Plot: The adults are snowed in at a 19th century cabin. The babies are battling in The Nutcracker and trying desperately to make Dil’s first Christmas a good one so he’ll have more Christmases in the future. Angelica is hellbent on getting Santa’s toys all for herself. Is anyone going to have a good Christmas?
Breakdown: This review didn’t need to be two parts, but if they’re going to stretch out the special and yuk out some bonus points, I’m gonna.
This episode starts with five minutes worth of two things – Angelica being a thieving bratty bitch and the babies taking part in a mechanical representation of The Nutcracker.
Angelica grabs an armful of cookies that were meant to be taken one by one by the children listening to the carolers and they don’t do a damn thing about it. She took all of them yet no one even calls out to her to stop. Someone loses their snow hat in front of her so she just decides it’s hers now, even though that hat shouldn’t really fit her. Then she jumps into a group of carolers singing her rendition of ‘Joy to the World’ where she inserts herself as the main focus of the song. Yes, Angelica is now literally comparing herself to Jesus. Maybe not intentionally, but it’s there.
I don’t understand why she’s screwing around so much. The only reason I can figure is that they want to keep showing Angelica being a witch so we’ll better understand why she’s supposedly not on Santa’s nice list…………………………….but……come on. Even people who have never seen a frame of Rugrats know that Angelica’s one of the most notoriously bratty bully characters to ever be shown in any form of media. She has her moments where she thaws her heart, but there is never any question that she is mostly a terrible and selfish person.
Even so, couldn’t they have put this in the first episode? She sent the babies off on a wild goose chase so she could find Santa’s toys first, yet she’s not even actively looking for them until she runs into the babies again.
Speaking of the babies, there’s not much to say about them for a while. Like I said, they accidentally partake in a mechanical rendition of The Nutcracker and all sorts of shenanigans happen. Some of it’s a little funny, but it’s still mostly padding. There’s also one aspect I don’t understand about it.
They’re first being ‘attacked’ by the Nutcracker and are saved by the Mouse King and his soldiers, but when Kimi decides they should fight too, she immediately decides to kick the crap out of one of the mice soldiers. I know they’re animatronics who aren’t taking sides, but from their perspective, Kimi is beating up someone who just saved them.
Then it turns around and the Mouse King is attacking them, but the Nutcracker saves them and winks at them. I don’t understand.
Once we get to the actual plot, Angelica has an acid trip after she breaks into a fake Santa’s Workshop. Nothing says ‘I deserve presents’ like breaking and entering. She imagines the workshop is real, along with the toy reindeer Santa handed her, named Prancey, and the employee elf from earlier, Hermie, being a real elf. He breaks the news to her that she’s not getting any presents since she’s not on the nice list and even Prancey abandons her after she called him a dumb toy.
We get an alright, but incredibly forgettable song called “Treat Each Day Like Christmas (And Your World’s a Holiday)” where Angelica learns to not be a bitch, I guess. The problem I have with this song is that it’s not really treating Angelica to be a better person on the grounds of just being a better person – it’s basically telling her to be a better person or you end up with no presents. Which is already pretty pointless because she already did get a present – the aforementioned reindeer doll Prancey. She didn’t like it at first, but obviously grew to like it. So, yes, if you’re a bratty little sack of reindeer crap, you do indeed get presents. Maybe not the one you wanted, but it’s far better than–
Hermie: “We give the good kids lots of toys and give the bad ones lice!”
Yeah, lice……Wait, what?
Plus, she’s guaranteed to get a bunch of stuff ‘from Santa’ from her parents.
Back with the adults, their plot literally resolves itself off-screen. They’re still trapped, but they learned to stop fighting, stop being angry about missing Christmas with the kids, stop worrying that they’re going to die from lack of oxygen, enjoy the rustic charm of the cabin, focus less on the Mega Corp stuff and commercialism of Christmas and have a nice Christmas together all doing various things like baking, making popcorn garland, decorating the tree and doing origami…..off-screen. Too bad every single scene in these two episodes has been everything but padding or else they could’ve had time to show all that.
They seem like they might get back to being Christmas grumps when Chaz accidentally sets off the sprinkler system and soaks everyone and everything, but, like before, when they return to the scene later, everything is mostly dry and they’re right back to singing carols and enjoying the holiday. They keep cutting out the most important parts of this subplot. It’s driving me nuts.
In the actual plot for the babies, they’re lead by a goat to a nativity scene, which in my opinion, is pretty much the only part of this special worth its salt. The babies all feel bad for the baby Jesus because he looks cold and itchy, barely clothed in a bed of hay. Though I don’t know why they’re not questioning why this baby is sleeping with his eyes wide open and isn’t moving at all.
They believe Mary, Joseph and the wise men are all hoping the baby has a good first Christmas or else he won’t get any others, like Dil. In an effort to give him some semblance of a good first Christmas, they give the baby Jesus the special Christmas gifts they got from the Nutcracker battle. As soon as I saw they kept those things, I knew they’d reincorporate them, but the way they went about getting them and the fact that the items are totally random pieces of trash makes it seem like this was thrown together sloppily.
Lil gives her ribbon that she got from a ballerina robot, Phil gives a shoe that he took from that same robot, Chuckie gives the big walnut he got from the Nutcracker, Kimi gives a bell she got from the Mouse King and even Dil gives the hat that he got when it flew off of Angelica’s head (the same one she essentially stole).
Then the Jesus doll smiles.
……This is meant to be really cute and endearing and everything….but this is kinda creepy. Rugrats is known for the babies taking normal things and perceiving them as living or something else because they have such an active imagination. The Nutcracker battle, for example, kept switching back and forth between watching the robots fight to watching a real battle between mice and nutcrackers.
They’re doing this with the Jesus doll…..but I just can’t shake off the creepy feeling. It’s not like they’re imagining the baby Jesus as a living, breathing baby now, fussing around like Dil does – they’re imagining the same doll just with a smile now. The smiling doll is cute, but the shift is what makes it creepy. It doesn’t even make sense with the way their imaginations work.
I will give this scene major props, though. They manage to make a mostly endearing and adorable scene of pure good will, kindness and charity, involving a nativity scene, and not shoving anything overtly Christmas-y or even religious down our throats – and this is coming from a Christian who loves having schmaltzy Christmas-y messages shoved down my throat.
With Lou, he takes up the Santa role since the last one quit, and pathetically dresses up for the job with nothing but his regular attire plus a Santa hat and a beard that is way too loose-fitting. It’s hanging so low on his face, it would never fool even the youngest child. He is being a good Santa, though, so I’ll give him that. He hears that six babies are riding a goat to the nativity scene so he rushes out on a sleigh and retrieves them.
Close by, he spots the cabin the others are trapped in and I almost facepalmed when I saw it from the outside.
The snow is somehow only piled up around the cabin despite the snow machines being a fair distance away from it and the snow being spread out in a circular pattern. The only way to achieve this effect would be if there was only one snow machine and it was on the roof of the cabin.
They also don’t bother trying to open the window to climb out despite the fact that the snow barely reaches halfway up the window.
In the end, Chuckie says Dil had a pretty good Christmas with or without presents because they had a lot of fun together. Angelica shows back up and somehow has a sack of gifts despite not being given one at the end of the ‘it totally happened’ acid trip. She kept the elf hat, but there was no sack of gifts. Angelica happily gives the babies their gifts. Chuckie gets a new snowsuit, complete with his trademark Saturn design, because his old one ripped during the Nutcracker battle. Kimi gets a glockenspiel….and she somehow calls it that instead of a xylophone, which is weird.
Yeah, they’re different, but most kids wouldn’t know the difference and much more commonly know the xylophone. How they mutter mispronounced words all the time but she manages to say ‘glockenspiel’ nearly perfectly is almost comical. Phil gets a new pair of snow boots. Lil gets a magic princess wand.
Tommy doesn’t want to open his gift until Dil does (Tommy, you really are the best big brother) However, there’s, for some reason, nothing for Dil. I’m confused. If this bag is from Santa, there’s no reason why Dil wouldn’t get a gift. His name is even confirmed to be on the list from Angelica’s acid trip. If the bag is just something she put together herself, she wouldn’t say it’s from Santa and would’ve remembered Dil. Unless Santa wanted Angelica to give up her reindeer doll to make her story arc come to a head, I dunno.
Angelica tearfully yet happily gives Dil the doll and then prompts Tommy to open his gift. He says he already got his gift since all he wanted was for Dil to have a good Christmas. Then he offers his gift to Angelica since she doesn’t have a gift (you’re killing me, Tommy.) Angelica rejects it and tells him to open it. It’s a new camera, which may or may not be an intentional nudge at his future film career in All Grown Up. It’s a regular photo camera, not a video camera, so I can’t be certain.
The kids are reunited with the parents and they spend the rest of Christmas eve hanging out in the cabin.
This special really didn’t need to be two parts, but at least most of part two was pretty good. Most of the plot with the adults didn’t have enough development on screen to have a strong impact, but it got the message across effectively enough.
The storyline with Angelica was poorly handled. Not only does she pull a complete 180 just because a song basically told her to be nice, but she magically gains a sack of toys from nowhere so we can wrap up the plot better. It is implied that the acid trip dream was real since she still had the elf hat and Santa does his tropey fly overhead in the last shot of the episode, but how and why did the warehouse instantly change back and forth to the mechanical representation? Please don’t say ‘magic’.
Like I mentioned, there was never any part where Angelica is handed a sack of toys and told to go deliver them for Santa or even saying ‘you’ll know what to do’. She just gets a sack of toys from nowhere and claims it’s from Santa.
Angelica was being a selfless girl at the end, especially giving up her reindeer for Dil and refusing to accept Tommy’s present as her own, but it loses a bit of its impact when you remember her parents will just shower her with everything she ever dreamed of at home. She doesn’t know that, so maybe it redeems her, but it was still a bit of a sloppy way of quickly changing her ways, which won’t even matter because Angelica is still a huge bitch after this even in All Grown Up.
The plotline with the babies was a good deal of padding, but for the most part the threads of it held together pretty well, even if I think it was also handled a tad sloppily. I did really enjoy the nativity scene…scene. It was definitely the best part of the episode, particularly with how unique it is. I can’t think of any Christmas special that has a scene even remotely similar to that. It was a very sweet and cute segment that didn’t seem forced or preachy. They weren’t even really giving their stuff over because it was Christmas, they legitimately felt bad for the baby.
All in all, this was an enjoyable Christmas special, but nothing fantastic. It had its funny lines and moments, but not enough to truly make the episode a must watch on Chrsitmas. It also had its touching moments, but only in part two. Tommy in particular is being a big sweetheart.
In all honestly, part two can be watched almost entirely on its own and it’s instantly made into a much better special. You could easily cut some fat from this and insert some exposition from part one to clean this up. The special is certainly worth watching, but it’s so hard to justify the 44 minute long cumulative runtime.