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Shrek the Halls (2007)
Paramount Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 11/4/2008
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/24/2008
I've written before that I'm a staunch member of Generation X. Thus, when you mention classic holiday TV specials, certain titles definitely come to mind: A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, and then all of the other Rankin-Bass Christmas special which just kept getting weirder and weirder. If you look at that list of titles, you'll see that all of them were made before 1980. Of course, there must have been holiday TV specials made after that...I just can't name any. It would seem that the young people of the last 20 or so years have been robbed of having a Christmas special to call their own. But, that doesn't mean that anyone should stop trying. Will Shrek the Halls, based on the popular feature films, be the show to fill that spot?
Shrek the Halls takes place after the events ofShrek the Third. Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) and Fiona (voiced by Cameron Diaz) are living in the bog with their three children. Shrek is very content to be back living the life of an ogre. Shrek's peace is disrupted when Donkey (voiced by Eddie Murphy) arrives to inform Shrek that Christmas is coming, but Shrek states that he doesn't care. In the next scene, Donkey tells Shrek that it's two days until Christmas. Shrek is about to protest again when Fiona overhears this and admits that she loves Christmas. Shrek then excuses himself and runs to town to get a book about Christmas. We learn that Shrek has no idea what Christmas is or how to celebrate it. He uses the book as a guide and attempts to create a perfect Christmas, but he has no idea what he's doing. Things get worse when Donkey brings all of the other characters from Far, Far Away, such as Gingerbread Man (voiced by Conrad Vernon) and Pinocchio (voiced by Cody Cameron), to Shrek's small house. Soon, Shrek is overwhelmed. Will he ever learn the true meaning of Christmas?
Right off the bat, let's talk about the one issue with Shrek the Halls which can be seen as it's biggest pro and con. As an adult and a cynical one at that, I can easily paint the show as a ploy to not only cash in on the popularity of the Shrek franchise, but as a marketing ploy as well, as the special originally aired around the time that Shrek the Third hit DVD. All that the Dreamworks folks had to do was take all of these characters and place them in a new situation. But, for many, especially children, that will be the draw. They've grown to love Shrek and his friends, so they will be delighted to not only see them again, but to see them doing something to which kids can relate -- celebrating Christmas.
Once you can get over that hump -- be it in a positive or negative way -- the rest of Shrek the Halls is a decidedly mixed bag. The show's main premise is a bit too simplistic. Shrek doesn't know Christmas and must quickly learn? Is that all that we get? Ironically, beyond this main idea, the show is overwritten. The writers have tried their best to get every character into the spotlight so that they can have their moment, but at just 22 minutes, this is a challenge. The result is a special which feels quite chaotic at times, and one which never finds its rhythm.
That nitpicking aside, Shrek the Halls does have its moments. The makers of the show may have simply placed the Shrek characters into a Christmas special, but if you've got a favorite character from the movies, then you'll find something to like here. Shrek is back to being his stand-offish ogrey self and his annoyance only leads to more comedy. Donkey is as hyperactive as ever, and, once again, Eddie Murphy gives the character a ton of personality and he delivers some great lines. But, it's Gingerbread Man, or "Gingy" as he's known, who steals the show here. Whether it's using cheesy pick-up lines or mangling an urban legend to meet his needs, Gingerbread Man is the lifeline that Shrek the Halls throws to adults. While the movies have always had lines which were aimed at the older audience members, nearly everything that Gingy says here will make adults smile.
The bottom-line with Shrek the Halls may be a question of investment. The DVD contains only the 22-minute show and, as you'll see below, a group of throwaway extras. It will be up to the individual fan as to whether they want to buy this or simply rent it as a holiday treat. Either way, Shrek the Halls is certainly a serviceable holiday special, but only time will tell if it becomes a classic.
Shrek the Halls gets all green on DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The DVD contains both the fullscreen and widescreen versions of the show. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The show has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. (I can't help but wonder if this was a digital-to-digital transfer.) The colors look fantastic and the picture has a nice level of both depth and detail. The image is never overly dark or bright. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects here are noticeably good, especially during the chaotic scenes in Shrek's house when everyone is going crazy. These scenes also offer some subtle surround effects, but, given all that's going on, they could have been more detailed. The subwoofer effects are limited to musical cues and a couple of explosions.
The Shrek the Halls DVD carries an odd assortment of extras. The "12 Days of Christmas Sing Along" (4 minutes) features the Penguins from Madagascar. "Deck the Halls Sing Along" (3 minutes) also features characters from Madagascar. I usually don't mention set-top games, but the title "Gingy's Dunking Game" made me laugh.
Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long