Cover Art and Menus: 7/10
How can you go wrong with a cute puppy on the cover of a movie about Christmas? Well, you can’t really. The cover is a nice holiday cover, complete with Christmas colors and puppies and the back of “the Big Guy” himself. It is festive, and attractive, and works on all levels for its audience. The audience here is children, and there is a lot to look at here, and a lot to like.
The menu was a bright sparkly Christmas room complete with festive blinking Christmas lights. It works, even though it is a bit static for a Blu-ray, but these are straight to home release movies, and so this is adequate.
- The Hucklebuckle Hero – The Hucklebuckle Hero features three of the talking dogs that are featured in the movie itself, in an animated pop-up book type of feature. It is a bit strange, and pretty slow. We get to see the Scottish terrier Haggis, along with T-Money and Rasta, all dogs from the movie that feature stereotypical accents and characteristics based on how the dogs look in the movie.
- Music Video – We get to see a music video featuring Debby Ryan from Disney Channel’s Suite Life on Deck, singing “Deck the Halls,” a Christmas classic. AS always, Disney includes the Disney Channel stars doing a themed song for a release. I still don’t get it, but perhaps the kids enjoy these music videos.
- Deleted Scenes – The deleted scenes last about 11 minutes long, and feature scenes cut from the movie in various stages of completion.
- DVD Copy Of The Movie – We are also given a standard DVD of the movie, but no digital copy.
The Movie: 6/10
Cute, with a lot of fluff. I am talking about Santa Paws, the dog of course, but I am also talking about the movie itself. In the Search for Santa Paws, we are introduced to Paws, the newest best friend of the Big Guy Santa Claus himself. After Santa’s close friend Mr. Hucklebuckle dies in New York leaving his magical toy store to his not so toy friendly son, Santa falls into a bit of despair. For Mr. Huckelbuckle’s death leaves the Christmas spirit in New York city in the balance, and when he sends a stuffed dog to Santa as a birthday present, Santa’s elves use some Christmas magic to turn the stuffed dog into a real dog, which Santa names Paws. The two become inseparable, and the magic between them is contained in magic crystals that both Santa and Paws wear around their necks. The bond is immense, and when Santa travels to New York to check on the Christmas season, Paws goes with him.
In the big city, Santa is hit by a cabbie, who is unaware just who this fellow really is. When Paws looks to help Santa, someone steals Santa’s magic crystal, and the bond between the two is broken. Add to that the fact that Santa can’t remember who he really is or where he lives, and the story really takes a dark turn. (The movie itself has a lot of questionable dark twists and themes, especially considering the target audience in my opinion.) Santa ends up wandering into his old friend’s toy store, where Mr. Hucklebuckle’s son and daughter-in-law are trying to have a succesful holiday season in order to inherit the store. They dream of ultimately selling the place, but are told that to inherit the store they have to run the store through a holiday season, and turn a profit, which they are not thrilled about. They are looking for a store Santa, and when the dazed lookalike appears and is able to fit into the outfit that has been a store tradition, they feel their luck might turn around. Little do they know that this is the real Santa, who simply can’t figure out what he is doing in New York.
Santa, as a store Santa, is introduced to Quinn, a small girl who has lost her parents and is now in an orphanage run by the aptly named Ms. Stout, who is not fond of children or Christmas. Quinn (Kaitlyn Maher) is adorable and quite sad that Ms. Stout will not allow any holiday cheer or singing, or even toys to be present in the dreary orphanage. Stout has several girls who live with her, supposedly only for the money the state gives her, and she treats them like slaves. One of the older orphans is Will (Madison Pettis) who is forced to be the go between as Ms. Stout puts her in charge when she is out. Will knows the ropes, and how to get away with things, and takes the role of big sister quite seriously. When Will takes Quinn to see a red bicycle that is in the Hucklebuckle store window, Quinn takes the opportunity to step inside to talk with Santa, asking for the bike for Will, and a dog for the other girls in the orphanage.
The Search for Santa Paws is a decent movie, along the lines of the other Buddies movies. This one is slightly better than the others, even though it can be a bit of a task to make it through the movie as an adult. My son was glued to the set for most of it, but there are issues here. For starters, there are a lot of dark themes in the movie – kids without parents, an evil orphanage director who burns toys in an incinerator and threatens to do the same to the kids, and the mere fact that Santa is hit by a car. Not your average Christmas fare, and it did take a bit of explaining to my 5 year-old. I can guaranty that he will take those messages into account when he asks to see a Christmas movie again this season, and he is not keen on it. At one point he sad that he felt very sad for Quinn, who had no parents and was being thrust into such a bad place.
The story and acting is average for these types of movies, and the overall movie is just average, which is tio be expected, but does not bode well for making this a Skwid family holiday tradition. Overall the Search for Santa Paws is suited for young kids, with too much darkness to be a real hit. While the presentation was better than most of the Buddies’ movies, this one is just a bit off the mark.
Audio & Video: 8/10
As always, Disney does not disappoint on the technical aspect of their releases, even if it is a straight to home video type of scenario. The movie itself is bright and sharp, and the presentation is very well done. The detail on faces is so sharp that Santa’s face (quite full of lines including quite large bags under his eyes) looks almost creepy, as my son asked what was wrong with Santa. Maybe a bit too much detail to be honest. The audio is bright and dialogue driven, and is a nice presentation throughout.
A holiday release is always a tricky thing. You really only have a window of a few months to enjoy the movie, and there are so many that it makes it difficult to really recommend anything that is not deemed a classic. Having said that, kids will enjoy this story, even if it seems to be a bit dark at times. My son liked it, but probably will not ask to see it again this Christmas season. This, like last year’s Santa Buddies : The Legend of Santa Paws, is the same fair. It is good for a watch, but not much else. I did enjoy this quite a bit more than last year’s offering however, and so did my son. I wrote last year about how much he enjoyed Santa Buddies, and how it would be played again before Christmas was over, but the disk never came out of its box after that first screening, and I am afraid that this one will be the same. The acting was much better in the Search for Santa Paws, and the story is a bit better, but overall this is just not good enough for a repeat play in my house with so many other Christmas offerings. It is hard not to feel like Scrooge when giving an average rating to a movie featuring Santa Claus, but hopefully he won’t hold is against me and give me coal in my stocking.
Overall Score 6/10