Thanks to this wretched Christmas special, Judge Paul Corupe now breaks into hives when he hears the titular song.
"Of course you all know how Christmas carols came to be. You don't? Well, stick around!"
What's your favorite heartwarming animated Christmas special? The Peanuts one, perhaps? Maybe The Grinch Who Stole Christmas? And who doesn't love the stop-motion Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer special they always trot out just before the holiday season? Classics, all of them, but for every true-blue yuletide mainstay, there are dozens of other similar cartoons released each and every year that are forgotten as quickly as last week's fruitcake. We Wish You a Merry Christmas is one such minor entry in the animated Christmas special sweepstakes, a sad effort that can't help but put a little damper on even the merriest case of holiday cheer.
Promising to reveal all about the origins of traditional Christmas carols, our reindeer narrator (country crooner Travis Tritt) introduces a story about penniless orphans Ollie, Ted, and Cindy, who know it's far better to give than to receive. They desperately want to give back to their community, but being but poor little kids, they have some difficulty coming up with a way to share their yuletide spirit with the fellow residents of Harmony. After their first few attempts at Christmas cheerleading end in slapstick disaster, they hunker down on Christmas Eve night to compose a song with the help of Mrs. Claus, who miraculously arrives to provide some inspiration. In true holiday miracle style, the simple carol they put together—We Wish You a Merry Christmas, naturally—reminds everyone the true meaning of the season.
Featuring the voices of TV starts like Nell Carter, Lacey Chabert, and John Forsythe, We Wish You a Merry Christmas casts its clumsy holiday spell with bad storytelling and unimpressive, limited animation. Featuring simplistically-drawn characters in both senses of the term, the show follows in the footsteps of every other Christmas special preoccupied with the "true" essence of the season, but rarely have I seen it done so poorly. Listen, I can buy into a whimsical story about how Rudolph came to guide Santa's sleigh, and I can accept that Odie can construct Garfield a Christmas backscratcher despite a lack of opposable thumbs, but the origin of Christmas carols is an easily explained cultural phenomenon—why confuse kids with some silly back story? It's a paper-thin premise at best, but even worse, We Wish You a Merry Christmas makes cloying use of orphans, paupers with hearts of gold, and desperate, selfless wishes to further its patently false origin tale. It's a blatant case of paint-by-numbers sentimentality, and the program's obvious heartstring-tugging tactics send this forgettable exercise straight to the bottom of Santa's sack.
We Wish You a Merry Christmas does look pretty good on DVD, however, with nice bright colors and not a speck of dirt or dust to be seen. Sound is presented in a passable 2.0 mix that renders the dialogue and the truly wretched songs in perfect clarity. Though this disc sports no extras, it is absolutely laden down with trailers for related family-oriented fare. You can jump past these commercial messages, but the DVD itself has no menu, so you must pay attention when the feature does start, so you don't accidentally chapter skip over it, assuming it to be yet another ad (as I did, twice).
While some kids might find We Wish You a Merry Christmas to be a passable timewaster as they wait for Saint Nick to arrive, parents will probably want to grab some egg nog and head to another room to get a jump on that big pile of wrapping.
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