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The Search for Santa Paws(2010)
In the tradition of Disney's classic holiday tales comes a heartwarming movie about the power of giving and the true meaning of Christmas. Discover how the legendary friendship of Santa Claus and Santa Paws began in the inspiring original film, The Search For Santa Paws. When Santa and his new best friend, Paws, discover that the boys and girls of the world have lost the spirit of the season, they take a trip to New York City. But after Santa loses his memory, it's up to Paws, a faithful orphan named Quinn (America's Got Talent's Kaitlyn Maher), her new friend Will (The Game Plan's Madison Pettis) and a wonderful group of magical talking dogs to save St. Nick and show the world what Christmas is really all about.
For more about The Search for Santa Paws and the The Search for Santa Paws Blu-ray release, see the The Search for Santa Paws Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on November 29, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Kaitlyn Maher, Madison Pettis, Patrika Darbo, Richard Kind, Richard Riehle, Danny Woodburn
Director: Robert Vince
» See full cast & crew
The Search for Santa Paws Blu-ray Review
Is it New Year's Eve yet?
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, November 29, 2010
While shopping at Target this weekend, I found myself retreating deep into the electronics department, seeking some manner of shelter from the deal-hungry zombie horde lumbering from aisle to aisle. And for a moment... a brief, glorious moment, it appeared as if I had finally maneuvered out of everyone's way. It didn't last long. A little girl with a pair of pigtails -- one neatly bound by a purple ribbon, the other dangling in disarray -- suddenly darted past my legs, all the while muttering, "Santa Paws, Santa Paws, Santa Paws. Where is it? Where is it?" Her mother raced to catch up, excusing herself as politely as a parent in danger of losing sight of her child possibly can, and I mustered my best empathetic smile and stepped aside. Dearly Devoted Mom didn't have to look much further though. At the end of the aisle, her daughter stopped, squealed and hoisted a copy of The Search for Santa Paws above her head, screaming "Here! Here!" as if her greatest Christmas wish had been granted. As the pair walked away, the rosy-cheeked girl grinned a toothless grin, her mother sighed an exasperated sigh, and I couldn't help but notice the tiny tot was cradling a Blu-ray copy of the film in her arms. Long story short? There are family films that defy generations; modern classics from Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks that entertain and engage adults as readily as their kids. Then there are family flicks like The Search for Santa Paws; derivative, direct-to-video holiday drivel four to eight-year-olds will adore, older children will reject, and most parents will loathe.
Part Santa Buddies prequel, part unabashed Annie adaptation, part talking-animal genre pic, The Search for Santa Paws is surprisingly convoluted. Santa (Jump-To-Conclusions Mat inventor Richard Riehle) loses his memory, begins wandering around New York and eventually gets a job playing, who else, Santa Claus; his newly created puppy pal, Paws (Zachary Gordon), tries to bring hope and Christmas spirit to a dreary orphanage run by a comically sadistic caretaker (Reno 911's Wendi McLendon-Covey); Santa's chief elf, Eli (Danny Woodburn), and yet another chatty canine, Eddy the Elf Dog (Richard Kind), scour New York in a Yellow Cab to find their lost friends; a doe-eyed orphan (Kaitlyn Maher) crosses paths with anyone and everyone crucial to the tale; a married couple (John Ducey and Bonnie Somerville) inherit a toy store and struggle to turn a profit; Mrs. Claus (Patrika Darbo) tries to hold down the fort (or the workshop as it were); a trio of internationally bred dogs (Josh Flitter, Jason Connery and Christopher Massey), eight gangly reindeer (among them, Diedrich Bader) and a down-on-his-luck alcoholic (Eric Keenleyside) take their seats at an increasingly crowded table; and heartstrings are strung, plucked and abused in quick succession. Yet even with so much going on -- so many characters coming and going, hemming and hawing, doubting and believing -- the film drags itself along, inch by sappy inch, for ninety grueling minutes.
Not that the six-year-old sitting next to me noticed. Whether it was Santa's allure, Santa Paws' holiday trappings or the fact that the cast is comprised of talking dogs, cheery elves and enthusiastic kids, my son was transfixed. He didn't care about the actors' wooden performances or the mutts' sadsack expressions (most of which make Cats & Dogs: Revenge of Kitty Galore look like Avatar). He wasn't old enough to realize how much of the story had been culled from greater, grander Christmas classics. He didn't see the shoddy visual effects for what they are (merely adequate CG produced on a shoestring budget) or question the film's lack of spark, momentum and originality. But he also didn't laugh very much... didn't smile very often, look to see who else in the room was enjoying themselves or, really, do anything other than stare at the screen. I can't say I blame him either. Despite its colorful demeanor, Santa Paws is a fairly dismal film, full of heartache, amnesia, depression, conflict and occasionally mean-spirited melodrama. Worse, it doesn't explore its more mature themes with any nuance, hurling itself into some very dark places without a sense of purpose or anything resembling a meaningful endgame. Santa Paws' apparent message? Magic solves all ills. Oh, you don't have access to magic, kiddo? Sorry then, life just sucks.
Just because The Search for Santa Paws is aimed at a younger audience doesn't give it a free pass. Just because it can hold the attention of a six-year-old itching for Christmas morning doesn't make it worthy of their time and attention. Just because it's a direct-to-video release doesn't mean anyone should lower their standards. Most importantly, just because it elicits cheers from a toddler doesn't make it a good film. Don't get me wrong, if your little girl is someone who would hoist Santa Paws into the air in the middle of a department store and scream with delight, then by all means give her the opportunity to enjoy it. Even at its bleakest hour, it's harmless holiday fluff that will be forgotten within a month. But do yourself a favor: rent it once, give it a single spin, and fill whatever remaining TV-time you allot your children with more amusing, original, heartwarming, memorable and substantial holiday films than this. Too harsh? Perhaps. If nothing else, it's clear the filmmakers had noble intentions and the cast were invested wholeheartedly in every scene. But there's far better family fare to stuff stockings with this Christmas season.
The Search for Santa Paws Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Search for Santa Paws exhibits all the telltale signs of a modestly budgeted direct-to-video release: shallow photography, milquetoast skintones, serviceable but glassy fine textures, and lackluster CG. Thankfully, Disney's 1080p/AVC-encoded presentation is technically sound. Colors are strong and stable, primaries are primed for praise, contrast is bright and seasonal, delineation is decidedly decent, and black levels are fairly strong in all but a few problematic scenes (most of which involve a moonlit park, the orphanage's basement or the exterior of Santa's workshop). Overall detail is notable as well. Pores, wrinkles and individual strands of hair are well-resolved, object definition is crisp and clean, and the only unsightly softness or smearing that appears traces back to the film's special effects, not the studio's encode. Artifacting, crush, ringing, aliasing and their distracting ilk are nowhere to be found, and banding is kept to a manageable minimum. It certainly isn't the most jaw-dropping presentation you'll see this month, but it gets the job done, and then some.
The Search for Santa Paws Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The same goes for Disney's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. No, it isn't going to knock any ornaments off the tree, but it is an engaging, reasonably enveloping mix that manages to impress, often in spite of its humble direct-to-video roots. While the experience is rather front-heavy on the whole, the rear speakers grab hold of the film's music, magical effects and streetside ambience with ease and enthusiasm. Directionality isn't exactly realistic, but pans are convincing, separation is satisfying and crowd chatter is immersive. Likewise, LFE output is respectful but firm, adding oomph to sleigh swoops and feats of puppy power, and dynamics are reserved but rewarding, lending presence to sonic standouts that might otherwise fall flat. Through it all, dialogue is warm, perfectly centered and neatly prioritized, and voices emerge as an organic component of each environment. Granted, the tenor of several lines delivered on the city streets is a bit shrill, but it hardly matters in the grand scheme of things. For a direct-to-video release, The Search for Santa Paws sounds great.
The Search for Santa Paws Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Santa Paws' supplemental sack is full of coal. A "Hucklebuckle Hero" (HD, 7 minutes) animated storybook serves up a tale for the kiddies starring T-Money, Eddie, Paws, Rasta, Haggis and the Buddies; a bland batch of extended and deleted scenes (HD, 12 minutes) is undone by a patchwork audio mix and unfinished visual effects; a "Buddies Sing Along" track is included for good measure; and a put-me-out-of-my-misery music video (HD, 2 minutes) gave me tween-induced seizures.
The Search for Santa Paws Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Search for Santa Paws is exactly what any parent worth their salt expects, and in my book that isn't a good thing. Frankly, kids deserve better. Ah well, at least those who succumb to their child's pleas will get their money's worth. Disney's Blu-ray release is a solid one, and the film's slim supplemental package is the only thing that falls short. Ultimately, I would suggest sticking with a rental; there are far better Christmas classics to share with your children this holiday season.
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The Search for Santa Paws Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Disney Offering $10 Coupon for The Search for Santa Paws Blu-ray - November 24, 2010
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has a printable $10 off coupon good for the purchase of the Blu-ray/DVD combo of The Search for Santa Paws during its first week in stores. To print it, go to the dedicated coupon page on the Disney Movie Rewards Site and ...
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