In 10 Words or Less
Christmas blitz is too short for its own good
Loves: the Shrek films, Animation
Likes: Holiday specials
Dislikes: Bad pacing
Hates: DVDs with-out much content
If there's one thing the Shrek films do right (and there are actually several things), it's utilizing the time they have in each movie to prevent the movies from feeling rushed and to avoid the feeling that nothing is happening, keeping things moving through a variety of techniques. While the movies themselves have not improved with each successive release, they are still solid filmmaking efforts with no obvious flaws. Then there's Shrek the Halls.
It's not that it's some bargain-basement version of Shrek, whipped up by mercenary animators to fill a TV slot. It's actually the slot that's the problem. With just under 30 minutes to work with, there's just not a lot of time to do the usual set-ups and montages, which means shoving 90 minutes of heart-warming silly comedy into a 20-minute bag, a situation that never works out well. When you pile on the gags with no room to breathe, you get no chance to create any rhythm, and as anyone can tell you, in comedy, timing is everything.
Made to air on TV and taking place after the the third Shrek film, this special follows Shrek's efforts to put together his first Christmas as the member of a family, but not having the holiday in his background, he's struggling with it, despite Donkey's urgings for him to prepare for a celebration. But once he embraces it, mainly to satisfy his wife Fiona, he finds his ogre-flavored attempt at Christmas is being overrun by their friends, who are well-meaning in their invasion. Unfortunately, it just serves to anger the not-so-jolly green giant.
Where more time would have helped is in the main plot piece, which is the telling of the Christmas story, which Shrek desperately wants to share with his three kids, as he has been told that's an important part of a perfect Christmas. His storytelling gets hijacked though, by Donkey, Puss N Boots and the Gingerbread Man, all to varying degrees of success. Their tales could havebenefited from a bit more screentime, allowing them to expand beyond their one-joke premises. As a result, it's more like a Christmas episode of a sitcom than a Christmas special, taking the tried and true and wrapping it in a bit of tinsel. Though it's a technological success and has moments of laughter (as well as the usual excellent use of pop music) it's far too short to bother gathering the family around to watch.
There's not much to this one-disc release, which is packed in a standard-width white keepcase, and which features a mildly animated anamorphic widescreen menu, offering a choice to play the special, adjust the set-up and check out the special features (notice, the show is so short, there's no chapter menu.) Audio options include English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0, French DD 5.1 and Spanish DD 5.1, while subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish, along with English closed captioning.
Whether you watch in anamorphic widescreen or full-frame video, you had to know this was going to look good. It is, after all, a Dreamworks Animation film. There's pretty much nothing to complain about here, except for an overall darkness caused by setting almost the entire special at night and inside Shrek's home. Other than that, the image is sharp, with solid, appropriate color, and no evidence of any problems with digital artifacts (naturally, dirt and damage aren't an issue for computer animation.) It's as good as DVD video gets.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is good, delivering clear, distortion-free dialogue and strong music (one of the franchise's biggest strengths) but there's nothing all that impressive about the mix, which only really kicks in during the film's use of pop songs, using the rear speakers to enhance the sound. Other than that, it's a straightforward track, befitting its origin as a TV special.
The extras couldn't feel more tacked on, as only one is actually a DVD extra related to Shrek, one is a video-game demo, while the others are general Dreamworks extras. Up first are two sing-along songs, using animation from Madagascar. These altered versions of "The 12 Days of Christmas" and "Deck the Halls" now play off the penguin characters from that film, and are amusing for at least one listen. There's more Dreamworks cross-promotion in the "Dreamworks Animation Video Jukebox," which has eight musical moments from Dreamworks animated films and a clunky interface to use to play them.
More Shrek focused is "Gingy's Dunking Game," a set-top matching game that starts out pretty simple, but which gets more difficult. Or maybe I was just tired. Either way, I can't see anyone playing this very often.
The final extra is a demo of "Shrek's Carnival Craze Party Games" which you can install on your PC. It's got three moderately entertaining games, including a javelin toss, a bowling game and a tricycle race, but these are mainly for the younger crowd. After the demo, you're given a code to unlock additional content in the actual game.
The Bottom Line
At just 28 minutes (including the credits), you can hardly justify the time and effort of putting the DVD into your player and navigating through the menus, and when you consider that it's not the strongest story because of the length, it makes it less likely you'll turn to this film when Christmas-time rolls around, when there are better options out there. Though the disc looks and sounds fine, there's also not the kinds of extras you'd need to make this worth what you'll pay for it, so there's even less reason not to move past it and get Frosty the Snowman instead. If you are a big Shrek fan though, a rental won't hurt.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.