Plot: Chuckie is tired of having bad Christmases every year, so he decides to get a great Christmas tree to hopefully set things in motion for a great holiday. He finds a tree on the curb and assumes it’s out for the garbage so he takes it home to surprise his dad. However, he soon finds out that it wasn’t put out as garbage and everyone’s hating the town’s Christmas tree thief. Ridden with guilt, Chuckie tries to make everything right in hopes that everyone can have a nice Christmas this year.
Breakdown: Hey, everyone! Welcome to A Very Animated Holiday Special! Where I’ll be reviewing any and all things holiday related until January-ish! We’ll be starting off this batch of reviews with the All Grown Up Christmas special, The Finster Who Stole Christmas.
I cannot express how much I loved Rugrats as a child. I also cannot express how excited I was to watch the All Growed Up special on Nick for Rugrats’ tenth anniversary. I can, however, express my disappointment at All Grown Up.
Now, I won’t say AGU was a bad show per se. I have spoken poorly of it in the past, and I believe my old criticisms still stand, but I now just see AGU as a mediocre animated sitcom for tweens.
I really don’t think it would’ve lasted long at all without the Rugrats connection. While the Rugrats are still the Rugrats, they’ve lost what made them funny and charming as babies. They’re now tweenagers who deal with tween problems and have forgotten all of what happened to them as babies, which is a depressing fact about the show to say the least.
I can’t remember it ever being particularly funny, and it wasn’t very long after it was made that Rugrats ended and AGU ended, subsequently snuffing out the long-standing series for good.
But not without giving us their first Christmas special in season three. Rugrats gave us a few holiday specials that I will be addressing later, but this is the only AGU special. I remember watching it, but for the life of me I don’t remember what it’s about. So….what’s it about?
Everyone’s preparing for Christmas and Chuckie’s depressed because every Christmas at his house turns out to be a nightmare. His father is great when it comes to celebrating every other holiday of the season, but when it comes to Christmas the man’s just a wreck.
They always get terrible Christmas trees, and every other tradition either doesn’t happen or ends up getting ruined. After reviewing their Christmases on DVD with Chuckie, Tommy suggests that the first place to start to making a better Christmas would be getting a nice tree since every year it seems like they get a terrible tree, and having a nice tree might put everything else into motion.
While Chuckie is excited for the great-looking Christmas trees he sees while tree shopping the next day, Chaz is, for some reason, intent on getting the crappiest tree imaginable. Look, I know that Christmas is more about family and togetherness than the tree or the decorations or the presents, but why the hell wouldn’t you at least muse over getting a decent tree? You don’t have to spend $100 on some gigantic Christmas redwood, but Chaz specifically seeks out bare, brittle trees that Charlie Brown would be ashamed of. He picks one out of a pile labeled ‘kindling’ that is breaking apart before our eyes.
Chuckie is obviously angry over getting yet another crappy tree, and when he sees that someone has left their beautiful Christmas tree next to the garbage, he assumes that the owners are throwing it out and takes it away. I do have to commend Chuckie for walking all that way with the tree on his back. Unwrapped even. I don’t know exactly how big that tree is, but my family gets a six-footer-ish every year and that takes two of us to walk out of the tree farm and to the truck. It can be a nightmare if we get one that’s too big.
Chuckie gets it back to the house to surprise Chaz and….wow. I assume Chaz is like at least 5’5, so that tree must be like seven or eight feet tall if the proportions are any indication. Damn, Chuckie, have you been working out?
Chaz is kinda disappointed because the tree doesn’t match what they usually get, but changes his tune when he sees how excited Chuckie is.
Later, as Chuckie hangs out in the Java Lava with his friends, he bravely tries one of Betty’s (Phil and Lil’s mom) weird holiday drinks since he’s now in a good mood with a nice Christmas tree. However, his mood is quickly soured when Phil talks about the news that a nearby family had their Christmas tree stolen from right outside their house, especially when he hears how disgusted everyone is that someone would do such a thing.
Tommy convinces Chuckie that his dad will understand his honest mistake and that he can just return the tree, but sitcom drama emerges as Chaz now seems to love the tree sincerely and has bought over 16 huge boxes of ornaments to decorate the tree with. Yeesh, I completely plaster my tree from top to bottom and I only have two totes full and a few things from a cardboard box. 16 boxes? How will all that even fit on that tree? Even if you did magically find space, the weight would probably break it in half.
Not only is he excited about the tree, but Chuckie’s overall plan has worked. Chaz is now psyched about any and all things Christmas. He’s making his own decorations, baking gingerbread towns, he is just ecstatic.
Chuckie now, obviously, decides to keep the truth about the tree from Chaz, and meanwhile Kimi and Kira are stuck in Japan after visiting her uncle due to airline BS.
Chuckie decides he’ll just buy a new tree for the family he stole from, but only manages to get a fairly crappy tree for most of his savings. However, as Tommy and Chuckie are bringing it to the house, Chuckie accidentally drops it and it gets run over.
I’m starting to feel like this episode is taking place a couple days before Christmas. Who buys a tree and decorates so close to Christmas? I mean, I’m usually not the type to decorate before Thanksgiving or even the day after like a lot of people, but why wait until the very last minute?
Meanwhile, back at the Java Lava, everyone is still talking about the damn tree thief. Is the town really that boring? Yeah, it sucks, but Betty is installing a security camera in the store because of it, and now Susie and the others are talking about God smiting the thief for stealing the symbol of Christmas. Considering the religious meaning behind Christmas is celebrating Jesus’ birthday, is that like a dad getting really mad at someone for stealing his son’s birthday cake?
Chuckie freaks out again and heads home where Chaz is still jonesin’ for a hit of Christmas as he rehearses with carolers, wears reindeer antlers on his head and subsequently decorated the entire house from top to bottom in preparation for a Christmas party that he must’ve organized in a few hours and will take place in less than a day. Dude, I adore Christmas and I would love to be at your house right now, but how are you doing this?!
As Chuckie goes to bed, he has a nightmare about the tree-less family being poor and sad without their Christmas tree. They also surprisingly say it’s ‘the Lord’s day’. Rugrats always did seem to get a pass on religious stuff for some reason.
Meanwhile in Tommy and Dil’s ‘subplot’ of writing a Hanukkah song since there are so many Christmas songs and so few Hanukkah songs, it’s two days until Christmas and they still have no Hanukkah song prepared….uh, boys…..you might have wanted to make a Hanukkah song….for Hanukkah…..which was probably a week or two prior to this point in time……Just sayin’.
Chuckie starts flipping out on everything Christmas, culminating in him trying to steal a candy cane and telling off a mall Santa who was just sitting there with a kid…..Wow. What’s even weirder is that Lil finds his crazy behavior attractive. 0.o
He admits his ‘crime’ to the others, but they all understand and Lil even says God will forgive him for it. Chuckie is having none of it, however, and continues to wallow in the belief that he will be smote for what he did.
At the party, he’s still miserable, and gets even more miserable when Chaz gets the news that, due to a bunch of airline crap, Kimi and Kira are stuck in Mexico and won’t be home for Christmas. Chuckie believes this is all because of what he did, so Tommy gives the quite stupid suggestion of stealing the Christmas tree from his house to give back to the family it belonged to.
So, that night, without even bothering to take some of the decorations off, Tommy, Dil, Phil, Lil and Chuckie break into Chuckie’s house and steal the tree.
Also, I never noticed, maybe she changed voice actors between Rugrats and AGU, but Kira’s VA can’t act worth a crap. She definitely can’t act angry.
The return is successful and Chaz finds the tree stolen the next morning only to have Chuckie suddenly crack after Chaz finds pine needles in his hair. Kira and Kimi suddenly burst through the door, and I guess despite not remembering his mother Chuckie calls Kira by her first name instead of calling her ‘mom’. *shrug*
The family’s all back together and Chaz and Chuckie both realize what Chaz was saying all along; Christmas begins and ends with family. They don’t need a fancy tree to enjoy Christmas, they just need each other. Kira decides to use a souvenir bonsai tree as their Christmas tree, agreeing that anything is better than the crappy ones that Chaz picks.
That night, Susie sings ‘The First Noel’ at church and Tommy and Dil are allowed to sing also with their Hanukkah song about latkes and it’s actually not bad. Kinda catchy. I don’t understand how they got a spot in the service to sing when Susie was so excited to get a solo in the choir, but whatever.
Bottomline: And thus ends a fittingly bland and mediocre Christmas special for a bland and mediocre show. I will admit some lines were pretty good, but it just takes a very cliché sitcom plot (do something bad, lie about it, can’t reveal truth because someone’s so gosh darn happy about the lie, try in vain to fix it, admit everything, everything’s forgiven, luv u ❤ the end.) and adds a Christmas theme to it. Even before Chuckie steals the tree, you can tell how the entire episode will go once the whole ‘sucky tree, must get good tree for good Christmas’ thing is established.
We don’t get to see the family that Chuckie stole from, and he never admits what he did to them, he just dumps the tree at their doorstep and runs away.
The ending feels a bit rushed and cobbled together. There’s no real climax, it just kinda resolves and ends. Chuckie acts like an ass for much of the episode, and he acts like a neurotic mess for the rest of it, which, while being a ‘Chuckie’ thing to do, is made annoying in this episode.
Tommy and Dil’s latke song is about the most memorable and interesting thing about this episode. I would’ve preferred if there was a real reason behind Chaz wanting incredibly sucky trees every year. Even for $15 or $10 those trees are just horrible. You might as well just invest in a fake one, especially considering that Chaz’s main angle here is not only the tradition of terrible trees but also saving money. Even a really cheap fake one would be eons better than the garbage he picks out, and it would last for years.
I really thought I remembered something like he picked out bad trees because he and his first wife got a crappy tree on their first Christmas, but nope. No real heartwarming moments, no big reveal, nothing steep to latch us onto this story. Even the thing with Kimi and Kira getting home isn’t a big deal. Chuckie and Chaz don’t act like they terribly miss them and neither do Kimi and Kira. They barely bring them up. When it’s shown that they won’t be home for Christmas it’s more like a big ‘well, that’s just great!’ moment instead of any emotional impact.
There’s nothing terribly wrong with this Christmas special, but there’s also nothing really good about it either.
Recommended Audience: E for everyone.