I don’t know about you, but for me, the Christmas season would be incomplete without the presence (presents?) of Mariah Carey and Michael Bublé. This year, the former has extended her reign over the most wonderful time of the year to the realm of animation with an extra festive, feature-length animated film, Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You, named after her hit song — and, apparently, a children’s book — of the same name.
One of the first thoughts I had while watching the film was that I genuinely wonder how perceptive kids are to the quality of animation. In this case, I think the character designs are actually a bigger issue than the animation itself. The grandmother character, for example, has gray hair and wears glasses but isn’t modeled like an old woman and doesn’t move like one, so it sort of comes off as a child pretending to be an old woman, which is definitely odd given that this is an animated film.
I was pleased to find that there’s some good voice acting here despite stilted, limited visual expression. The lip sync seemed more off in some scenes than others, and I noticed that the characters’ tongues don’t seem to move at all — it’s one of those things that you can’t not notice once you’ve noticed it.
This isn’t a big deal, but I also noticed that none of the characters in Mariah’s family look anything alike — I’m not sure how intentional that is or if it’s true to Mariah Carey’s family in real life, but it stood out to me as a bit odd. The characters look different enough to be easily distinguishable, however, which is often an issue with lower budget animation. (There is a brief scene towards the beginning of the film that features some actual elves at the North Pole that look identical to the not-real, decorative elves that we see several times throughout the rest of the film.)
Speaking of the IRL Mariah Carey, she narrates the whole thing, and her voice-over lends a good deal of charm and a personal touch to the film with phrases like “Oh no you didn’t!” and “Grandma knew how to work it.” She also performs three songs in the film that are mostly incorporated over montages. These sequences are a bit jarring and feel out of place, but they allow for some creative, imaginative visuals, which are definitely welcome here. What looks like actual home video footage of Mariah Carey engaging in holiday-related activities plays over the film’s end credits, which I appreciated because it adds another personal touch to it.
Unfortunately, the film suffers from major pacing issues and feels somewhat directionless as it goes on. Since there isn’t much of a plot aside from Mariah being dead-set on getting a dog for Christmas, I think this would have worked better if it were a half hour or even an hour long (ideally half an hour) rather than an hour and a half. It almost feels like a few short films or episodes of a television series stretched thin and stitched together.
I was initially concerned from the trailer that the film might send a somewhat negative message to kids about materialism and what Christmas is really all about, but it’s ultimately harmless and cute overall. If you have kids (or if you are one), then Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You is fine. I don’t think it’s something you’ll want to watch every year (or maybe ever again after the first viewing), but there are much worse animated films on store shelves right now, and I’d say it’s actually better than the trailer makes it out to be.