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The live action Avengers will probably never do a 'Christmas special' - too expensive, and, y'know, stupid. So, to fill the void, we've instead been graced with an animated kids cartoon equivalent, pitting Earth's Mightiest Heroes against arch-foe Loki in a quest to track down um Santa Claus. And, as you'd imagine, Marvel Super Hero Adventures: Frost Fight, rather than filling the viewer with festive spirit, instead recalls the uncomfortably hallucinogenic madness of the Star Wars Christmas special Lucasfilm would pay any price to have you forget. For Disney's sake, let's hope young Marvel fans have shorter memories
That's not to say that Frost Fight is a complete waste of time. Marvel has really stepped up the production values in their recent animated work, and Frost Fight shines in its relatively fast-paced and intense fight sequences, including working in some creatively designed Frost Giants and other monsters for the heroes to smack around (even if the animators recycle several background or transitional templates, a-la 1960s Spider-Man cartoon, giving the film a visibly cheap look at times by comparison). That said, the film as a whole struggles with a pretty intense identity crisis in terms of how young or old to skew, contrasting the slicker fight choreography with some pretty abrupt 'kid-friendly' tonal shifts poke in the butt/cartoon sound effect/massive double-take, etc. which is thoroughly distracting and vaguely unpleasant throughout.
It doesn't help that the 'quest for Santa Claus' is an unmistakably goofy premise, and it's hard to imagine even younger audiences not raising an eyebrow in disbelief at the disjuncture in plausibility (though I will now always lament never getting to hear Tom Hiddleston suppress a smirk while saying "Santy Claus" in full live action Loki garb). Still, the script handles the silliness as gamely as possible, and there's a certain campy fun in having Santa grounded in Asgardian mythology and we can now look forward to industriously nerdy kids correcting their peers by referring to Santa as 'Jolnir' - as well as a knowing dig at Santa nonbelievers, here represented by both the hyper-logical Iron Man and Loki, both of who are forced to extensively eat their words. 'Tis the season for shaming non-practitioning parents?
That said, the tonal whiplash takes an even more frightening turn at the arrival at the ludicrous land of the Elves. The setting - a flurry of nonsensical candy canes, like Hallmark threw up in the middle of a snowstorm - is rendered a surreal nightmare for adults let alone kids, as gratuitous guest stars Rocket Raccoon and Groot battle a wasteland of sentient, evil gingerbread men and subsequently massacre them, shooting and bashing them to pieces, as the gingerbread men howl in agony. And if this wasn't bad enough, Rocket and Groot are then pursued by the disintegrating, occasionally two-headed 'zombie' gingerbread remains, like a Calvin & Hobbes snowman sequence directed by David Lynch. Anyone deranged enough to think this was suitable viewing for children deserves coal in their stocking indefinitely. There's also some dubious gender politics regarding the 'maternal instincts' of a reptilian behemoth, but even objectionable ideological content in kids programming pales in comparison to the Zombie. Gingerbread. Massacre. I'm shuddering just thinking about it.
But in the end, the Avengers lineup is too much fun to ever be a complete write-off. Including Captain Marvel is a fun plug for the upcoming MCU Phase 3, even if the inclusion of requisite teen sidekick Reptil and his vaguely defined dinosaur transformation powers (what ?) is predictably annoying. Mick Wingert does a plausible Robert Downey Jr. impression, though voice vet Kevin Michael Richardson disconcertingly appears to forget to inflect while repeating "I am Groot", while having Fred Tatasciore's Hulk become a Christmas-obsessed carolling pun-machine is disconcerting, at best (Thor uttering war cries while driving Santa's sleigh is a different story altogether, though).
Frost Fight is occasionally fun, though mostly uncomfortably enjoyable in a delirious 'how is this happening' sort of way. It's undeniably one of the more short-sighted and demented Marvel cartoon offerings, and ultimately one worth passing on, save for the most obsessive and forgiving youngsters (and those with a pretty sturdy tolerance for freakish sentient snack food violence, to boot. Seriously. ZOMBIE GINGERBREAD MASSACRE. Yeesh).
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