It’s that time of year again where Christmas music, lights, and goodwill towards all is in the air. So of course, it’s the perfect time to release all the new holiday films that hope to thrill and delight people of all ages. And the newest animated film to come out this Friday is about the littlest reindeer. Well, he’s not really a reindeer. Elliot (Josh Hutcherson) is actually a miniature horse whose job it is to wrangle goats on Whittick’s Whitty Bitty Farm & Petting Zoo. But he has bigger aspirations than what his current station allows. He looks at the reindeer, who are part of the official North Pole training camps that provide Santa Claus (George Buza) with his team, and dreams that he too will be able to pull Santa’s sleigh. In order to get himself ready, he enlists the aid of his best goat friend, Hazel (Samantha Bee), to coach him through the obstacle training course.
While he improves his dexterity and strength, he still has problems with handling the snow drifts. Hazel may be good for basic training and inspiration, but nobody else on the farm is going to give him any help. The reindeer are arrogant and only laugh at him, and Walter Whittick (Rob Tinkler), who owns the farm, thinks he’s crazy. Plus, Walter has bigger concerns as the farm is not doing well financially and he is considering selling the petting-zoo animals to Ludzinka (Martin Short) who assures him she will take good care of them when she really is planning to eat them. But just as they are about to be sold a break comes their way. Three days before Santa is about to deliver the toys, Blitzen (Martin Short) decides to quit and run his own juice bar, which has been his long-time dream.
This window of opportunity could save the farm if prized reindeer, DJ (Chris Jacot), can win the North Pole tryouts. Unbeknownst to Walter and DJ, Elliot and Hazel have smuggled themselves along for the trip. Using a bit of trickery and disguising Elliot as a reindeer, the two manage to get him into the competition, a competition of 20 reindeers over a three-day period. While Elliot is focused on fitting in and winning the job, Hazel teams up with Corkie (Morena Baccarin), a reporter covering the event and uncovering something more sinister that may be going on behind the scenes involving all the abrupt reindeer retirements, mechanical sleighs, and what really happened the previous year when Santa was seven hours late.
The film uses a form of 3D animation, which is of good quality and pleasant to watch and has a good voice cast. Along with the ones previously mentioned, John Cleese does an excellent job as Donner and Jeff Dunham adds his talents as Peanut Butter, a Braveheart-esque leader of the petting-zoo goats. Overall, this movie is fun and enjoyable. It’s family friendly as there are plenty of laughs and silliness for the kids without being too dumbed down for adults. There are moral lessons learned as an unlikely hero who must make difficult decisions that help him grow as an individual and save his friends. Being that it is a full-length film nearing 88 minutes in length, it does take a little time at the beginning to get going, but once it does and you get to the climax of the film it makes it all worthwhile.
I consider myself an expert in animated Christmas films as not only have I seen almost everyone there is, but I watch many of them again during the holiday season and spend Christmas Eve binge-watching all my favorites. And my favorite just happens to be Rudolph: The Red-Nosed Reindeer, which is about a misfit reindeer who is laughed at by the others and not only saves the day but also saves himself by learning to accept who he is. And this film echoes many of the same themes. While it doesn’t rise to the same level as Rudolph, it will certainly be on my to-watch list every year. And after a few more viewings it could very possibly make it to my Christmas Eve viewing.
Elliot: The Littlest Reindeer will be playing In Select Theaters Beginning November 30, 2018 and in Special One Day Only Screenings Nationwide on December 1st