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All too often people are unduly harsh when it comes to a consideration or critical review of children’s movies. They just cannot be held up to the same standards and criteria as you would bring to bear on general family flicks or movies intended for adult audiences. Such films may be regarded as silly or foolish but that is frequently just the imposition of mature sensibilities on an art form that is by its nature childish. To properly view a film like the one under consideration here, ‘Santa Buddies’ it is imperative to let that infamous inner child take control for just a little while. The movie is the latest installment of one of the more successful franchises presented to young kids by the leader of such movies, the Walt Disney Studios. The ‘bubby flicks follow a family of dogs, now a generation removed from the progenitor of the series, the basket ball playing golden retriever ‘Air Bud’. Disney learned an important fact about kid’s movies a long time ago; little animals are very cute and no matter what your age people enjoy watching their playful antics. Added to the innate level mandated by the youthfulness of the target demographic this is also a member of another very specific genre; the holiday movie. As if talking dogs wasn’t enough in the way of silliness making this a Christmas movie means magic is not only permissible in a case like this it is seemingly mandatory. With all this in mind this flick is a pleasant little diversion for the younger members of the household running just long enough to give the grown-ups a bit of a break from the hectic holiday season. Since it is a Disney movie parents can allow the kids to watch this one on their own without any fear of objectionable content of any form. This turns out well since the film may be a little too much for adults to take.

The film was scripted and directed by Robert Vince who held those positions for most of the franchise. It is rare in a series of movies, especially for such a young audience, to maintain this degree of continuity. I have reviewed most of the films in the franchise and even though I am not part of the intended demographic I always enjoyed the movies. Of course I tried my best to put myself in an appropriately young frame of mind to better enjoy the experience. Once that Zen-like state was achieved I kind of got into the entire experience. this is the fourth time the ‘buddies’ have come together for an adventure after conquering the great State of Alaska and sallying forth into the unknown of outer space. If you are wondering how they retain their puppy-hood, well, you just have to work on that suspension of belief thing a little harder. In this film the furry siblings take on their most important mission yet, nothing less than restoring magical faith and saving Christmas. While the franchise is beginning to show a little sign of wear overall it is able to retain enough of its innate charm and holiday spirit that it just might become a holiday tradition. This yuletide perspective does help cover the fact the underlying theme utilized here are quite familiar; in this instance Santa is unable to perform his annual nocturnal mission so it falls to cute children and even more adorable puppies to intervene and save the holiday.

In a break from the established format of the franchise this is set as a prequel to last year’s installment which, unfortunately for the involved puppy wranglers means the ‘Buddies’ are absent. While the little puppies get the year off many of the animal speaking roles are undertaken by the alumni of the franchise. I suppose the humans can out better in the union negotiations. There are some allowances afforded a holiday themed movie than would derail a movie set during any other time of the year. A popular Christmas motif revisited here is Santa (Richard Riehle) finds he is unable to fulfill his annual nocturnal mission of seasonal generosity. It is up to cute children and even more adorable puppies to step in to save the night. In this case Santa’s usually jolly persona is dimmed when hear hears about the death of an old friend, toymaker Mr. Hucklebuckle. The news is accompanied with a stuffed toy puppy thank hanks to the magic of the Christmas Icicle become a real pup that the old elf befriends and names ‘Paws’ ( voiced by Zachary Gordon). In New York City the late toymaker’s lawyer Mr. Stewart (Bill Cobbs) informs James Huckle (John Ducey) that he will inherit his grandfather’s shop providing he and his wife Kate (Bonnie Somerville) can successfully manage to get through the upcoming Christmas Season. It wouldn’t be a Christmas movie without a Scrooge provided here by the cranky woman who harshly runs an orphanage, Ms. Stout (Wendi McLendon-Covey. This plot device also provides a means to introduce the requisite cute kids. Willamina (Madison Pettis) is beyond the prime age for adoption which creates a rivalry with the younger Quinn (Kaitlyn Maher). Now it has been established that James and Kate are having difficulty having kids on their own which sets up a neat resolution. The ticking clock happens while St. Nick has a little accident while out with Paws and forgets about Christmas.

The film is the usual enjoyable Disney faire complete with a few back stage glimpses and a music video by Disney rising star Debbie Ryan. The Blu-ray release is impeccable combining reference quality audio and video. Gather the entire family around and have some fun.

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