I’ll admit that I’m probably not the audience Dreamworks was looking for when they made Shrek the Halls. I’m not a kid, and I don’t have kids of my own. And I was growing tired of the Shrek film franchise even before this 2007 TV special was produced. (Plus, I wasn’t very fond of Scared Shrekless when I watched it earlier this year.) Nevertheless, I do enjoy a good Christmas special, and I thought I would give it a chance.
My feelings at the end were much like my feelings at the beginning: decidedly mixed.
Much like Shrek’s.
22-minute holiday specials based on existing cartoon film franchises aren’t necessarily expected to be deep on plot, and Shrek the Halls doesn’t buck the trend on this. Donkey shows up a few days before Christmas bugging Shrek to get ready, but Shrek is feeling rather Scrooge-ish about the holiday. To his surprise, however, he finds that Fiona is excited about it, since it’ll be their first Christmas as a family with their triplets. And so Shrek has to hastily put together a Christmas for his family, and deal with the arrivals and interruptions of his friends.
The humor mostly comes from Donkey, Gingy, Puss-in-Boots, and so on annoying Shrek, who is just trying to have a quiet family Christmas. As is often the case, it’s easy to believe they’re annoying to Shrek, because they’re at least somewhat annoying to the audience — though it’s not as bad here as it could have been, possibly because the most annoying character, Donkey, is also fairly endearing in his own way (and doesn’t just coast on sympathy from the films, as he gets a moment or two here as well.) I will say that the various character-themed renditions of “The Night Before Christmas” did seem just a tad uninspired, being very easily predicted from the nature of the characters.
Although the house-sized cheeseball was unexpected. And intriguing.
The events of the special are easy to see coming a mile off, and the humor is the typical frenetic “everybody annoys Shrek” sequence from the films without the down-time or depth that the films have. Also like the films, it has several dated pop-culture references — in this case, many of the references were curiously dated even at the time the special was made. The time for topical C+C Music Factory references, for example, expired about a decade before the original Shrek was released.
The special does have a bit of a heartwarming message, though, and if it’s typical and standard for the season, well, it still works well with the characters, and it’s a standard for a reason.
On a technical level, the special is pretty good. All the usual voice actors are reprising their roles, most particularly the main characters voices, Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, and Antonio Banderas. And visually, there are a lot of nice effects, from the snow to the lights. Shrek’s decorations are fun to look at, as are Donkey’s.
I can’t imagine anyone but a child wanting to watch this more than once. In fact, I rather imagine anybody who had to watch it year after year thanks to a child watching it would probably get really sick of it really quickly. But kids will like it, and adults probably won’t hate it the first time they watch it.