Friday, December 19, 2014

Movie Review: Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Fun characters; story good once it gets going
Cons: Very slow start; new songs are bad
The Bottom Line:
Christmas characters
In made for TV sequel
That could be better

Classic Characters in a Not So Classic Story

I’d heard for years about the made for TV movie Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July, but I’d never gone out of my way to watch it.  Since I do like the original specials with these two characters, I decided it was time to change that.  It wasn’t bad, but I think once every forty years is quite adequate.

The story opens in June at the North Pole where Rudolph (voiced by Billie Mae Richards) and Frosty (Jackie Vernon) as well as Frosty’s family, wife Crystal (Shelley Winters) introduced in Frosty’s Winter Wonderland and their two kids, are enjoying a balmy summer day (10 below).  However, what they don’t know is that the ancient master of the North Pole, Winterbolt (Paul Frees), has just awakened from a cursed sleep he’s been in and is determined to retake the land.

He sees his chance when Rudolph and Frosty’s friend Milton the ice cream man (Red Buttons) stops by to pick up more of his merchandise.  He tells the tale of his friend who works for a circus that is about to go bankrupt.  Maybe Rudolph and Frosty appearing will draw in the crowds needed to save it.  Will the plan work?  And how does that fall into Winterbolts’s plans to take over the North Pole?

This movie is stop motion animation, and it is actually quite interesting seeing the hand drawn Frosty become stop motion.  Even a couple of the scenes from his specials are recreated briefly in this new media.  I’m not the biggest stop motion animation fan, and this isn’t going to change any minds.  It’s okay, but nothing else.

The story starts pretty slowly, actually, giving us back story on characters we don’t much care about yet.  We need the background, but surely it could have been worked in better later into the story.

Likewise, the songs slow things down.  Yes, we get the classic songs with these characters, which are fun.  However, the rest of the songs do nothing for the story.  Fortunately, there aren’t too many of them.  Since this is a two hour (minus commercials) special, it’s something that could easily have been cut to lower the running time.

And yet, as the movie kept going, I found myself drawn into the story and wanting to know how exactly our heroes would prevail.  It helped that the pacing picked up as the store progressed even if the overall cheese remained.  It wasn’t enough to make this into an annual tradition, but it was enough to make me glad I watched it once.

The voice cast is back to voice the parts they’d done in past specials.  Whether well-known or not, they all do a great job as do new comers who take on new characters here.

Maybe I’d feel differently about this if I’d watched it as a kid.  I know nostalgia helps with some of the other specials I love to watch each year at Christmas.  But since this special doesn’t have that on its side, I won’t go out of my way to watch Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July again.  It’s not bad, but it’s just not that great either.

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