12 Days of Netflix: DreamWorks Holiday Classics (Day 6)
James R | On 10, Dec 2013
12 Days of Netflix: watching one of Netflix UK’s Christmas movies every day.
On the sixth day of Netflix, we saw on VOD…
DreamWorks Holiday Classics is a compendium of short seasonal films spun off from the studio’s most successful animated flicks.
Donkey’s Caroling Christmas-tacular
Ever since the unexpected hilarity of Shrek’s subversive original, you get the impression the family has steadily run out of inspiration. This short confirms it. A braindead rehash of the karaoke at the end of the first film’s credits – but with Christmas carols instead of pop tunes – it mostly consists of unfunny, poorly-thought-out lyrics substituted for familiar, and better, songs.
At the centre of it all? Eddie Murphy jumping around singing “It’s my most favouritest time of the year!” You’ll struggle to feel the same.
The Madagascar Penguins in a Christmas Caper
“Remember the penguin code,” barks the leader of our monochrome troupe. “Never bathe in hot oil?” volunteers another.
Whether you’re a fan of Madagascar or not, it’s without a doubt that the penguins are the funniest thing in it. This 11-minute outing, in which they try to rescue one of the bunch mistaken for a squeaky dog toy, is a hilarious reminder of their depraved antics.
Tom McGrath’s Skipper deadpans his way through an increasingly absurd set of stunts, which hop along with vibrant visuals. The biggest laughs, though, are saved for trigger-happy Larry. “Kaboom?” he asks, clutching a stick of dynamite. “Yes, Larry,” waggles the Skipper’s eyebrows. “Kaboom.”
A manic, evil delight.
While A Christmas Caper was smart enough to know that the penguins were the franchise highlight, Merry Madagascar brings back the whole furry gang. There’s some ingenuity on display, as the lemurs on the island capture the Red Night Goblin – who, inevitably, turns out to be Santa. That initial spark of imagination fades away as Alex, Marty, Melman and Gloria try to do his job for him.
Credit to DreamWorks for getting all the original cast back, but it’s a shame to see Sacha Baron Cohen replaced as King Julien, whose usually amusing idiocy doesn’t raise a smile. Attempts to drum up a sense of peril within just 20 minutes fail somewhat, making an adequate, but forgettable short movie.
Dragons: Gift of the Night Fury
Bizarrely, Netflix doesn’t list this seasonal special in its collection, so you’ll have to manually fast forward to find it. Fortunately, Gift of the Night Fury is more than worth it: Jay Baruchel returns as dragon-whispering Hiccup, as the village of Berk prepares to celebrate Snoggletog. Then, suddenly, all the dragons fly away.
Why and where to? The answer makes for an unexpectedly sweet, family-oriented story that, like the feature length How to Train Your Dragon, manages to place character and emotion far above comedy sidekicks and cheap cashgrabs.
The scale may be smaller, but the spectacle is still admirably big; DreamWorks haven’t scrimped on the animation – this looks far more impressive than the PlayStation-quality DVD menu for the original film – and when Hiccup and Toothless take to the skies together, with John Powell’s score underneath, How to Train Your Dragon’s heartfelt action feels as stunning as ever.
Kung Fu Panda Holiday
Christmas is here and it’s time for the legendary banquet of kung fu masters. The reluctant host of the event? Po. As ungainly and awkward as ever, Jack Black’s bear is as likeable a hero on the small screen as he is on the big. Busying himself with preparing for the feast, watched over by Dustin Hoffman’s traditional-loving mentor, Kung Fu Panda Holiday is a low-key affair – the most exciting thing in it is a dazzling montage of chopping vegetables near the end. But the understated approach (including a fair few flat jokeS) ultimately turns into an endearing tale of family loyalty, putting aside big fights for cute father and son cooking. Does it need to be 25 minutes long? No. But combined with Gift of the Night Fury and A Christmas Caper, you have an hour of festive family fun.
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