Elliot: The Littlest Reindeer

Studio: Screen Media
Directed by Jennifer Westcott

Nov 28, 2018 Web Exclusive
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Something’s amiss at the North Pole: Santa’s reindeer, of late, have made a bad habit of quitting their highly important job of pulling jolly ol’ St. Nick’s sleigh. When another inopportune exit leaves Santa with an opening on his team needing filled, a call is put out to all of the reindeer farms for a competition where the winner will land one of the highly-coveted positions. Elliot is one such wannabe sleigh-puller, and has been training his whole life to compete in Santa’s athletic trials, with the only hang-up being that he’s not a reindeer at all but a miniature horse. Despite his ineligibility, Elliott stows away with his best goat pal on a trip to the North Pole and manages to sneak in to the competition – and uncovers a years-long conspiracy to undermine Santa’s entire reindeer system.

There’s zero shortage of family-oriented, Christmas-themed entertainment, but the entertaining Elliot: The Littlest Reindeer is at least a cut above the average animated holiday films that flood streaming services this time of year. The characters are charming – the celebrity voice cast include Samantha Bee, John Cleese, and Martin Short – and the plot plays on the familiar Santa mythos in clever ways. Where it stumbles is when the script makes too hard a ploy for adult chuckles: a doping subplot feels shoehorned, and a few jokes – like an already dated-feeling reference to #NotAllMen – are clearly there as winks to the grown-ups, who would usually prefer to check out of the real world and enjoy some innocent, holiday magic if they’re going to sit through one of these with their kids. Still, Elliot is playful enough to be worked into your seasonal family viewing – it may not earn a place alongside A Charlie Brown Christmas or the Rankin/Bass specials as yearly traditions, but it’s worth seeking out if you’re in the mood for a fresh holiday cartoon.

Author rating: 6/10

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