The madcap peril of Bob’s Broken Sleigh (review)

(image courtesy IMDb)

Christmas is, next to Earth and its unending attraction to alien invasion (I swear there’s a queue out by Saturn with armadas lined up one after the other to have a rack at subjugating us), the target of more villains than you can poke a gigantic red-and-white striped candy cane at.

There’s an incessant stream of angry child-adults who never got the toy they wanted and ne’er-do-wells who are so unhappy they don’t want anyone to be happy either, all of whom are determined to attack Santa, tie up the elves, total the sleigh and stop the children of the world from waking up to presents on Christmas morning.

Bah, humbug indeed.

In Bob’s Broken Sleigh, an animated Canadian production directed by Jay Surridge to a script by Samantha and Michael Shear and originally broadcast on 11 December 2015, the Big bad is a charmingly named, overgrown Puffin known as Fishface (Bruce Greenwood) who, with Puffin minions 1 and 2 (Peter Kalamis and Terry Klassen respectively) – no idea what turned such sweet birds rotten but they are might vengeful and wholly unhappy – is determined to stop Christmas happening.

Quite why he is so intent on stopping all the present distributing and happy bonhomie of Christmas is never made entirely clear but it’s safe to say that he goes to great lengths to make sure Santa never even gets off the ground.

His greatest inadvertent ally at first is a magic-less elf called Bob (Cole Howard) who, though he has invented a device called the “Floatinator” to speed up the sleigh and cut down present delivery of time – yes, supply chain efficiencies have even reached the North Pole sadly – has yet to perfect his device so that it works perfectly every time.

Desperate to prove to a warm and understanding Santa (Colin Murdock) that he has what it takes to revolutionise Christmas, he is tinkering with the sleigh when an surreptitious attack by Fishface and the minions sees him hurtling off into the sky, only to crash land later a few days travel from the Christmas village.

Uh-oh!

Bob, though put in an impossible situation by Fishface, has effectively ruined Christmas, and while he makes new friends in Fluffy the waterphobic fish (Victor Garber in an hilarious piece of inspired characterisation), Blue the yeti-like, anxiety-prone Hide-Behind (Michael Adamsthwaite in his best cowardly lion performance and Wupsy (Raini Rodriguez) with her long, rather violent tail, it looks unlikely he’ll get back in time for Santa to do his legendary Christmas Eve thing.

Victory to Fishface, then?

Puh-lease! Have you ever watched a Christmas special before?

While Fishface does his hilarious best to stop Bob and his gang of lovable misfits from getting back in time to save Christmas – at one point, when Bob has bested him again, he shouts “Stop ruining my ruining of Christmas!” – we all know that any attempt to derail festive celebrations of the December kind are always doomed to failure.

Still, not only does Bob have to deal with Fishface and his Puffin minions who seem to be replicating at any alarmingly prodigious rate, he has to fend off the bullying selfishness of three of Santa’s elves, all armed with the magic Bob does not posses (we never find out why – genetic defect? Punishment for failing to meet toymaking KPIs?) and who, though they eventually see the light, aren’t go to star in any elf PR campaigns anytime soon.

What makes Bob’s Broken Sleigh such a delight is its intermittent willingness to throw some very funny lines and characters into the mix.

While this isn’t consistently applied, and the script, though charming is not the stuff of which enduring Christmas classics are made, there are some very silly, mirth-inducing lines in the special, many of them the preserve of Fluffy who has ISSUES my friends, he has ISSUES.

Helping the sense of absurdity along too are the Narwhals who come equipped with Christmas light-intensity vividly colourful spiral tusks and with stoner bro hilarity, manage to get Bob’s campaign to save Christmas, validate himself in the eyes of Santa and prove that magic-less people can succeed too, back on track.

While Bob’s Broken Sleigh may not be the classic Christmas special to end all Christmas specials with cheap, clunky animation showing its moving parts at times, it does have great memorable characters with witty dialogue, an enchanting sense of the seasonally absurd and a willingness to play along with the whole saving Christmas dynamic so that it feels sufficiently different that it brings a smile to your trope-weary face.

The key message seems to be that even those outside of the mainstream, which is what Bob, Fluffy, Blue and Wupsy most definitely are, can make a huge difference in the scheme of things, especially at Christmas where Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and a slew of others have proven that it’s the outliers who make the most wonderful time of the year come alive, stay alive and bring joy to everyone falalalalalalalala.

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