Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Christmas Orange (2002)

This is going to be the year of the really boring obscure specials, isn’t it?

The Christmas Orange is a weird little piece from Canada based on a kids’ book. It’s about a kid named Anton whose birthday falls on Christmas, and he gets upset when he realizes that most kids get presents on their birthday and on Christmas, but he only gets one day of gift giving. (Incidentally, this is a totally acceptable gripe, but the proper way to deal with it is instituting half-birthday parties.) Anton asks Santa for 600 gifts, Santa brings him a nice shiny orange instead, and so Anton decides to answer a sleazy late-nite tv ad and sue Santa for breach of contract.

That sounds much more interesting than it is. This special is basically a mess; nothing makes much sense, the only plot twists are visible miles away, and the moral, I guess, is that oranges are nice and kids get too many toys? It’s really dull. However, I did notice something kind of odd. All the people live in a town called Bleakney. And it is pretty bleak. No one, even the little kids, visibly ages over the year of the story. Even the orange in question is still fresh and shiny a year later. Most importantly, Santa seems to have a personal relationship with the people of the town, and when Santa quits, Anton thinks he can solve the problem by giving a gift to every person in Bleakney. All one thousand and a bit people. Just, you know, save Christmas by giving a gift to a thousand people.

Clearly, these are the last survivors of some sort of horrible apocalypse, possibly trapped in a kind of limbo. More specifically, the mash-up of styles and random allusions that make no sense indicate that these characters are all from children’s storybooks, although their worlds are now gone.

I blame the Nothing.

I mean, it’s the only thing that makes sense. The weird vaguely Scottish narrator wouldn’t use that kind of awkward repetitive language unless he was a traumatized refugee from Dr. Seuss. The angry, lonely lawyer’s childhood friendship with a crocodile shows that he’s from either the neighborhood of Lyle, Lyle Crocodile or Alligators All Around. The two oddly identical French girls next door must be the only survivors of Madeline.

There’s really no excuse for why the music sounds like damned children doing a holiday-themed take off on “The Song That Never Ends.”

So, as a creepy depiction of the last gasp of a tiny society of delusional characters struggling to keep a sense of normality before they puff into nonexistence, I recommend The Christmas Orange.

On the other hand, if you don’t examine the characters that closely, it looks like some company just threw together a lot of thoughtless allusions with a pedantic story and some cheap animation. If you can’t see past that level, it appears to be nothing but a boring mess and should be avoided.

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