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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Robbie the Reindeer: Hooves of Fire & Legend of the Lost Tribe
Robbie the Reindeer: Hooves of Fire & Legend of the Lost Tribe
Warner Bros. // G // October 7, 2003
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted October 6, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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A U D I O
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Highly Recommended
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The movie

The chubby and amiable Robbie the Reindeer made his first appearance in 1999 in BBC's short stop-motion animated film Hooves of Fire; 2002 marked his return in Legend of the Lost Tribe, another BBC Christmas special. The new release of Robbie the Reindeer pairs the two 30-minute films on one release.

Hooves of Fire (review written Oct. 3, 2001)

It's tough to live up to the example set by your famous father... particularly when "Dad" is the famous glowing-nosed reindeer immortalized in song for coming to the rescue on a certain foggy Christmas eve. Nonetheless, Robbie (Ardal O'Hanlon) is ready and willing to prove that he can fill his father's shoes... although admittedly he's a little pudgy, a bit easily distracted, and not particularly keen on the vigorous exercise program that he needs to get fit for the big day. In fact, the prospects of a career on Santa's team look very dim indeed, but with the help of his stalwart friend Donner (Jane Horrocks), there's a chance that Robbie might be able to redeem himself and get the best of the situation after all.

Animated with stop-motion plasticine figures in the style of Chicken Run and Wallace and Gromit, Robbie the Reindeer in Hooves of Fire is funny, charming, and visually appealing. The animated figures of Robbie, Donner, Blitzen, Santa, and the other reindeer, elves, and various inhabitants of the North Pole are meticulously crafted and amazingly expressive, and with the excellent voice-acting on top of that, they really seem to come to life. Robbie's voice in particular is perfect, but even the most minor characters have been given distinctive personalities with their voices (including a polar bear who keeps popping up at inopportune moments).

I'd guess that Hooves of Fire is mainly slanted toward an adult audience, who will appreciate the humor in the elements drawn from films like Chariots of Fire and Star Wars, though of course the film would be enjoyable for kids just for the cute figures and the basic storyline. While Hooves of Fire is only thirty minutes long, the fast-paced storyline makes great use of every moment, so it feels neither too short nor too long. The script, written by a team that included the Richard Curtis, the writer of Notting Hill, Bridget Jones's Diary, and Four Weddings and a Funeral, is clever and funny, with just the right balance of serious elements and wry humor.

Legend of the Lost Tribe

As Legend of the Lost Tribe opens, Santa's operation has apparently gone bust, leaving the reindeer to try to make ends meet with their own business venture: leading tourist vacation groups. Unfortunately, things aren't going well, and the situation turns from bad to worse when the sadistic Blitzen shows up. Robbie is left to save the day with a little help from a lost tribe of Vikings... if he can find them, that is.

I loved the first Robbie the Reindeer program, so I was thrilled with the idea of a second film. Unfortunately, Legend of the Lost Tribe doesn't live up to the standard of the first film. It's not terrible, and it has its share of funny moments, but they're occasional rather than continual, and on the whole it doesn't match the hilarity of Hooves of Fire.

One of the things that works so well in Hooves of Fire is that the film is a takeoff primarily of Chariots of Fire (along with traditional Christmas specials). Legend of the Lost Tribe, on the other hand, doesn't seem to have a focus, instead seeming like an assemblage of miscellaneous pastiches of different movies. Several scenes are clearly Star Wars-inspired, but there's nothing about the story as a whole that makes it a takeoff on Star Wars. Similarly, other parts of the film poke fun at over-the-top action movies (with the evil mastermind coming up with a convoluted plan to dispose of his enemies) and monster movies. Any of these might have been entertaining, but here they're just kind of tossed in.

There are still some funny moments in Legend of the Lost Tribe; the Vikings, for instance, are inspired, and the disco segments are great. The stop-motion animation continues to be extremely well done, with the characters all looking very cute and moving very smoothly. Given that it's only 30 minutes long, it's certainly worth watching.

The DVD

Video

Both Hooves of Fire and Legend of the Lost Tribe are presented in a very nice anamorphic widescreen transfer, preserving the films' original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The picture is clean and clear, with the cheerful bright colors of the animated figures and sets coming across nicely.

Audio

Rather oddly, this DVD release supplies both the original U.K. vocal track and a different U.S. vocal track for each film. This is pointless to begin with; the British voice actors do a great job, and their accents add considerably to the charm of the films and aren't especially difficult to understand. What's more annoying is that in both films, the default soundtrack is the U.S. one, even though the original voice actors for Robbie and company are the ones on the U.K. track. I highly recommend choosing the original U.K. track for both Hooves of Fire and Legend of the Lost Tribe.

Both Hooves of Fire and Legend of the Lost Tribe are presented with a Dolby 2.0 soundtrack. It's a solid track, offering a clear, clean listening experience. The dialogue is easy to understand, and the music and sound effects are well balanced with the rest of the track. However, it's a step down from the earlier Robbie the Reindeer release, which offered both a Dolby 5.1 and a 2.0 track for Hooves of Fire, and I'm disappointed that the inclusion of the unnecessary U.S. vocal tracks seems to have edged out the higher-quality 5.1 soundtrack option.

Extras

I do have to note that the menus for this release of Robbie the Reindeer continue to be annoying, with lengthy animations associated with each selection.

An audio commentary track is provided for both Hooves of Fire and Legend of the Lost Tribe. The Hooves of Fire commentary is the same as the one included in the earlier release. The Hooves of Fire commentary is fairly lackluster, with a lot of dead space; the Legend of the Lost Tribe commentary is fortunately somewhat better.

A making-of featurette is included for both films. The 5-minute featurette for Hooves of Fire is the same promotional-style one that appeared on the earlier release; it's not that interesting. The Legend of the Lost Tribe featurette is more substantial, at 9 minutes, and more interesting as well, featuring an interview with the film's art director. A 13-minute interview with Peter Peake, the director of Legend of the Lost Tribe, is also included.

The remaining special features are cast biographies and a set of trailers for Wallace and Gromit, Wallace and Gromit in Project Zoo (a video game), Tom and Jerry Favorites, Powerpuff Girls: Twas the Fight Before Christmas, and Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer. Clicking on the trophy icon in the special features screen brings up a "hidden" behind-the-scenes clip about the "Disco Lemmings."

Final thoughts

The DVD of Robbie the Reindeer is well worth buying just on the strength of Hooves of Fire, with Legends of the Lost Tribe added in pretty much as an extra. It's a fun, light-hearted piece that has plenty of repeat viewing value. If you already own the earlier Robbie the Reindeer release, with only Hooves of Fire, you're probably better off keeping your copy, as it has a nicer 5.1 audio track; you might want to rent the new version to see Legend of the Lost Tribe, but not buy it. However, if you haven't met Robbie the Reindeer before, this is a perfect chance to jump in and get both of his adventures in one fell swoop. It's highly recommended.

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