SHREK THE HALLS (abc, 2007)

Why was it such a misfit?

I've been doing these long enough now that specials I saved years ago, in the event I might need to write about them in the future, are now suitably aged. Back when this first aired, Shrek was the darling of computer animation and gave his parent company Dreamworks a hip, cutting edge, irreverent attitude. Now the ogre is past his sell-by date and has turned into a complete mockery; a property memed and ridiculed all over the Internet as a dated, not-as-clever-as-it-thought-it-was merchandising gimmick, to say nothing of his close relationship with Smash Mouth. In other words, it's time!

Believe it or not, between then and now Shrek The Halls has never left broadcast TV. I don't know who watches it now, but it's always on. I could use the most recent HD airing, but nah, I'll stick with my 4 x 3 480i original.

We open in fall, as Shrek is chopping wood for the winter. Suddenly Donkey gets in his face right as he's swinging the axe and starts chattering in his usual hyperactive manner: "HEY SHREK YA KNOW THERE ARE ONLY 53 SHOPPING DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS WE GOTTA GET MOVING DECK THOSE LIGHTS TRIM THOSE HALLS GET THE MARSHMALLOWS I MEAN IT'S ALMOST HERE!"

Shrek growls through his teeth that he KNOWS about that and that he's ON it, so Donkey can GO AWAY. Donkey does so, but he returns one second later (well, for's a transition to the winter).

Now it's the night before Christmas Eve. Donkey is eager to see everything Shrek set up for the holidays....only it turns out Shrek didn't do a single thing. He only said that stuff so Donkey would get lost, and besides, he barely even knows what a Krismus is. He's done just fine without it, so why break his back on a ton of extra work?

On cue, Princess Fiona emerges from the ogres' house toting her three horror shows and guess what, she's gushing about Christmas. Like Donkey, she can't wait to find out what's awaiting her and the kids come the morn. This is a problem.

As the opening credits roll, Shrek braves a harsh snow blizzard and climbs up a giant mountain to reach an unusually out of the way store. Gasping as he limps into the building, he tells the employee "I NEED A CHRISTMAS FAST! WHAT IS IT?"

All too happy to help, she pulls out her Christmas For Village Idiots tome. It gives Shrek the basics: Step 1 is decorating the house, Step 2 is hanging the stockings, Step 3 is cooking the Christmas Feast, Step 4 is finding a tree ("The tree goes inside the house??") and Step 5 is the telling of a Christmas story while the family is gathered around the fireplace. It's a lot for one reluctant ogre to take on.

The next morning Fiona wakes up to a loud calamity on her roof. It's Shrek trying to decorate the house. Not being sure what qualifies as a decoration, he's just thrown up random junk and tied it down. Donkey reappears and immediately voices his disapproval. "AW NO NO THIS WON'T DO AT ALL TEAR IT ALL DOWN START OVER UH-HUH!" he says without a breath. Shrek asks what he's doing, and Donkey replies that he's going around Far Far Away handing out his yearly Christmas cards. But now that he's seen how badly Shrek is handling this, he's in Meddle Mode and can't be shut down.

Fiona stops him before he goes any further. "I think what Shrek really wants is a nice family Christmas." Donkey's eyes brighten. "OHHHH! A FAMILY CHRISTMAS! Oh I know exactly what you mean, Princess, I got a lot of work to do! I'll see YOU later."

I figured Shrek's quest to create the perfect Christmas would take him the entire special, but he actually blasts through the entire task in one quick thirty second montage. With the help of Fiona and the kids he blows up some lizards like balloons, grabs a possum for dinner, and hauls home a giant ugly tree. And on the night of Christmas Eve he's about to complete the last task in the book, the telling of the Christmas Story, when suddenly--

"MERRY CHRISTMAS SHREEEEEK!" Donkey blares, crashing through the front door wearing a large wreath. When Fiona said "family christmas" he thought she meant the EXTENDED family. Now everyone's piling into Shrek's house -- Pinocchio, the Three Little Pigs and the Wolf, the Three Blind Mice, the Gingerbread Man, and Puss in Boots, plus whoever else was around. They start partying and wrecking everything.

Shrek was THIS CLOSE to pulling off the perfect late-notice Christmas, and he's fuming. He stomps off to sulk in the outhouse, and Fiona follows. Far more patient than he is with this nonsense, she attempts to calm him down. "Look, Shrek, they're our friends and they mean well. I think they should stay."

Shrek returns, but his mood doesn't change. The living room is a complete mess. Gingerbread Man runs right in front of him and barfs up a chocolate chip, and of course Donkey eats it with a relished look on his face. Shrek has to look hard to find where his tots are hiding, and he locates them under a table. Well, it's cramped but it's isolated......maybe isolated enough to complete the final Christmas task.

"Hey kids, how would you like me to finish the Christmas story now? It was the night before Christmas, and all through the house..."

"WOW ARE YOU TELLING THE CHRISTMAS STORY? OOO LET ME TELL IT I KNOW IT BACKWARD TO FRONTWARD COME ON!!" Donkey interrupts. Shrek insists HE'S supposed to be the one to tell the story -- it's how things are supposed to work; the book said so! Donkey doesn't listen and he's already started in on his version.....

"Twas the Night Before Christmas,
and I spent all the day
finishing up on my Christmas display."

Donkey's poem is one big giant bragfest about how much better his decorations are than Shrek's. Though I have to question if any of it is real or just in his head. His dragon-spouse's cave is decked out with gargantuan statues, giant mountains of food, and interpretive dancers. When we get to the giant fifty-foot talking Santa made of waffles, complete with fireworks, it's past the point of plausibility even for this skewed universe.

Donkey gets so into the story that he starts licking the syrup on the Waffle Santa....then he comes out of it and finds himself licking Shrek's pant leg.

"NO NO, YOU ARE TELLING IT WRONG!" insists Puss in Boots. Puss takes center stage, whips out a guitar and starts in on his own version.

"Santa is not made of WAFFLES, he is nothing like that!
The Santa I know is a hot Latin cat.
He is dressed all in fur from his head to his paws,
And he is so darn HEROIC! A real Santa CLAWS."

As you might guess Puss's story sounds suspiciously like he's cast himself in the lead. And he doesn't even finish it because he gets distracted by a shiny ball.
"I have shamed myself," Puss utters regrettably, and exits.

Gingerbread Man has a different take on the holidays. For him, the season is very stressful.

"Twas the Night Before Christmas, and the prettiest sights
Were my sweetheart beside me and the bright Christmas lights."

Gingerbread Man's Christmas is set up like a fifties horror movie. He's about to put the moves on his cookie girlfriend, when she suddenly hears a noise. Gingy insists it's nothing, but she's certain there's somebody watching them. Suddenly, a gigantic Santa Claus towers over them, roaring like Knockoff Godzilla. He slowly reaches for Gingy's girlfriend, opens his giant maw, and Gingy screams in horror as cookie crumbs shower his face!

"That's the most ridiculous story I've ever heard," retorts Donkey.
"YOU WEREN'T THEEEEERE!" howls Gingerbread Man.

Donkey is nosing around and finds Shrek's guide to Christmas. "HEY WHAT'S THIS?" Fearing his ignorance will be exposed, Shrek tries to pry the book out of Donkey's mouth. When Donkey lets go the book flies across the room and sets off a chain reaction of crazy events, ruining the food and decorations, and culminating in Shrek's butt being set on fire. The very next shot is the outside of the house, and Donkey being catapulted from its front door via Shrek's boot. Everybody else follows in the same manner.

"You wanna give me a present? THEN LEAVE ME ALONE!"

"AND A BAH HUMBUG TO YOU TOO!" Shrek yells back, following it up with a door slam.

He turns around to see a scowling Fiona. She disapproves of what her husband just did. "Shrek, you just kicked everybody out on Christmas."
"Well, that wasn't Christmas, that was chaos! I just wanted a nice, quiet Christmas with MY FAMILY!"
"That was our family."
"You call that a family? That was a NATURAL DISASTER!"
"On Christmas that's how it works! Yes, it was crowded, yes, it got a little out of hand..."
"YOUR Christmas?"

Fiona walks away into the snow to apologize to her friends, and Shrek is left out in the cold to make sad faces. This is the special's "alleluia, alleluia" moment.

But Shrek isn't alone for long! The Energizer Bunny suddenly bursts into his cottage! Then a bunch of villagers shouts "SEIZE HIM!" and starts tossing axes in his direction! ......wait, this isn't part of the special, this is a commercial that appeared in its first airing, promoting a tie-in between Energizer and Shrek The Third. I would have accepted this as a real twist, ah well.

When the show really comes back, Fiona has caught up with Donkey and the gang and they're all expressing guilt as they trudge through the snow. I was just about to complain that this story throws an unrealistic part of the blame on Shrek himself, considering how much Donkey's at fault. But no, they're all a little sad things went the way they did.

Suddenly, Shrek catches up with them and he's feeling sorry too. "I suppose I owe you an apology," he starts. "Fine. I'm sorry you took getting kicked out of my house the wrong way."
"No, wait, what I meant to say is, I know you're all just trying to be helpful in your own irritating fashion....."
"Ay Carumba," mutters Puss.
"Some people can't help....being....annoying!"

"Shrek....." Fiona growls.
"I shouldn't have lost my temper back there," Shrek wraps up. "Look, all I wanted was to make Christmas perfect for my family...but I don't even know what Christmas means! The thing is, this is my first Christmas too."

"No, none of that! Ogres don't celebrate Christmas.....ogres don't celebrate anything."

"AW MAN SHREK, THAT GETS ME ALL EMOTIONAL! I guess I got so wrapped up in all the tinsel an' everything, I forgot this is supposed to be about us bein' together. I'm sorry, Shrek."
"Yeah, well, I forgive you, Donkey. Sorry everything ended up in a great big fight."


Back in the house, things have finally settled down. The gang isn't fighting anymore and they've cozied up in front of the fireplace. And Shrek finally gets to tell his own version of the Christmas story.

"Twas the night before Christmas, not a swamp rat did creep,
As Mother in bed played kazoo in her sleep." Cue the farts.

Shrek's version of the poem involves a visiting green giant named Ogre Claus and a ton of lowbrow gross-out gags involving flatulence and other bodily functions. If you were wondering until now how this special got its TV-PG, now's when you find out.

"And I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight,
Smelly Christmas to all, and to all a gross night!"

Looks like the real Santa made it into this special at the very last second. The final shot involves Shrek's family and friends standing outside watching Santa's sleigh ho-ho-ho itself across the sky -- well, Gingerbread Man isn't watching; he flew inside the house in terror. Santa throws some pixie dust and gives the moon Shrek ears. The resulting tide shift swallows several island nations.

Why didn't it fit in?

SomeBODY once asked why Shrek The Halls didn't fit in. Like most things with the Shrek label, it thinks it's more clever than it really is, and it's so concerned with being edgy and punk that it prioritizes these things over any attempt at a thoughtful story. I've seen far worse specials, though. The one I just reviewed before this one had computer graphics that didn't look quite as good.

Does this stupid-looking dog like it?

Due to the untimely demise of Mary Lou, we're looking for a new source of second opinions. Recently, Twelve Wishes Of Christmas was released to DVD under a different title:

You may recall, I covered this movie pretty thoroughly and the dog's participation in the plot was minimal at best. Yet here he is getting top billing, probably because the cheap DVD and Redbox market responds well to canines. So what does he think of Shrek the Halls?

I....guess that's a sign of approval. Or he's thinking of Beggin' Strips right now ("IT'S BACOOOOON!") What does a dumb dog know?