Our local Family Video seems to think I haven’t been there in a long time (they apparently don’t count the free children’s DVDs I’ve “rented” recently), so they sent me a coupon for a free rental plus half price rentals for two weeks. My husband had suggested the other day that we watch The Santa Clause, and we discovered we don’t own it, so I figured I’d go get it as a free rental. It was already out, however, so Al suggested we take Shrek the Halls.
I wasn’t expecting too much from it – Shrek the Third had been so-so and this looked like just another way to milk the Shrek franchise. What I was expecting was something longer than a 22-minute program. If we watched TV, I would probably have realized that this started out as a half hour TV special two years ago (including commercials, of course). I had only seen it as a DVD in the stores.
My reactions are mixed. It has some pretty funny moments, particularly when the gingerbread man and Puss in Boots each tell their version of “The Night before Christmas.” The story itself – Shrek trying to give his family the “perfect” Christmas, and finding it very hard to do so – is a good idea but could have been developed a lot more. Within the confines of the TV-special time frame, I suppose they did what they could. And if they had made it longer, perhaps I would instead be complaining that they drew it out too long with too little to say.
My real problem with it is that it’s about Shrek wanting to know what the meaning of Christmas is, and there’s no real answer given. He learns that it’s about family (including extended family, who may not celebrate Christmas the way you’d like them to), and that it’s never perfect because no family is — those are good lessons but they are not “the meaning of Christmas.”
The how-to Christmas book that he buys shows that telling the Christmas story is at the heart of Christmas. I wasn’t really expecting Dreamworks to have Shrek read the second chapter of Luke the way Linus does in A Charlie Brown Christmas. But “The Night before Christmas” – whether in its original form or Shrek’s ogre-ish retelling – is not “the Christmas story.”
What Shrek the Halls does, it does well. It reminds us that “the perfect Christmas” is not going to happen in any of our houses, it stresses the importance of family togetherness and of forgiveness when family members hurt us, and it does it with some creative humor (though they could have done with at least one fewer fart joke). But it doesn’t tell what the meaning of Christmas is, and I would rather they had either done so (I think it could have been done in some non-sectarian way) or not addressed the question in that manner. Shrek could certainly have said he didn’t know “how to celebrate Christmas” because he had never done it before, and nothing would be lost from the story.
One last note – I noticed during the movie that there was some music that sounded very familiar and that I liked, but I couldn’t place it at all. Later I couldn’t even remember how it went. I found the answer at WikiAnswers – it is “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana, which I sang with the local Civic Chorale a couple years ago. That is definitely one more point in the movie’s favor, in my view.