Merry Madagascar / Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special

Produced By:  DreamWorks Animation

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            I admit it, I'm an animated holiday special junkie.  If there's an animated holiday special playing on television, I have to watch it.  That's why, when I heard that NBC was planning on airing two such specials, Merry Madagascar and the Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special, this week, I plopped myself in front of the television Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 8pm EST to watch. 

            Merry Madagascar features characters from the 2005 Dreamworks computer animated movie about four Central Park Zoo animals who are unexpectedly shipped back to Africa and become marooned on the island of Madagascar.  This time around, Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller), Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer), Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock) are attempting to leave Madagascar via hot air balloon.  Unfortunately, their plan is ruined by King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen), the mad lemur leader.  He shoots them down, believing that he is being attacked by the "red night goblin" who appears every year on the same night.

            Alex and his friends hold little stock in King Julien's claims until they see the "red night goblin" themselves.  Alex helps bring him down and is quite proud of himself until he realizes he has just beaned Santa Claus.  What's worse is that good old Santa now has amnesia.  This gives Alex an idea - he can save Christmas and still use Santa's sleigh to fly back home to New York City.

            Merry Madagascar is a cute film for kids, teaching them responsibility and the importance of giving.  However, this film is more fun for the adults who will be laughing out loud at the one-liners the kids won't understand.  The humor found in Merry Madagascar is much like that found in Shrek - it's tempered to meet the needs of adults and kids alike.  I loved the side story of a romance between the reindeer Cupid and one of the penguins, whose families have been warring factors for many years.  I also found King Julien and his behavior hysterical.

            Merry Madagascar is a half hour filled with fun and Christmas spirit that is great fun for children of all ages.  I can't wait to watch it again and again!

            The Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special picks up where the 2008 Dreamworks animated film, Kung Fu Panda, left off.  Po (Jack Black) has become a celebrated warrior in the Valley of Peace and a true Kung Fu master, but Po is still a kid at heart.  Excited to celebrate the traditions of Christmas with his father (James Hong), Po is shocked to learn from Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) that he has been selected to host the Christmas party at the temple.  Po's father is disappointed, but feigns happiness that his son has received such an honor.

            Po tries to find a way to bring his father to the temple by selecting him to cook the Christmas dinner, but Ping refuses, admonishing his son for forgetting what Christmas meant to him - feeding and helping others who are alone for the holidays and seeking some sort of companionship.  Po's attempts at creating a perfect Christmas celebration at the temple don't start off well, but like most things Po tries, the celebration actually turns out perfect.  Yet, Po is not happy.  As he explains to his fellow masters, Po has realized that he is missing out on the traditions he and his father have shared.

            Understanding what Po means, the masters venture into the Valley of Peace to share Christmas dinner with Ping and the other villagers.  It is here that Master Shifu realizes that his pupil, Po, may not always have his mind in the right place, but that his heart is always where it should be.  He learns the true meaning of Christmas and is surprised that it had to be taught to him by his own pupil.

            I enjoyed this new animated special, especially the moments in which a rabbit that Po unintentionally shamed makes several attempts at suicide in order to regain his honor after Po refuses to fight him.  The rabbit makes these attempts while helping Po cook the traditional Christmas feast and, although these moments are not exactly meant for children and may go overlooked by them altogether, they are exceptionally funny for adults (especially for this adult who loved the Bunny Suicides books).  I also enjoyed that the cast, including Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan, David Cross, Angelina Jolie and Seth Rogan, returned to reprise their roles.

            However, despite the funny moments and the lesson taught in the Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special, I didn't find it as funny as other Christmas specials like Merry Madagascar and Shrek the Halls.  So, when these animated specials get repeated, and you know they will, pay special attention to Merry Madagascar, a true holiday hit.  If the Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special isn't airing against anything else, you should give it a shot if only for the fleetingly funny moments and the special's holiday message.


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