UK Release Date: 29th October 2018
Runtime: 86 minutes
Director: Jennifer Westcott
Writer: Jennifer Westcott
Starring: Josh Hutcherson, Samantha Bee, Morena Baccarin, Martin Short, Jeff Dunham, John Cleese
Synopsis: A miniature horse with dreams of helping to pull Santa’s sleigh disguises himself as a reindeer when a position becomes available on Santa Claus’s team.
Is there a nobler Christmas tradition than watching family movies which, without their seasonal gambit, would never get released to any home, let alone a cinema?
This brings us to The Littlest Reindeer – a family-oriented Yuletide jaunt that introduces audiences to Elliot (Josh Hutcherson) – a miniature horse who would like to replace the retiring Blitzen in the reindeer group responsible for pulling Santa’s sleigh. The problem is, of course, that he’s not a reindeer and must disguise himself as one to enter tryouts for the vacant job.
If it isn’t clear from its plot or its positioning as a straight-to-DVD animated Christmas film, this isn’t for adults, and never pretends to be. This makes it hard to judge the film objectively, but you can find merits in its interesting twist on reindeer and North Pole stories, even if it feels like a bonus feature you’d find on the vastly superior Arthur Christmas. There’s also a neat little conspiracy theory angle to the plot that does lift it above more straight-faced kids’ Christmas fare, and means it can make decent contributions to post-traditional Christmas cinema – if that’s a thing.
The voice cast is an impressive one too, with Morena Baccarin as Corkie backing up Hutcherson’s committed performance. There’s also memorable work from comic actors John Cleese, Martin Short and Jeff Dunham, all ensuring that there’s a pleasingly festive feel to everything.
But this film is for the kids, so does it succeed in that respect? The slapstick humour is formulaic, but frequent, and there’s a warm message about achieving whatever you set your mind on. So overall, this might be the nice kid-friendly alternative for the family that you use when you’ve given up pretending Elf is a movie for children
Pop or Poop?
The bar is pretty low for family-friendly Christmas movies, and The Littlest Reindeer – known in the US as Elliot the Littlest Reindeer is comfortably able to vault that low bar. With likeable voice performances and enough slapstick to keep the kiddies happy, this is the sort of film that will pass a quiet, cold evening during the school holidays, even if it’s never going to usurp the classic selection of festive favourites.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.