Tis the season for classics

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and hopefully you got some good shopping in (and don’t forget that you can still get some great deals today only at Ty’s), and now it’s the season for holiday movies on television.

That’s right; it’s time for Charlie Brown’s pitiful Christmas tree; it’s time for everyone to warn Ralphie that he’ll shoot his eye out; it’s time to carve the roast beast; it’s time to watch the Heat Miser and the Cold Miser duke it out. It’s time to watch the movies that herald the magic of the holidays and remind us of the traditions of our childhoods.

Shrek the Halls is coming up this Wednesday night, a new contender for “classic” status. I’ve written about it before, and since then I’ve actually seen it. (ABC was kind enough to send me a screener copy.) We sat down and watched it as a family this past weekend and it was… fine. Not great, no, but okay. Much of the problem lay, I felt, with it only being half an hour long; there really wasn’t time to do any sort of plot development. But if you’re a Shrek fan (we are) it may be worth catching. Will it become a “classic?” I sort of doubt it.

The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik was less charitable in his assessment:

And, so, the entire 22 minutes (running time without commercials) is more or less a primer in how to celebrate Christmas as a family: Decorate the house, get a tree, hang the stockings — with Daddy reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas to the three baby ogres.

But just as the reading starts, Donkey, Puss in Boots, Gingerbread Man and a cast of dozens crash the intimate gathering. Now, after Shrek explodes in anger, he has to learn another lesson about the meaning of family — mainly from Donkey and Fiona.

While the story line speaks to loneliness and celebrates community belonging, the episode ultimately feels as flat and superficial as a mass-produced holiday greeting card. There is nothing nearly as daring or deep as the exploration of existential angst in the landmark Charlie Brown special.

The rest of his piece is an interesting exploration of why the various “true” classics like Charlie Brown have endured, and is worth the read. I’m not sure I ever thought about the role of existential angst in the appeal of the Peanuts gang, but he has a point.

If you want to do your own compare-and-contrast, stay tuned to ABC this week: Tuesday night at 8:00 pm will bring A Charlie Brown Christmas, while Wednesday night at 8:00 pm will debut Shrek the Halls, followed by How the Grinch Stole Christmas at 8:30 pm. No matter which specials appeal to you, do take the time to sit down and watch them with your children. That’s the part they’ll remember, not whether or not the cartoon itself was really any good. At least, that’s what I always remember. And what I tell my kids they’d better remember. Heh.

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2 thoughts on “Tis the season for classics

  1. We’ve already set the DVR. I was thinking it would be fun to own all the holiday Charlie Browns, but then I thought it might take the fun out of just getting to see them at the holidays. At least we can record them now and watch them over and over.