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‘Littlest Reindeer’ is big proof CGI animation doesn’t always fly

The aww-est plot ever can be found in “Elliot: The Littlest Reindeer.” A miniature horse secretly wants to become one of Santa’s sleigh-pullers.

But nestled inside that warm set-up is cloying dialogue, condescending voice work and confusing story tangents.

Things start out promising. Elliot (Josh Hutcherson) is a minihorse on a North Dakota farm that somehow has a direct connection to the North Pole. Tired of low expectations, and wanting something more from life, the little guy trains to replace the retiring Blitzen. During tryouts — set in an Olympic-like arena —

Elliot wears fake antlers to trick the judges. His peppy friend Hazel the Goat (Samantha Bee) helps him with his plan.

Then the film gets lost in tedious B-plots and a bunch of supporting characters that are difficult to track. Must an evil Russian businesswoman attempt to buy all the horses and goats to make them into delicious meat? Must an intrepid reporter work to uncover elf conspiracies? Must there be global warming, “Dirty Dancing” and “Braveheart” jokes?

This is a movie for 5-year-olds. It should’ve stuck to cuteness.

But even at its sweetest moments, the film resorts to patronizing baby talk. Every line is delivered like the actor is patting a kid on the head, and each eyebrow lift and head turn is scored to obnoxious staccato music. The CGI animation should be banished to a Windows 98 screen saver.

It’ll make you want to hoof straight home.

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