I was a pretty big fan of the Shrek films. Until the third one came along, at least. So while I intended to avoid this Shrek the Halls Christmas Special since it followed the abysmal third film of the trilogy, some things just don’t work out like that. Before we dig into that, however, it should be noted that this was quite the ratings success for ABC (which seemed an odd network to air it on after being deluged by Bee Movie promos on NBC that same year) and there’s a good chance we’ll probably see it crop up in their holiday schedule this year as well. Why it took them so long to release it on DVD, however, is a rather big mystery.

The Christmas tree isn’t the only thing green in this new holiday classic. Shrek is back and trying to get into the spirit of the season. After promising Fiona and the kids a Christmas they’ll remember, he is forced to take a crash course in the holiday. But just when he thinks he has everything for their quiet family Christmas just right, Donkey, Puss in Boots, Gingy and the rest of the gang decide to crash the party. Shrek the Halls is the greatest holiday tale that’s never been told…until now.

As previously stated I had no intention to watch this mini-Shrek special when it originally aired in winter of 2007, but I happened to be in front of a TV as it started and being the lazy person I am, I decided to watch it. After all I did have fond memories of the first two films, even if they were soured a bit by Shrek the Third. So as the special began to play before me, I found myself laughing more in the half-hour this segment ran than I did the entire length of the last film. By the time Shrek the Halls ended, I even thought to myself “Man, that was fantastic. Why couldn’t Shrek the Third have been written like that?”

Rewatching it now, I still get the same feeling. This short is genuinely funny and it brings together some of the best elements of the Shrek franchise: humorous characters interacting with one another in genuinely hilarious ways, whether it be slapstick or a good ol’ fart joke. I still laugh my head off every time I see Gingerbread Man throw up and Donkey subsequently eating it (don’t worry, it was a chocolate chip) and the dialogue exchanges between Donkey and Shrek are reminiscent of their love/hate relationship from the films. It all comes back to Gingerbread Man, however, as he ends up telling a story about Santa eating his girlfriend that is genuinely hilarious. It also helps that the entire voice cast from the series returns, including Mike Meyers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas, as well as the other artists who brought to life the characters in the films such as Conrad Vernon, Christopher Knights, and Cody Cameron.

Sadly this special is a scant twenty-eight minutes, so there’s only little time to love it. Still, the entire duration of the special is engaging and is some of the most sharply written dialogue for a CGI bit I’ve seen in a long time. It’s really a great little segment that will likely amaze you with its ingenuity and grace at just how enjoyable it really is. If you were as turned off of the franchise as I was after the third film (no I will not let go of it—that third entry really was just incredibly disappointing), then give it another shot if you haven’t seen this one yet. You’re guaranteed to laugh and it’s a great little family Christmas special that should make a nice stocking stuffer this holiday season. Recommended.

Paramount has opted not to include this in any kind of re-release of the Shrek films (unless you count a side-by-side shrink-wrap of this with Shrek the Third a proper re-release), so you’re able to pick it up stand-a-lone if you so desire. The short arrives in a standard single disc white amaray case without any inserts and plain grey-washed disc art. In a strange twist, the film auto-starts without going to the main menu first; going to the main menu, however, will lend you the option of watching this in either widescreen (which it auto starts in) or fullscreen. I suppose since the disc space was definitely there, they figured they could afford to include both.

Video is what you’d expect for a newly minted piece of animation, with incredible detail throughout as well as plenty of vibrant colors and bright whites to accompany it all. A 5.1 English Dolby Digital track is included, which makes a bit of surround noise during the more fanciful and upbeat segments of the piece, but it’s mostly front channel focused. French and Spanish 5.1 tracks, English 2.0 Dolby Digital and English, French and Spanish subtitles are also included.

Extras are…well, they suck. A lot. The first two extras, “12 Days of Christmas” (4:06) and “Deck the Halls” (2:40) are actually songs that include the penguins from Madagascar and have absolutely jack to do with Shrek. On top of that, the only Shrek extras are a “Gingy Dunking Game” (match a picture of Gingy to three possibilities on the cooking tray) and a PC demo of “Shrek Carnival Craze” which includes a cheat code. There’s also a Dreamworks “Jukebox” which is just a collection of various songs from their animated efforts over the years. So yeah…the extras on this set are pretty lame. I would’ve enjoyed a little behind-the-scenes information on how this special came to be, maybe something with the writers or animators…but nope. Nothin’.

Overall this is worth checking out just for the special itself, but don’t go looking for anything of substance on the DVD end. Two versions of the special and a mixture of extras, half of which don’t even pertain to this film, is simply not enough to really warrant picking up unless you’re a fan of the series. Recommended if you own the previous films, but a pure Rental otherwise; although it will likely retail for around $10, so that’s not too bad, even if there isn’t much on this disc.

Shrek the Halls arrives on DVD on November 4th.

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