It’s nearly Christmas, and to celebrate, the writers of One Room With A View are going to present their arguments as to why their choice is the Ultimate Christmas Movie. After David argued for Die Hard, Steve for the sequel, Chris D for The Muppet Christmas Carol, and Christopher for The Nightmare Before Christmas, Cameron offers up Drew Barrymore as a trans-species Jack Russell Terrier.
Airing first as a one-off holiday special, you won’t be surprised to find that Olive, The Other Reindeer possesses a rather unassuming 46 minute run-time. However, this particular quality may be Olive’s greatest chance for yuletide supremacy. Reason being, (and probably the reason you’re reading this now) Olive is designed for Christmas – specifically Christmas Day. In short, its brevity makes it an ideal accompaniment to most, if not all holiday pursuits. Gift wrapping, gift giving, gift taking; all more or less finish comfortably within Olive’s modest spate of animated simplicity.
When considering this mode of viewing, Olive best serves as a kind of temporary decorative distraction. Its nature is more like to politely accentuate, than to ask for your attention outright. When compared to the “fully fledged Christmas extravaganza”, Olive is more subtle and undemanding in your company. That’s not to say the “fully fledged” don’t have their place, (A Christmas Story deserves a special mention) but when there’s not all that much space for a full feature, Olive’s quick shot of nostalgia should keep you going and then some.
Based on a children’s book of the same name, Olive, The Other Reindeer features stylised 2D character art, set against a 3D computer generated environment. This particular aesthetic creates a unique sense of charm as Olive’s paperlike inhabitants navigate their odd little Xmas-centric universe. Despite its dramatic use of pre-millennium CGI backdrops, the film never loses its innate feeling of warmth. This is due in no small part to the invitingly bizarre cubist warping that remains visible throughout.
Olive, The Other Reindeer follows this aesthetic with an equally warped world-logic. This is a place in which pens rolling across a bus station floor become a simply unavoidable falling hazard, evil mailmen may be supplanted by smooth-talking penguins, and Deus ex Machina becomes the world’s greatest secret-Santa. The innocuous naivety of Olive’s hypnagogic logic is something that makes this such a sweet and lovable little film. In a lot of ways, Olive, The Other Reindeer falls in with the likes of The Muppet Christmas Carol and Elf in its childlike re-envisioning of the Christmas myth – the overarching difference being Olive’s comforting simplicity.
Olive, The Other Reindeer‘s surreal Michaelmas microcosm is enabled by its delightfully simple story of a dog determined to save Christmas, as a result of Blitzen injuring himself during a routine test flight. The tale begins with the film’s title (originating from the mondegreen of “all of the other reindeer”) being misheard by Olive’s pet flea over their dog radio. Olive, now believing herself to be one of Santa’s replacement reindeer, sets off to find Santa, and help him perform his annual Christmas Eve flight. As with anything, Olive meets a variety of friends along the way, (mostly through song) including, but not limited to an entrepreneurial Penguin, a Christmas-hating mailman, and a miserly security elf.
Featuring the voice talents of Drew Barrymore, Joe Pantoliano and Dan Castellaneta, Groening’s production team creates an adorable, yet somewhat overlooked Christmas special. Despite its bright and witty source material the film isn’t really one for huge laughs, but rather, gentle smiles throughout. Adding to this, the original music by Michael Stipe and Christopher Tyng is so horribly catchy that it should be giving Fairytale of New York a run for its money.
Overall, this neat little package of Christmas(ness) is sure to get you in the right spirit if you’re willing to put the time in – and what little time that is. For what its worth, Olive is definitely deserving of its 1999 Emmy nomination, and is sure to entertain no matter the age. Lacking in time, but not substance, Olive is definitely one to watch. The disc states ‘A New Holiday Classic!’ and I’m inclined to agree.
Agree, or don’t agree; what matters is whether or not you say so below.