The Christmas That Almost Didn't HappenWith a hint of wit and an edge of modernism, Bix Pix Entertainment has set out to reinvent the Christmas special for a new generation. Employing stop-motion animation and a slew of middle-tier “name” actors to voice their characters, the first entry into their self-described holiday franchise Holidaze is the hour-long Christmas special The Christmas That Almost Didn’t Happen.

Focusing on Rusty Reindeer, the underdog younger brother of the infamous Rudolph, and his quest to find his role in Christmas, what starts out as a simple family-oriented Christmas special transforms into something of a Holiday mélange as Rusty makes his way to the “Big City” and discovers an anonymous support group for beleaguered Holiday icons. Taking a cue from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, writers Peter Murieta and Jonathan Prince do a bit of holiday mixing and mingling as the various holiday leaders make their appearances.

With the assistance (and comedic renderings) of a Latino Cupid, a slightly sassy Candie the Easter Bunny, a painfully voiced Albert the Thanksgiving Turkey (thank comedian Harland Williams for that one), and two clueless young Halloween ghosts named Trick and Treat, Rusty finally finds his true role in Christmas while helping a doubtful young kid avoid being relegated to the Naughtly List simply due to the beuracratic rules of the North Pole. And though he’s only present for a few short scenes towards the end, a bumbling Santa Claus, voiced by the inimitable Fred Willard serves as the highlight of the film.

The stop-motion action is impressive, and the characters themselves are distinct and well crafted, but the script is a little on the weak side, even for an hour-long Christmas special. There are occasional jokes that are sure to produce plenty of belly laughs, and many more that hit well enough to evoke a chuckle, but when the story gets sidetracked by the attempt to write Rusty a theme song, or when a joke is played out a few times too many, the overall flow of the movie is affected. Most viewers won’t be looking too deeply into the script, though, especially since the obvious audience is young children, so in that capacity there’s not much to complain about here. The Christmas That Almost Didn’t Happen may be a romp through decidedly worked-over Christmas fare, but the producers have made it a winkingly lighthearted good time.

The bonus features are extensive for such a short film and document the six-month production of the film in great detail, from conception to final product. Anyone interested in any aspect of stop-motion animation shouldn’t miss these informative bits.

Zach’s Rating: B-
Perfect For: Lovers of stop-motion animation and Christmas specials
Stay Away if: You’ve had it up to your mistle-toes with stories of Christmas cheer

To purchase Holidaze: The Christmas That Almost Didn’t Happen, visit Amazon

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