And now, Scary-Crayon reviews...
George and the Christmas Star
by: Wes

HAPPY NEW YEAR, Scary-Crayon readers! I'm well aware that New Year's Day is typically when folks take their Christmas decorations down, but when has SC ever really been typical? So because we buck tradition whenever possible -- and because I promised this review and gosh darn it it's going up even if it has to break mirrors and wear white after Labor Day and leave its cell phone on in movie theaters to do it -- we're going to ring in the new year with a review of my favorite holiday special of all time: George and the Christmas Star.

If you find yourself scratching your head because you're not familiar with it, you're not alone. Whereas even 2003's incredibly irritating I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown is rocking 127 reader votes on IMDb, GatCS has failed to secure even one tenth of that amount of user ratings in over 20 years. Admittedly, given the undeniable awesomeness of the special and the strength of the impression that it made upon me in my youth, I find this to be rather perplexing. Even stranger is the fact that my family was living in Germany when I first saw GatCS. With the limited amount of English videos to which we had access overseas, it seems odd that an obscure Canadian Christmas production would have made it into our regular viewing schedule.

But perhaps that's the key: because the amount of English videos we had was so limited, my sister and I tended to watch the ones we did have over and over and over again, whether they were appropriate for that particular season or not. So it's entirely possible that GatCS isn't obscure because nobody saw it, but rather because people saw it and forgot about it as they moved on to watch different things. But considering that my sister and I watched our Betamax copy of GatCS at least three times a month for the entire two years that we lived in Landstuhl, forgetting the special was a virtual impossibility for us. So when I discovered eBay roughly 15 years later, a VHS copy of GatCS was among my very first purchases. Three or four years after that, it was among the first VHS tapes that I recorded onto the computer and burned to DVD. And now, two years later, that custom DVD has become my master copy and the source of the screen captures below.

Boot to the tree!Following yonder star.

So with introductions out of the way, let's delve into the story of GatCS. The special begins with George, who lives alone with a cat that appears solely for the sake of highlighting his solitude, adding the final decorations to his Christmas tree. He's mostly satisfied with his work, but the crowning touch -- the star -- isn't quite having the desired impact. Sure, in years past he's been perfectly happy cutting out a paper star (which seems kind of lame to me; no wonder he's dissatisfied), but this year he wants something different. He tries out a few unconventional options, but those don't really work for him either.

Admittedly, I -- and I suspect many of you as well -- can relate to George here. It's relatively easy to decorate the body of a tree with everything from glass balls to tinsel to homemade Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and plush Oliver & Company ornaments (c'mon, you can't tell me you don't remember when McDonalds offered those!), but it can be incredibly difficult to choose the topper. I mean, unlike the manifold ornaments you can hang from the numerous branches of a tree, you can only have one star. It was even worse in our house, as our choices included a fuzzy orange spire that we had been given as a gift (and if you think Christmas sweaters are a bad gift, Christmas stars are even worse; not only can you only use it during the holidays and feel bad if you don't, but it demands a prominent place among your holiday decorations... which is even worse when it's flipping orange) and a heavy glass spire that more often than not was unable to be supported effectively by the tree below and leaned noticeably to one side. I guess it's good that, as kids, we were mostly concerned with what was underneath the tree rather than what was on top of it -- looking back now, I can't think of a single star in our ornament collection with which I would be proud to top my tree today.

I guess the same goes for George, since his quest for a star prompts him to look outside -- and when I say outside, I mean up at the night sky and in the direction of the freaking Star of Bethlehem. Yes, despite the star ostensibly being millions of miles away, suspended somewhere in outer space, and a whole host of other reasons that would convince a sane person to immediately abandon the notion of physically placing it atop his or her Christmas tree, George becomes intent upon adding it to his household holiday decor.

Far superior to the Turtle Blimp.LIBERATE TUTEMET EX INFERIS

Personally, if I were that enamored with the goddamned star, I'd simply have positioned the tree appropriately in front of the window or topped it with a printed photograph of an actual star -- but then again, I lack the advanced engineering knowledge necessary to cobble together a bunch of random crap from my basement and construct a working spaceship in less than 30 seconds. If it's true that Donatello merely does machines, then George anally rapes positively lives and breathes them. So yeah, whereas it takes NASA engineers millions of dollars and years of development time to build shuttles that still end up requiring an entire crew and facing numerous quality control issues once they leave the planet's surface, George manages to build the perfect shuttle that can be manned solo and sports all kinds of pretty lights to boot in about a fourth of the total time it took me to write this sentence. Unfortunately, the very moment he leaves the Earth's atmosphere, George finds himself sucked into a gaping black hole. What luck, eh?

Ralph sure can jam!

Of course, because this is a Christmas special, it can't end with our hero being crushed to death by gravitational forces in the first few minutes of the story. Rather than being promptly killed as a result of this navigational mishap, George is instead drawn to a curious neon sign and soon finds himself resting atop a comfortable bed... in a neverending sea of comfortable beds. Having seen Event Horizon multiple times, I probably would have freaked the fuck out at this point, but George remains oddly calm even when he is confronted by Ralph, the robotic owner and caretaker of this interstellar motel.

Some people who know me are aware that I've been intending to review GatCS for the past couple of years -- but considering that I only recently started embedding videos in articles, I'm glad that I'm just now getting around to it. Simply put, there is no way for me to adequately do justice to Ralph's introductory song in prose: it's one of those things you just have to see. And now, by clicking the video floating to the left of this paragraph, you can view its glory for yourself. Earlier I speculated that perhaps people saw GatCS and forgot about it, but I'm going to have to retract that statement -- there's no way anyone could witness Ralph's musical solo and not retain some significant impression of it amidst his or her memory banks. It really is that fantastic.

Ralph's logic processors fail to highlight the flaws in George's plan.It is forbidden to hunt stars without a permit!

Since there's no way a decent human being can ditch a musical robot that went out of its way to sing him a song about how it's not lonely anymore because he showed up, George decides to take Ralph with him after he gets a decent night's sleep in one of the billion beds at the bottom of the black hole. That they're able to escape the thing with absolutely zero difficulty flies in the face of everything I know about black holes and apparently even contradicts the fact that George was inescapably pulled into it in the first place, but whatever. It certainly keeps things moving -- and immediately after George shows Ralph the object of their quest, the momentum continues when George's spaceship is caught in the tractor beam of the Space Rangers, a group of robotic law officials who patrol the cosmos in a horse-shaped spacecraft and ensure that order is maintained throughout the galaxy. In this case, it means telling George and Ralph that, before they can legally go star hunting, they need to earn a permit by helping to make outer space a cleaner place.

So in order to get their papers and fulfill their obligation to the universe, George and Ralph begin collecting space junk. Except it'd be more appropriate to say that George watches Ralph collect space junk, because the titular character of the story doesn't do a goddamned thing to help while Ralph flits about picking up litter by himself. It's one of the many times throughout the special that I can't help but feel sorry for Ralph. First he escapes the devastation of Cybertron and spends the last nine million years alone in the pit of a black hole, and then -- just when things start looking up -- he's forced to perform demeaning public service acts while his new best friend sits on his ass eating freeze-dried ice cream. Granted, it totally makes sense that Ralph would handle the bulk of the leg work here since he doesn't need to breathe and has boosters that enable him to traverse the vacuum of space with ease, but George could have at least tethered himself to the ship and held the trash can in a show of solidarity for his new robot pal. And since Ralph audibly voices his disgust with picking up floating trash, don't even think of raising the house elf argument that George didn't lend a hand because Ralph likes his assigned task. He doesn't.

AAARRRR!!Hellooooooooooo, nurse!

I feel even sorrier for Ralph when they're jumped by SPACE PIRATES, since George has the shielding of the ship to protect him from their laser blasts. Ralph, on the other hand, is left alone to dodge their fire and even takes a few blasts before these scourges of the cosmos swallow our heroes up with their fucking enormous spaceship. (For a size comparison, George's own ship is roughly 3.5 times the size of his house -- and it is completely dwarfed by just the nose of the pirates' craft.) Shortly thereafter, George and Ralph end up in the pirates' holding cell, where things get even worse for Ralph. Remember, this is a dude who just recently made his first friend in nine million years -- and all of a sudden, before he's even had the chance to build a solid rapport with George, he has to share his new pal with Barbara, a female astronaut who was also imprisoned by the pirates. And you can claim to follow the "bros before hos" code all you want, but your new robot buddy is inevitably going to take a backseat when you meet a sexy astronaut lady during your interstellar travels.

Anyway, apparently unfazed by his newfound status as the third wheel, Ralph puts his logic processors to work and soon comes up with an infallible plan -- the captives will combine their musical talents to lull the pirates to sleep with Christmas carols, whereupon they will then make their escape. Except it doesn't prove to be all that infallible in practice, as it merely ensures that the pirates are in the most festive of spirits when they give the order for George, Ralph, and Barbara to walk the plank. On the other hand, the plan is still a win for Ralph. Remember, he can fly through space and has no need of oxygen! Things are looking a little more grim for George and Barbara, but if I were Ralph I wouldn't feel too bad -- it's not like they were going to pay much attention to him anyway once they started making sweet love in the backseat of their shuttle.

Ding ding, dong. Ring-a-ding ding-ding dong.Star of Bethlehem, dead ahead!

But before George and Barbara expire, the Space Rangers arrive on the scene to save the day! The trio is saved, the spaceship is recovered, the Space Pirates are routed, George gets his permit, and Ralph gets to save grief.exe for another day. Our heroes' triumph is short lived, however, as they once again encounter trouble when the Rangers take their leave -- this time in the form of the fearsome Ding Dong Bell and his fuel-stealing spacebike gang, the Bell's Angels. Ralph bravely attempts to match their laser barrage with a few well-placed fireworks, but it's not long before Bell subdues the opposition and siphons all of the fuel from George's spaceship. Although he mercifully leaves the crew members with their lives, that's little consolation when they're left floating in a powerless husk in the void of space.

That's it, Ralph... keep singing so they don't ignore you.

Still, all is not lost, as George also managed to build a miniature shuttle in the mere moments that it took him to construct the spaceship. It's unfortunate that the crew has to abandon the product of less than thirty seconds of dedicated brainstorming and engineering prowess, but at least they're able to continue their ambitious quest to secure the Star of Bethlehem and make George's Christmas tree the best-topped pine on planet Earth. They've almost reached their goal, but they still have a couple of minutes before they arrive -- and what better way to pass the time than with another amazing solo from Ralph?

As you'll see in the video to the right, it's here that Ralph's third wheel position becomes undeniably apparent. Sure, he's enjoying himself as he sings and pops off fireworks and otherwise entertains the hell out of George and Barbara -- and he apparently thinks he's further endearing himself to them with his routine -- but he's really only serving to bring them closer together. Ralph might as well be a freaking Barry White recording. When they're making out to his soundtrack, will their thoughts even once center on how swell a guy he is for going out of his way to set the mood? When they're married with children, will George even bother to make sure that Ralph gets his daily supply of energon cubes? If you listen and look closely, you can almost hear the desperation in Ralph's voice and see it in his actions as he does everything to hold George and Barbara's attention -- but when they finally retrieve the star at the culmination of the number, does Barbara also have a kiss for Ralph? Does George even deign to give him a high five? Nope. In fact, when the star shuttle runs out of fuel right after they retrieve the star, I have no doubt that the titular "hero" is already preparing to ask Ralph to sacrifice the last of his power reserves to ensure that George and his new girlfriend get home safely.

It's SANTA!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Fortunately, it never comes to that, as the trio once again finds itself approached by another party -- which this time consists of Santa Claus and his six robotic reindeer! Of course, Santa's not going to leave them stranded or permit them to extinguish Ralph's spark on his watch, so they pile into his mobile cottage with the star inexplicably contained in a cardboard box and make their way towards Earth. Well, more or less towards Earth, as Santa has to visit a few other planets and even a giant eight ball before finally landing on Sol-3. And you know what? It just occurred to me that Santa Claus is a freaking Time Lord. Think about it. The dude visits a significant percentage of Earth's homes in a single night and carries presents for billions of girls and boys in a single sack, and he could only accomplish those impressive feats if he were to manipulate time and space and possessed technology that is larger on the inside than it is on the outside. When one takes into account that this Santa also manages to visit multiple planets on the same night, his Gallifreyan origins seem even more likely. In addition, I suspect that the reindeer and elves that appear in Santa's legend are actually his respective companions from the Planet of the Caribou and the Planet of the Elfkind.

BURN WITH MEGoodbye, Elliot!

With all of this traveling -- which for all we know included trips to other locales and time periods that will be detailed extensively in spinoff media for years to come -- George is pretty impatient when he finally arrives back home. So much so, in fact, that he ditches his friends and doesn't even bother to thank Santa in his haste to get into the house and place the star atop his tree. Now, this whole story has been fairly ridiculous with black hole hotels and Space Rangers and Space Pirates and spacebike gangs and whatnot, but I find it incredibly difficult to suspend my disbelief when George looks directly into the box and fails to go blind or be scorched to nothingness. After all, if staring into the Sun from very, very far away is supposed to have the former effect, how could one possibly retain one's eyesight when gazing into the light of a star from several inches away? And even if something with a core temperature of several million kelvins could be contained within a cardboard box, I'm fairly certain that, once it was released within Earth's atmosphere, the mutual gravitational pull of the planet and the star would lead to a collision that would effectively bring about the destruction of Earth and all terrestrial life as we know it. But while that's a bit too dark for a Christmas special, at least the writers understand that there's no way a genuine heavenly body would stay put on the height of a decorated pine tree for very long. So the moment that the star is freed from its box, it darts throughout the house in a brilliant display of light before escaping through the chimney and retaking its rightful place in the night sky. Take that, optimistic children of the world -- George's quest was for nothing!

That paper star is still pretty weak.When George and Barbara are screwing, Ralph will eat the cat.

So yeah, things are looking pretty bleak at Casa de George. I mean, he built a spaceship from scratch, fell into a black hole, and was victimized by interstellar pirates and bikers -- and for what? He takes a moment to indulge his sadness at the situation, and his newfound friends (and even the freaking cat, though it could also be sad because it was completely neglected during George's outer space adventure) get all weepy-eyed and join him in his overwhelming depression. But then George realizes that despite the apparent pointlessness of his quest, things couldn't be better. He may have lost his amazing spaceship and been deprived of the most excellent Christmas star ever, but look what he's gained: a singing robot pal and a hot new girlfriend who can get him a lucrative job as a rocket scientist! That latter part is especially important -- as they say, romance without finance is a nuisance. Upon recognizing just how lucky he's become as a result of his holiday journey, George contentedly tops the tree with a lame paper star and goes to stand with his new friends.

This whole review has been rife with (hopefully humorous) ribbing and whatnot, but -- in all seriousness -- I still get kind of teary-eyed at the end of GatCS. I mean, friendship -- that's really the most important thing, isn't it? I'm sure there are a ton of well-to-do individuals and high-powered executives with far more material wealth than I'll ever accumulate who would adamantly disagree with that sentiment, but they can drown in their lakes of money for all I care. Friendship rules. And whether I know you or not, you've done me a friendly kindness by visiting SC and reading this review, so thank you for that. If you've visited and/or commented before, thank you. If you're planning to visit again, thank you as well. SC may not be all that much, but your readership and encouragement have helped to make it what it is -- and with your continued support, feedback, and potential article submissions (see the guidelines here!), hopefully SC will continue to provide you with amusement and other not unpleasant emotive responses throughout 2008. I very much hope that your December holidays were joyous, and I sincerely wish you all the best in the coming months. Once again, from all of us at Scary-Crayon to all of you at home: HAPPY NEW YEAR! :D

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