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There are no shortage of Christmas movies this holiday season. The Hallmark Channel is practically playing them 24/7 right now. Christmas movies are fun, romantic, cute, and generally exist to get you in a jolly mood for December. My favorite movie is one that I’ve never seen on TV. Up until a few years ago, I watched it on a VHS tape. Every December I talk about it, and none of my friends have heard of it.
Olive, the Other Reindeer is a gem of a movie. It’s a 45-minute kids TV special from 1999, and it’s based on a book of the same name by Vivian Walsh. The plot is fun and simple. Everyone knows Santa exists in this world. During flight training for Christmas, Blitzen the reindeer is injured. Without one of the reindeer, Santa realizes he might have to cancel Christmas. On a radio show, Santa says he’ll have to “make do with all of the other reindeer.” Enter our hero Olive. Olive is an anthropomorphic Jack Russell, and adores Christmas. It’s her favorite holiday. She hears Santa’s message as “Olive the other reindeer,” and believes it’s her calling to go to the North Pole and fly as one of the reindeer. Her owner, Tim, is upset about Christmas and takes out his frustrations on her. This only fuels her desire to fix Christmas and make Tim happy. Along the way, she meets a few friends along the way, and an enemy in the mailman.
Olive has a lot of great things to enjoy. Firstly, it has an animation style unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. The characters are flat, like they’re made of paper, and everyone has weird shapes to their faces and features. The anthropomorphic aspect is also new and refreshing. It’s a little like the Netflix show Bojack Horseman. Olive can talk to her owner, Tim, and the two are more like friends. The reindeer are also more akin to Santa’s business partners than anything. There’s also a clever bunch of puns and gags littered throughout. There’s a family of mice that need a Christmas tree, so Olive gets them one of those pine tree car air fresheners. The bus Olive takes is a Mauvehound instead of a Greyhound. Another few characters have names that fit with Olive’s predicament. The bus driver thought the Pledge of Allegiance was about him, his name being Richard Stands. My favorite is when the mailman captures Olive and she’s stuck in the back of his mail truck. To get out, she sees a package with a filer in it to break the lock on the door. It is addressed, “To Olive, From Deus Ex Machina.” For anyone who doesn’t know, a Deus Ex Machina is literally a device the writers use to get a character out of a situation. I’ve watched this movie since I was a child and it still gets a laugh out of me.
As an added bonus, the movie is a mini musical. They have maybe five or six songs peppered in throughout. My personal favorite is Olive’s opening song about how much she loves Christmas. It’s the perfect set up for the rest of the movie.
The voice acting and characters are also amazing. Drew Barrymore is the voice of Olive, and she adds so much charm and excitement to the happy little pup. Olive is a great character. Everyone is giving up on Christmas but she refuses to stop. There are a few moments when she gets discouraged, but at the end of the day, her enthusiasm and determination convince everyone around her to get back in the Christmas spirit. She just wants everyone to have a happy holiday and make sure that all the good people in the world get the presents they deserve. She such a good and honest character, that she’s a real inspiration for children and even adults watching.
The rest of the cast is equally impressive, boasting a roster of experienced cartoonists and creators like Dan Castellaneta and Matt Groening of The Simpsons fame. The characters are sharp and witty, with little things thrown in that show some of the characteristics of The Simpsons. It’s no surprise many Simpson employees worked on this film. Martini the penguin, a friend who joins Olive on her quest, is hilarious. He’s a con-man, selling fake watches and tricking the elves up at the North Pole for Olive to get into Santa’s Workshop. The villainous mailman is also pretty funny. His motivation to stop Olive is that Christmas mail is insane, and if there’s no Christmas, there won’t be a rush of packages and letters for him to deliver.
The message of the movie is very sweet. Olive is made fun of the whole movie about her dream of saving Christmas. No one thinks she can do it, and that she just misheard Santa. In the end, she fashions herself with cardboard wings and Santa lets her help out. She may not exactly help with flying, but using her nose, she can guide them wherever they need to go. She proves to be useful and also raises everyone’s spirits by the end of the night.
Olive, the Other Reindeer is an endearing and underrated little movie. The theme may be a common one of love and being yourself, but again, the animation makes it super special. It never fails to make me smile. Even better, it's right on YouTube for easy viewing. If you're in a pinch and need something nice to watch, Olive is always there for you.