I looked in the yellow pages under “Wise old mentors who can save the day…”
This BBC produced animated short gives some of the classics like Frosty the Snowman and How the Grinch Stole Christmas a run for their money. By assembling an eclectic and talented cast including Ardal O’Hanlon, Steve Coogan and that silver tongued old devil Des Lynam, the BBC have produced something funny, sweet and pretty unique. Good going in a genre that is so often derivative and samey.
When Robbie (O’Hanlon), son of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, arrives at the North Pole, it is clear that Blitzen (Coogan), the leader of the reindeer, will stop at nothing to take Robbie down. The plural of reindeer is also reindeer. English is fun!
Coogan is, of course, a comedy genius so he wrings most of the belly laughs from Hooves of Fire, but O’Hanlon also puts in a good shift, bringing a wide-eyed wonder to the role of Robbie. Throw in Robbie Williams as the narrator, Jane Horrocks as the irrepressible Donner and Ricky Tomlinson as Santa and you have a genuine array of talent on hand. Add to that Richard Curtis on the writing staff and Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler on music duties and you begin to wonder why neither this, or the two sequels Legend of the Last Tribe and Close Encounters of the Herd Kind failed to become more of a Christmas institution.
I enjoyed Hooves of Fire. Now that I have surpassed 50 Christmas films for this article, the addition of animated shorts this year has really been a shot in the arm after drowning in a sea of sugary tinsel and Tim Allen movies. I feel refreshed as we head in to day 4 and Silent Night, Deadly Night. A film that I can only imagine must be terrible. We shall see…