but miniature horse Elliot is desperate to be given a chance. His best friend Hazel, a wacky goat, is on-hand to cheer him on – neither of them realising that a sinister lady has turned up at their ranch, their home, leaving their friends in serious danger.
What baffles – for the entirety of the 86 minute running time – is how this film got greenlit, let alone made at all. The entire thing is so misjudged, with a plot that is cloying, saccharine and poorly sketched out. It’s like a Frankenstein’s Monster of a Christmas animation, picking and mixing the various parts of much loved, and much better, movies. But just as Victor Frankenstein thought he’d chosen all the best bits to create an angel, but instead realises he’s created an abomination – that’s exactly what happens here.
There’s the underdog story of an unlikely character wanting to achieve their unlikely dream; a long-standing friendship being abandoned for a better offer; a son unable to live up to his father’s legacy; a maverick pursuing modernity in favour of tradition; a journalist exploring a hunch that something dodgy is going on and a Cruella Deville figure planning to take over a raunchy to sell the animals for meat.
All of that is blended together in a manner that is less than wholesome. But aggravating and misjudged is how it is all pitched. The reason studios like Disney/Pixar, Illumination, Cartoon Salon and Laika are succeeding currently in what could easily be described as a Golden Age of Animation is because their films are universal. They don’t pander to children whilst also chucking in knowing gags, usually accompanied with an eyebrow raise that is either literal or metaphorical – which is exactly where The Littlest Reindeer falls the most.
There’s ‘jokes’ about global warming, a Scottish training coach of a horse that is modelled on Braveheart, the biological clock of a female reindeer and the therapy-like role of a sports psychologist. It’s aggravating to witness these moments. The most frequent offence, however, is the script itself. When it’s not explaining – the idea of show not tell clearly unheard of here – it utilises a vocabulary range that could only be described as smug. The obvious intent is to make the parents, who’ve been dragged against their will to pay and see this movie, laugh. However this knowingness comes across instead as arrogant and, for the most part, needless.
That’s because it’s symptomatic of the film’s most grievous offence – patronising its audience and providing them with a film that is carelessly written. Nobody deserves to be forced to watch this film.
Dir: Jennifer Westcott
Scr: Mark Van de Ven, Jennifer Westcott
Cast: Morena Baccarin, Josh Hutcherson, John Cleese, Martin Short, Christopher Jacot, Jeff Dunham.
Prd: Lucas Lynette-Krech
Music: Igor Correia, Robert Melamed
Run time: 86 minutes
Available on DVD and digital download from 29th October.