Santa Buddies (DVD) ?

Disney's Santa Buddies is the fourth feature film in a series that began with Air Buddies, a spin-off series of 1997's Air Bud. Santa Buddies involves the series' usual ensemble of talking dogs, this time on the run up to Christmas, as they are greeted by Puppy Paws, the son of Santa Paws.

Why there are dogs working for Santa Claus is not explained, but just go with it. The reason for Puppy Paws leaving the North Pole is that he's lost the Christmas Spirit, but in doing so, unbeknownst to the cute little talking mutt, he has affected the Great Christmas Icicle, which hangs from within a snowy dome outside Santa's Workshop. It harbors the Christmas Spirit and channels it into the Northern Lights, which provide Santa's Workshop with the magical power that allows it to function and enable the elves (like Danny Woodburn, who must have played an elf a dozen times in his career) to make toys. But, without the Spirit, it begins to melt, descending the creation of Christmas into chaos.

Puppy Paws desperately wants to become a “regular” pup (he's not satisfied with being a talking dog), and joins the Buddies in a quest to become more like them. This leads to all kinds of problems, the biggest of which lies in the crafty hands of Mr. Cruge (Christopher Lloyd), a creepy old dognapper who reminded me a little of Freddy Krueger in his appearance. Lloyd going from one of the greatest trilogies of all time to this is almost unbearable; I really hope he got a fat fee for his role.

Santa Buddies is an ultra-predictable kids movie with a classic Disney Christmas moral. Nothing you wouldn't expect happens in this film, which brings me to the conclusion that kids aren't going to enjoy it too much. When you have a host of excellent Disney Christmas films to choose from, why stoop to the level of Santa Buddies? Children deserve truly magical cinema at Christmas, so a message to parents here: please do not give them the “gift” of terrible CGI and story. Ever. What are Disney playing at? Consider it a lump of coal.

EXTRAS ★ Sing-Along Songs, a horrendous music video, Disney Blu-ray promo, trailers, Disney Fast Play.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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