Everyone here has seen Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964), the annual classic film that airs every December. The question is, is it worth paying for something that you can see for free. Since Rudolph is so entertaining and well-done the answer is yes. I watched the film on a balmy April evening for this review and, while it felt a little funny, I was quickly drawn into the story, regardless of the fact that I've already seen it a hundred times. Taking off from the then-recent song of the same title, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer features all of the key ingredients: The very shiny nose, reindeer games, the foggy Christmas eve, and the triumphant ending with Rudolph going down in history. It also adds a number of new elements, hinting at the sly wit of the film's creators: Herbie the Elf is also a reject from his peer group since, rather than build toys he would like to be a dentist. After his anti-dentite elf boss dresses him down Herbie joins up with Rudolph for a dramatic trek across the northern tundra that introduces them to Yukon Cornelius, the Island of Misfit Toys, and the Bumble, an abominable snowman.
The story obviously goes off on tangents, but the jokes are funny, the songs great, and the lesson - tolerance and understanding - meaningful. There is even a thrillingly suspenseful twist when a sorrowful Rudolph basically sacrifices his life to save his friends. Of course everything works out, the the journey is a great one.
The disc also features a ReadSpeak version of the film that runs the dialog on the screen next to the mouths of the characters. This is more dynamic than subtitles and is supposed to help with "whole word" learning, a relatively new way of learning to read that uses worlds more for their symbolic value than grammatical relevance. I can't vouch for the effectiveness of this method, but it is an interesting extra. This is a separate version of the film and this feature cannot be accessed on the fly from the regular version.
The song "Fame and Fortune", which was used to replace another song in the film for some re-releases is included here as an extra, as is a trivia game.
Additionally a lengthy montage of footage from other children's video releases is included (sadly, not Rankin-Bass' bizarre Mad Monster Party). Most of the programs previewed do not match the artistry or cleverness of Rudolph.
Gil Jawetz is a graphic designer, video director, and t-shirt designer. He lives in Brooklyn.