A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Spike, an animated Christmas adventure starring a newly recruited elf, finds Santa and his holiday ride threatened both by some incompetence and a team of greedy, villainous polar bears. This DVD contains two stories, each approximately 35 minutes in length and set the week before Christmas, one year apart. The heroes and villains are the same in each of the films. Mild cartoon violence accompanies the funny, character-rich enterprise. There are falls, chases, punches, kidnappings, and daring rescues, none of which should be scary for kids familiar with real versus cartoon danger. The heroes are forced to undertake some questionable actions (for example, donning a disguise and breaking into a "bank"), but it's justifiable and for a good cause. Although there is some stereotyping -- the bad guys are comically Italian -- it's handled cleverly and with a touch of whimsy. This DVD, made and originally released in France, is in English.
What's the story?
In this two-part holiday entry, SPIKE is the first new recruit to Santa's workshop in a very long time. Supervisor Raymond (voiced by Daniel Kamwa) takes the young elf in hand. Spike (Alexis Tomassian) is enthusiastic and eager to do well. But on his very first assignment, he somehow manages to lose the mailbag with all of Santa's letters in it! When he realizes the bag has been mixed up with the bags of fish that the penguin residents of Ping Ville have stored in their secured "fish bank," Spike sets out to make things right in time for Christmas. In a race with two greedy polar bears who want the banked penguins' fish for themselves, Spike has to ask for help from Raymond and from his best friend, Paco (Michel Mella), a penguin who desperately wants to fly. The gang must use courage, cunning, and every nearby resource to rescue the all-important letters.
In the second story set one year later, Tony, the still-incorrigible leader of the polar bears, and his very ornery mom have kidnapped Santa's reindeer and plan to hold them for ransom. Once again, Spike is on the case and the chase is on. Spike's cousin Dorothy, an advocate for gender equality -- she believes Santa should have female elves on his staff -- is there to join Raymond and Paco and face off against the wicked bears. Spike and company must contend with a giant robot, the intimidating bears of Teddy Ville, and the many obstacles Tony sets in their way to hide the reindeer. Will Spike be able to save Christmas yet again?
Is it any good?
Cute animation, likable characters (Paco the penguin is particularly humorous and original), and funny situations should keep kids engaged. Although there is some stereotyping -- the bad guys are comically Italian -- and an old-fashioned take on women's rights in the workplace is explored, it's all handled cleverly and with a touch of whimsy. It's unusual for a DVD of this type to include two episodes, but the stories blend well. The second part has more cartoon action and characters in peril than the first. Best for kindergarten and primary-grade viewers, it will have appeal for many for older kids, too.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the vast number of kids' movies that involve "saving Christmas." Why are they so popular? What are some of your favorites?
Dorothy wants to add girls to Santa's staff of workshop elves. How does she "prove" herself worthy -- and should she have had to? Was the ending a surprise?
In the first story, Spike is brand-new to Santa's workshop and has much to learn. Do you think that's true whenever someone begins a new job or starts a new school? What are some adjustments people might have to make?
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