Monday, December 24, 2012

Yes, we watched: Santa Paws 2 - The Puppening

A lot of discussion followed the viewing of this, the second installment in the Santa Paws franchise.  Santa Paws 2 is a spin-off of a spin-of of the 1990's harmless movie about a Golden Retriever who could shoot free throws called Air Bud.  Since 1997, I believe this is the 17th movie in the franchise/ shared universe of Air Bud.  No, I am not kidding.

really, I have no one but myself to blame.

I saw part of the first Air Bud movie on cable once, and its really very sweet.  If you're playing along at home, Bud was a real dog that COULD shoot free throws, so they made a movie using this dog, because...  holy @#$% - that dog could shoot free throws!  But as dogs do, he died.  They got other dogs and made more movies in which the dog played sports, and then, at some point, the franchise wasn't cute enough, so the script called for Bud to put some other Golden Retriever in a family way, and out came a herd of wise-cracking golden puppies and an entirely new and far more annoying franchise.

After a few of those movies, Disney (yes, Disney) insisted on a Christmas version, and our heroes joined with Santa's dog's son, I believe, Puppy Paws in Santa Buddies. This begat The Search for Santa Paws.  Which begat this installment.

A few things really stood out to me about this movie.

1.  They recycled jokes, ideas, CGI and other items from the prior two Santa Paws films.  I don't want to accuse the franchise of being creatively bankrupt, but...
2.  Santa in this film is played by a fairly thin man, young by Santa standards, who looks absolutely terrifying in his wig, beard and rosy make-up.  The overall effect skews just sort of gross.
3.  This movie brings back Eddy and Eli, Santa's head elves, played by a Jack Russell Terrier and Little Person actor, Danny Woodburn of Seinfeld fame.  The poor Terrier is obviously uncomfortable in his costume and Woodburn... looks fine, honestly, and seems less put out returning as Eli than in the last movie
4.  The movie's main human star and main character is "Mrs. Clause" in this film, played by Cheryl Ladd - most famous for her stint on Charlie's Angels and, uh...  let's just say Ms. Ladd has held up fine over the years and it can create a, uh, little cognitive dissonance seeing her playing the matronly Mrs. Claus.*

Obviously these movies are aimed at very, very young children which means their audience is still pretty dumb (I mean, I can totally beat them at word problems and Scrabble).  So long as cute puppies appear, someone occasionally falls over and things sparkle enough and the whole thing remains pretty simple - it's going to serve the needs of the intended audience.  And I think it really does a good job of appealing to younger kids.

seriously, Santa looks like a speed freak or something.  He's terrifying.

To appeal to the audience that's parked in front of the TV while mommy seeks five minutes of quiet and maybe a G&T, one of the main stars of the movie is a very young girl who sings a couple of songs not quite as badly as you'd expect and stands in as the Mary Sue of the movie for your kiddos.  There are "funny" reindeer, a Poppins-esque redecoration of a girl's bedroom from a terrific princess-style room to an AMAZING princess style room, puppies who tell jokes and say things like "EXTREME!" - which I thought had been buried in the 90's.  Your kids will laugh because voices are funny on TV and they're young and impressionable.

Like the predecessors, the movie skirts a Christian approach to Christmas but still co-opts a few songs from church, etc...  But, basically, Christmas is pitched in a traditional "it's a time to be nice to each other, sing a few songs and talk to dogs" mode, and that's okay.  Nothing wrong with that.  I mean, Santa is really terrifying to behold here, but whatever.  I do like that the movie almost doesn't even acknowledge gifts except in collecting them for charity.  That seemed to be kind of sweet, actually.

There's some sort of continuity at play here going all the way back to Air Bud, but it's pretty disjointed even within the context of this movie tying to the other films, but so long as you embrace the fact that It Totally Doesn't Matter, you're going to be fine.

yup, there's 'ol Mrs. Claus

The movie has some oddly conspicuous casting when it comes to minorities.  There are a total of two non-WASP characters in the movie and, in crowd scenes, everyone else is very, very white.  This is Disney, a company with a broad reach and who isn't shy about inclusiveness and appealing to anyone with a dollar, so I assumed there was some Disney regulation or policy in this regard.   I do know Pineville must have some really whack demographics as the two black characters we do have looked kind of lonely against the backdrop of the lily white cast, and it just felt really, really lazy or even confusing.

Our story begins with the birth of the children of Santa Paws who each have a sort of ill-defined personality but a name to go with a trait. To make it different from The Buddies - all of the Santa Buddies are, ironically, the opposite of their namesake.  Because: Kids. Love. Irony.  Jingle - the singer, sucks at singing.  Charity is selfish for one scene to establish her selfishness which never comes into play again.  Hope is - I don't know.  She has a stupid hat.  And Noble is a boy or something.

Nothing about giving the puppies names or personalities matters because the puppies are really sidelined for a good chunk of the movie in favor of Mrs. Claus, and as they barely take part in the action, they have to face the camera and expressly state what they learned and why and how it ties into their name.  The scene is mind-blowing on many levels.

Yes, the CGI and lip flapping is no better here than in prior Buddies installments.  I still have no idea how they get puppies to just stand there for the shot.  It's like dog-whispering magic.

ugh.  These @#$%ing dogs.

Really, the only action the puppies perform is both ruining Christmas and then sort of being physically still there to help save Christmas or something.  It's all a little confusing.  I do know that this small town has a radio station run by a lawyer that literally everyone in town listens to 24/7 that plays Christmas music and has no employees aside from poor, poor George Newbern, who used to voice Superman in the WB cartoons.

There's also a trio of singers who includes Peggy's sister from Mad Men and the actress who played Jan Brady in the 90's-era Brady Bunch movies.

Basically the movie is once again about people losing their "Christmas Spirit" - in this case literally caused by these @#$% dogs - and the reclamation of said spirit by way of radio, magic and the aforementioned Mary Sue singing a holiday standard.  Spoilers!

I don't know.  It's a lazy mess of a movie, but I think it looks like Cheryl Ladd is having fun making it.

*I don't have many requests of your movie, but after a couple of drinks, my brain still doesn't want to find itself checking out Mrs. Claus.**
**I'm not saying that happened, but it totally kept happening.


Simon MacDonald said...

We have not yet watched Santa Paws 2 but we have seen the first movie of the Santa series, Santa Buddies. I can't imagine ever having to watch these without trying to keep my kid busy for 90 minutes. I can only imagine significant amounts of alcohol were consumed in order to get through this movie.

The League said...

These movies are so short, I should have really started ahead of time. I only made it through about 1.5 cocktails by the end of the film, which wasn't really enough, but it did smooth things out a bit.

If you needed to grab a few minutes of "Daddy Needs Some Quiet", this might do it. Otherwise...

Simon MacDonald said...

Yeah, I have it on the iPad to be used in case of emergency distraction of child while travelling.