(NOTE: Yes, Tomato here with ANOTHER re-post. My computer froze a whopping SIX times in two days. By the end of August, my schedule should right itself. Thanks for understanding.)
Welcome to another edition of the Scratchpad, your- OH FORGET IT!
That’s right, dear reader, we’re starting our holiday festivities here at Ripe Thoughts, and what better way to do so then to review a pair of Christmas specials, both produced for NBC by Dreamworks Animation, the company behind Shrek, Madagascar, Kung-Fu Panda, and Monsters vs. Aliens. So, pour some cocoa, roast some chestnuts, and crank up the carols as we dig into Shrek The Halls and Merry Madagascar!
Shrek is, bar none, Dreamworks’ cash cow franchise. After the gargutuan success that was 2001’s Shrek, Dreamworks saw the potential that the big, green ogre had to get them some big, well, green. So, they churned out two sequels, a bevy of video games, and this 30-minute holiday special, cleverly titled Shrek The Halls.
For those of you who’ve been, I dunno, dead for pratically the past decade, here’s a rundown of the general Shrek plot. Shrek is a big green ogre, who lives in a swamp land where fantasy creatures like gingerbread men, dragons, fairy godmothers, and Eddie Murphy exist. He’s your typical bah-humbug tough guy, stomping around and yelling and being gross. That all changes one day when he hears that a princess has been kidnapped, and so he teams up with Donkey, a talking, erm, donkey to rescue her. Cue heroics. Well, they do rescue the princess, and it turns out that *gasp* she’s an ogre, too. In the second movie, they get married. In the third, Fiona and Shrek make sweet ogre love and she has babies. There’s also a Spanish cat with a sword. That’s the gist of it, which bring us to Shrek The Halls, taking place between Shrek 3 and the fourth-coming (tee-hee!) Shrek Goes Fourth.
Shrek has softend up a bit since his bone-crunching monster days. His only goal this year is to throw a nice Christmas for Fiona and her subsequent legion of mini-ogres. Fair enough. At least we have plot.
What follows the first ten or so minutes of plot set-up is hit or miss. There are a few good jokes, and Mike Myers and co-star Eddy Murphy are in pretty good shape, and the animation is top-shelf. I must note, however, that Myers is starting to sound a little worn, but I don’t blame him. With three installments in the bag, plus this and a few games, with at least two, maybe three more movies on the way, I’d get tired of it. And y’know what, that’s probably the biggest problem here. Everything is so tired. The actors are tired, the jokes are tired, the music is tired, the story is tired. Heck, I’m tired. The fact is that we’ve known these characters for so long now that it becomes a predictale mess. The idea of a Christmas special has been done, re-done, and re-re-done so many times that to survive in the long term among Rudolph and Frosty, you’ve gotta bring something original to the table. Shrek The Halls just… doesn’t.
Overall, if you’re a huge Shrek-o-phile or if you’re looking for good animation, you may like this special. If you’re looking for something new, though, Shrek the Halls is more ho-hum than ho-ho-ho.
I give Shrek The Halls four calling birds out of 12 drummers drumming.
Now, let’s move to Merry Madagascar!
Madagascar, while nowhere near as big of a hit as Shrek, still had some legs at the box office and made Dreamworks enough money for them to continue the franchise. As with Shrek, a sequel and Christmas special followed.
Here’s a plot synopsis of Madagascar. When a plane chock full of city-raised zoo animals, like Alex the lion, Melman the giraffe, Marty the zebra, and Gloria the hippo, crashes on Madagascar, they’re forced to make due with their wild surroundings.
The plot of the Christmas special itself, while passable, is fairly formualic. Big Red himself crashes on Madagascar after being tailpiped by a trifecta of treacherous penguins. He’s got amnesia, though, so it’s up to the Madagascar gang to make his usual Christmas Eve rounds.
I’ve gotta say, I liked this more than Shrek The Halls. I attribute that more to these characters only having a sequel under their belt instead of two, but this isn’t to undermine the talent possessed by the voice cast. Ben Stiller and Chris Rock, as always, seem to shine the most. It’s almost as if you feel like Ben Stiller is actually there, talking to Chris Rock and whatnot.
The humor, unlike in Shrek The Halls, left me rolling. The voice actors of Madagascar are so animated in thier line delivery that I’d be breathless with laughter if they read their W2 Forms.
I don’t know if it’s the fact that the talent is simply better in Madagascar, or if the novelty of Shrek has just worn off, but either way, I give Merry Madagascar eight maids a milking out of twelve. Make sure to come back on Wednesday and Thursday as we count down the Top 10 Animated Holiday Specials!