Shrek the Halls
Directed by Gary Trousdale
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1/1.78:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 29 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French, Spanish; 2.0 stereo surround English
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 19.99
Release Date: November 4, 2008
Review Date: October 21, 2008
The Shrek franchise scored a one-two punch in 2007 with the release of the smash hit theatrical film Shrek the Third during the summer and the surprising ratings hit Shrek the Halls in November as an ABC holiday special (paired with another airing of How the Grinch Stole Christmas). With the popularity of the Shrek films, its amazing TV success shouldn’t have been much of a shock really with almost 23 million viewers tuning in to that premiere broadcast. Despite a less than inspired idea that frames the Christmas-themed special, the program seems guaranteed to get annual repeat broadcasts during the holiday season.
Ogre Shrek (Mike Myers) doesn’t really know or care about Christmas despite the continual reminders from the ever-talkative Donkey (Eddie Murphy) advising him that holiday season is right around the corner. All of a sudden, it’s Christmas Eve and wife Fiona (Cameron Diaz) expresses her great anticipation for a memorable Christmas with Shrek and their new triplets, their first holiday season together as a family. So, in a panic, Shrek rushes to find out all he can about what he needs to make a successful holiday celebration, but leave it to Donkey to involve all of the creatures from the Shrek world including the adorable Puss-n-Boots (Antonio Bandaras) and all the other favorites (Pinocchio, Gingy, the three pigs) as all pitch in to make an unforgettable Christmas celebration.
The haphazard story (unbelievably needing four writers to construct it: Gary Trousdale, Sean Bishop, Theresa Cullen, Bill Riling) really seems tacked together from different ideas. The how-to book for dummies on Christmas preparations might have made a charming half hour special (indeed, the best jokes have the family making candy canes from coral snakes and hanging up underwear for stockings), but that idea is quickly dropped for a section where four characters tell their own versions of “The Night Before Christmas”: Donkey, Puss, Gingy, and inevitably Shrek himself. Then that leads to a raucous Christmas party where things get wildly out of hand much to Shrek’s predictable displeasure. Loud and wacky it certainly is, but only a few jokes really land amid the chaotic clutter of all these conflicting ideas. It’s a Christmas special so unbridled and lacking control that it’s in need of Ritalin.
The voice actors all do the same excellent work here that they do in the films. I especially love Antonio Bandaras’ Puss who is used only fleetingly in the special but makes his every word count, his Zorro-like rendition of Santa Claus is laugh-out-loud hilarious.
The special premiered on ABC in a 720p high definition broadcast, and this 480p down conversion of the 1.78:1 program is exemplary. Color is solid without being garish, and sharpness is exceptional. There is no edge enhancement to spoil the image, and there is no banding present, sometimes a problem with animated programs transferred to DVD. The disc also includes a 1.33:1 version of the program, but I did not view it. The film has been divided into 4 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix uses the rear surrounds for much of the music in the special but are not used thoroughly for the myriad of sound effects that could have been possible with such a noisy, busy program. Otherwise, the front channels get by far the heaviest workout in a solid but unspectacular sound mix.
“The Twelve Days of Christmas Sing Along” rewrites the words to the holiday classic to match with new animation and film clips from Madagascar. The new words are lit on screen to aid in singing along at home. This anamorphic featurette runs 4 minutes.
“Deck the Halls Sing Along” is yet another sing along with the penguins from Madagascar with new words fitted to the classic holiday tune. Again, the new words are lit to aid at-home vocalists sing along with Skipper, Private, and Kowalski. It runs 2 ¾ minutes in anamorphic widescreen.
“Gingy’s Dunking Game” is a very elementary matching game for preschoolers to prevent Gingy from getting eaten.
“Shrek Carnival Craze Video Game Demo” is a DVD-ROM enabled promo for the video game with the lure of cheat codes being offered on the website. Instructions for loading on a PC are provided.
“Dreamworks Animation Jukebox” is another promotion for other Dreamworks animated features repeated from the Bee Movie DVD. The viewer can select musical film clips from the various Dreamworks animated films including the three Shrek films, Over the Hedge, Flushed Away, Madagascar, Bee Movie, and Shark Tale.
A preview for Madagascar 2 is offered in anamorphic widescreen.
Shrek the Halls is destined to become a holiday perennial even if it doesn’t come close to the quality of A Charlie Brown Christmas or How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The quality of the DVD is superb, and if one is a real fan of the Shrek world who must have everything available about these unique characters, this reasonably priced DVD is thus recommended.