“Have you been Naughty or Nice?”
The Naughty List is a story we have seen many times before. Perhaps too many times. Elf brothers Snowflake (Drake Bell, Superhero Movie) and Winter (Sean Astin, The Goonies) aren’t doing what all the other elves are doing. Instead of working hard to make sure every child gets a toy, they’re goofing off. Well Winter is goofing off, Snowflake is just going along for the ride though he knows better.
But their antics end up destroying the elves’ Christmas tree and they’re in big trouble. However they’re not the only ones. Reindeer-in-training Sparkle (Naya Rivera, Glee) thinks learning to fly by the cadence of jingle bells is passé, especially when she has such a lovely singing voice. So she sings her little heart out, sends the sleigh off course and the resulting crash puts Blitzen in a full body cast.
So Winter, Snowflake, and Sparkle are all placed on Santa’s Naughty List and are sentenced to help out with some of the more menial chores the North Pole has to offer. Under the watchful eye of Tinsel (Matthew Lillard, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated) the robot, they are supposed to learn about Christmas but instead they end up once again not following the rules and doing things their own way. And this time it ends with everyone but the three of them and their robot watchdog in the hospital with food poisoning. Now Christmas is in danger of not happening because these three wouldn’t follow the rules.
I’m sick of stories in which we celebrate people saving the holidays while overlooking the fact those same people (or in this case elves and reindeer) messed it up in the first place. What real lesson are we expected to learn from movies like this? That if you go your own way and screw up something as long as you make it right in the end it’s something to be praised and rewarded? No. Cleaning up your own mess is something you do as a member of a functioning society. It’s not a special thing. It’s something we in the real world expect and showcasing stories where it’s heralded as amazing sends the wrong message. Winter, Snowflake, and Sparkle didn’t learn respect for the Christmas traditions they tarnished. They get their acts together because they have to, not because they want to. They don’t even have to deliver all the presents themselves, Santa (Kyle Chandler, Super 8) overcomes his bout of food poisoning in time. They lose nothing and so learn nothing. It is a disappointing bit of fluff.
The 1.78:1 widescreen image is typical of CGI fare today. However, the world the elves live in might as well be nicknamed Stepford as the only elves who look different are the ones with speaking roles; otherwise, they’re clones of each other. And they look like demonic clones, I’m not going to lie. Not enough attention was paid to little details like the elves’ irises within group shots so sometimes they’re all black and super creepy as a result. The elves’ heads are also way too big for their bodies so they all look like bobble heads, also super creepy. But the picture itself doesn’t have any pixilation or the like, so I can’t offer any criticism of it from that perspective. The audio tracks are two fold, Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0, which is not surprising given that Glee star Naya Rivera opens her pipes more than once. So that aspect works well for me and she in particular sounds great.
There are no special features.
Call me Scrooge, but The Naughty List gets a big ol’ bah humbug! I want a heartwarming tale, not something featuring characters I may legitimately have nightmares about.