Competing with the time-tested, 1964 original Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
, with the abominable snowman, the misfit toys, the lovably clunky motion, and Burl Ives as narrator, is no easy task. So this feature-length, animated musical skirts a straight squaring-off of versions. The storyline is a bit more complex, with the abominable snowman's antagonist role played by the Whoopi Goldberg-voiced Ice Queen, Stormella, and Rudolph's running buddies depicted as a polar bear (excellently voiced by Bob Newhart) and, not surprisingly, a cutesy doe, Zoey. The animation is first-rate and completely convincing, making this new Rudolph ideal for the discriminating 3- to 7-year-old viewer. Stormella looks for all the world like a hybrid of King Triton and Ursula, the Sea Witch from Disney's The Little Mermaid
. As for the story, none of it is either heavyhanded on the good vs. evil front for the younger set, or so sappy that it's intolerable for adults. As with so many animated features this decade, the presence of seasoned actors with experience in comedy makes for dialogue that's entertainingly nuanced. Since there are moments of tension and conflict, the comic relief is important and unmistakable, even for younger viewers. The themes are the same as the original, and the ultimate embrace by Santa (done well by John Goodman) of Rudolph's difference still packs a good lesson. --Andrew Bartlett
Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer - The Movie tells the classic and touching tale of a nasally-challenged reindeer who is shunned by his friends, but who finds his nose to be of great help to Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.