Two Christmas Movies from Disney
I'll Be Home For Christmas (December 23/10)
An innocuously entertaining comedy, I'll Be Home For Christmas follows Jonathan Taylor Thomas' Jake Wilkinson as he attempts to blow off his father (Gary Cole) and sister (Lauren Maltby) for the holidays and instead spend it overseas with his beautiful girlfriend (Jessica Biel's Allie). But after Allie decides that she wants to go home for Christmas, Jake is forced to come up with a new plan - with his eventual decision to visit his family triggered by his pop's promise to give him a vintage car (as long as he makes it back by 6:00 on Christmas Eve). What should have been a quick plane ride inevitably becomes a wacky road trip after Jake's left in the desert by irate students, and the movie subsequently details Jake's ongoing (and increasingly) desperate efforts at making it home before time runs out. It's a decidedly sitcom-like premise that is, at the outset, employed to less-than-enthralling effect by director Arlene Sanford, as the filmmaker, working from a script by Tom Nursall and Harris Goldberg, initially gears the proceedings towards younger viewers to an extent that's nothing short of oppressive. It's only as the story unfolds and Jake embarks on his road trip that I'll Be Home For Christmas starts to become a more than just a misbegotten holiday comedy, with the inclusion of several sappy yet heartwarming episodes near the film's conclusion cementing its place as a perfectly watchable (yet admittedly forgettable) piece of work.
The Search for Santa Paws (December 24/10)
The almost astonishingly worthless Air Buddies series continues with this unwatchable fifth entry, in which Santa Claus (Richard Riehle) loses his memory shortly after arriving in New York City and subsequently becomes a toy-store Santa for a struggling couple (John Ducey's James and Bonnie Somerville's Kate). (There's also a subplot revolving around a pair of lovable orphans and their efforts at escaping from their tyrannical house mother.) It's a familiar yet workable premise that's employed to consistently underwhelming effect by filmmaker Robert Vince, with the director's incompetence most keenly reflected in the movie's total lack of compelling characters (which, in turn, prevents the viewer from working up any interest or enthusiasm in their respective exploits). The Search for Santa Paws suffers from pervasively low-rent feel that's felt in virtually every aspect of the production, with the amateurish performances, eye-rollingly predictable instances of plotting, and utterly forgettable songs perpetuating the film's relentlessly inept atmosphere. Compounding the movie's many, many problems is Vince's head-scratching decision to utilize a disastrously deliberate pace, which ultimately ensures that even small children will find themselves growing antsy right from the get-go. It's consequently rather difficult to recall a more aggressively terrible series of movies, and one can't help but goggle at the fact that Disney keeps greenlighting these abominable things.