Not A Classic But ‘Stiller’ Good Time – A Review Of ‘Elmo’s Christmas Countdown’

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Sean Bryan – Muppet Fans of the UK can feel blessed this Christmas as Poundland has a number of Sesame Street Christmas Specials available on DVD for a mere pound! Confronted with the situation of which one to get (hey…just because they’re cheap didn’t mean I had £3 to spend on all of them) I finally made my decision to run with Elmo’s Christmas Countdown starring Ben Stiller and a host of celebrity cameos. It seemed like the most Bang for my Buck. (Or Pow for my Pound?)

Initially released in 2007, this 91 minute special is definitely filled with Christmas cheer and lots of familiar faces bound to keep fans both young and old entertained.

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The premise is simple, Stiller the Elf (voiced by, you guessed it, Ben Stiller, with excellent
puppeteering from Matt Vogel) who is in charge of the annual Christmas Countdown, has managed to ruin festive season by selecting Oscar the Grouch as the perfect candidate to perform the count. Of course the only green monster with less Christmas spirit than the Grinch is Oscar, so things don’t go to plan, and the ten countdown blocks that make up the (shorter than the usual 24 day) advent calendar are now lost across Sesame Street. Elmo, Stiller and the rest of the street gang are then on a mission to find the blocks and save Christmas.

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Celebrity cameos are dotted throughout, often being revealed when a block is found and counted.  This format does get slightly predictable and repetitive (and after the first three blocks are found you’re suddenly glad this isn’t the aforementioned 24 day countdown) but also reveals some great moments. There are classic seasonal songs- both traditional Christmas Carols and some of your favourite Sesame Street ones too, and an incredibly weird Hip-Hop Nutcracker rendition by Jamie Foxx that probably goes to show why it took so long for a successful Hip-Hop musical to make it to Broadway. Other guests  include Anne Hathaway, Alicia Keys, and Kevin James, with Muppet appearances from fan favourites such as Snuffy, Grundgetta, Prairie Dawn, and Baby Bear’s family.

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Most of the action takes place on a stylised, cartoon, pop-up book, 123 Sesame Street set, which fits the idea of Stiller retelling this story from a book, but seems a little lacklustre compared to the original set, which surely was just in the studio next door during filming. That said, it did grow on me as the film progressed.

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The highlight of the whole special however is one of the cameo clips, The Bert And Ernie Christmas Special, featuring Steve Schirripa and Tony Sirico from The Sopranos taking on the roles of Ernie and Bert. It’s an almost absurd clip, featuring superb casting, that makes you ponder if Ernie and Bert would be hardened, gritty New Yorkers when they  grow up. It’s a classic Sesame Street parody that fans will love, and will completely go over the heads of children.

You can catch many of the clips from Elmo’s Christmas Countdown on YouTube, and it will never get as much rotation on your DVD player as Muppet Christmas Carol, but if you happen to live in the UK get over to Poundland before the end of the silly season and get yourself a copy of the DVD, at £1 you can’t really go wrong. That is if there’s ‘Stiller’ one left .

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