A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that while the movie features a cute baby reindeer and his forest friends, the story is about a pack of ravenous, evil wolves intent on eating Santa and his reindeer, and the main character is imperiled throughout. Non-standard family units like a single mom, son, and grandpa are featured, as is a surrogate father who is preferable to the real thing. No discussion of religious aspects of Christmas and hardly any of the secular aspects either; this is all about the reindeer.
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What's the story?
Though the packaging indicates that THE FLIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS is about Santa and his little helpers, the real story is a lot darker. A young reindeer, Niko (voiced by Andrew McMahon) longs to fly with Santa's Flying Forces, one of whom he believes is his father. His inability to fly doesn't discourage him, and his friend and tiny protector Julius (Norm MacDonald) exhorts him to believe in himself. One day Niko strays too far from his Home Valley to practice his flying and inadvertently reveals the location of his herd to a pack of starving wolves, setting off a chain of events which leads to the wolves' decision to hunt Santa and his flying forces. Niko must try to save himself, his herd, and Santa to redeem himself.
Is it any good?
This movie is beautifully animated and imagined, and that may be part of its problem. The wolves are truly scary, and the fact that they are chasing Niko and his herd is bad enough; then they decide to eat Santa. The subplot about Niko determining which of the Flying Force reindeer is his father borders on creepy, especially as his mother relays the tale of her one magical night with Daddy Reindeer and the arrival of Niko 10 months later.
As a singing and wisecracking weasel Wilma, Emma Roberts has a small part, although she's got top billing in the credits. MacDonald is much more affecting as the flying squirrel Julius, whose only family is Niko and whose bravery is much more compelling than that of the preening and silly Flying Forces. This is not a movie that embodies the Christmas spirit, but for kids who can withstand the wolves it's a quirky coming-of-age tale.
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