It’s really tough to find anyone these days capable of turning a novelty song in to a great film. Not that there’s a need for it, mind you. But still, back in the days Rankin Bass took some great Christmas music and turned them in to classic movies that are still watched today. The last movie we had was “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.” And somehow a beloved matriarch being trampled to death by an animal doesn’t inspire the jollies in me.
“Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” even manages to add sub-plots, and side characters and still comes out a fun movie. There’s Yukon Cornelius who wants silver and gold, the abominable snow man with the bad teeth, the misfit toys that get homes in the end, and of course the elf Hermey that wants to be a dentist. Voiced by Burl Ives, who provides spirited narration, the 1964 movie concocts its own narrative telling the story of Rudolph. The only reindeer born with a nose that glows bright red, he becomes a pariah among his group of reindeer, all of whom value conformity over individuality.
When Rudolph’s secret is found out among the reindeer forbidding him to play in the reindeer games, he runs off with the elf Hermey in search of a purpose. The pair of misfits meet other odd characters that manage to help them look for direction in their own lives, including Rudolph whose own differences eventually becomes an advantage for him and his boss Santa Claus. The voice work is still as excellent as ever, including from Burl Ives, and Larry D. Mann, whose performance as Yukon Cornelius is timeless. “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” may not be based on the original book the character stemmed from, but it lends new magic to the song and the character, nevertheless. It’s still a fun Christmas treat.