A Christmas Tale.
When Archie the rabbit (voiced by Hugh Laurie, Stuart Little) and his friends find themselves on one of the most exciting Christmas adventures ever, anything can and will happen! Archie and his friend Duke the guinea pig (voice of Mark Williams) find themselves moping about in their barn during Christmas Eve. Their boredom is brought to a screeching halt when a present from Santa's sleigh falls to earth and crashes right through their home's roof! The present is addressed to a child named Polly, and with the help of Babs the hamster (Barbara Windsor), Archie and Co. will deliver this package no matter what obstacles are in their paths! But it won't be easy—along the way are such treacheries as the winter weather and a very persistent cat who wants to make a Christmas meal out of Archie! Get into the Christmas spirit by grabbing a hot mug of cocoa and following the Second Star to the Left.
As the holidays roll around there always seem to be an abundance of new Christmas cartoons on store video shelves. Weather they're classic cartoons from the yesteryear of Rankin and Bass or newly minted animated specials with today's hottest voice talent, you can rest easy knowing your children have plenty of holiday themed entertainment on-hand. Second Star to the Left was produced in 2001 in the UK and, while cute, doesn't distinguish itself from the rest of the yuletide fodder. The characters are voiced well, but the story is fairly simplistic ("we've found a present and we've gotta get it to its owner!") and doesn't have much originality. For all its hustle and bustle, Second Star to the Left never comes close to reaching the greatness of such magical shorts like A Charlie Brown Christmas. None of the characters is all that interesting: Archie is stuffy, Duke is lazy and bulbous, and Babs is the level-headed one of the group. Then again, given its runtime (under a half hour), there wasn't much room for characterization. Most of the humor comes from physical situations, such as presents nearly landing on the characters, being chased by a cat, sliding down a snowy embankment, et cetera. And kids will certainly delight in the appearance of two Christmas icons: Santa Claus and a talking snowman that looks suspiciously like Frosty. Though there's a nice moral running through the film (and when is there not, except in Silent Night, Deadly Night?), overall Second Star to the Left feels more like an exercise in animation than a truly inspired holiday treat.
Second Star to the Left is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. I was a bit surprised to find this transfer presented in a widescreen format—most cartoons of this nature are given only full frame transfers. The nice surprise aside, this print appears to be in pretty good shape. The animation isn't great, so the quality as a whole is only mediocre. However, I spotted no major instances of edge enhancement and hardly any grain or dirt. Since children are this flick's fan base, I am sure they'll be happy with what MGM has given them. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround in English. Not much to speak of here—the soundtrack is clear without any major surround sounds or directional effects in the mix. Then again, this isn't a film that warranted any. All aspects of the mix are free of any distortion or hiss. No alternate subtitles or soundtracks have been included.
The extra features are minimal—all that's be included on Second Star to the Left is a short trivia game for children and a very brief "making-of" featurette that includes short interviews with director Graham Ralph discussing what brought him to the project.
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