Next year, Appellate Judge James A. Stewart wants a family Christmas movie without the adultery subplot option.
"Times like this, I wish I had a voicebox."—Zeus
This Zeus isn't a god, but a dog. He (actually a she) has appeared in four installments of Christmas with the Bannister family. Having just reviewed The Dog Who Saved The Holidays, I've only seen one of those installments, but I kind of suspect that the other three aren't much different.
Facts of the Case
Zeus (Joey Lawrence, Blossom) is preparing to go visit Aunt Babs (Shelley Long, Cheers) in Malibu. Naturally, he has to take his humans, the Bannisters, along. When they all arrive, Babs has a surprise: puppy Eve (Peyton List, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules). Eve, of course, is a bundle of trouble, which somehow ends up being Zeus' fault.
Meanwhile, two dumb ex-crooks—Ted (Dean Cain, Lois and Clark) and Stewey—are running a dog "spaw," and they owe a loan shark (Jack Scalia, Pointman). The shark wants a Christmas star, the one atop Babs' tree, and Ted and Stewey will get it for him—if they want to keep their thumbs.
Oh, and George Bannister (Gary Valentine, Zookeeper) is sneaking around doing something. Wife Belinda (Elisa Donovan, Clueless) thinks it could be adultery (just what you need as a plot element in a nice family Christmas film).
There are some good moments in The Dog Who Saved The Holidays. I smiled when Zeus answered a phone call from Grandma (Mindy Sterling, How the Grinch Stole Christmas) and she didn't quite realize who she was talking to. A cat taunting Zeus was also amusing. The idea of a sandman instead of a snowman in Malibu also could tickle your funnybone. A couple of the ending twists could be considered clever.
Those good moments, sadly, are trapped in a very predictable, so-so movie. Not awful, just kind of cookie-cutter dull. There's a commentary with this one, which lets you know that the production team was adept enough to improvise and improve upon the script they'd been handed; a couple of those moments I liked came about at the last minute, apparently. Knowing that, I just wish Zeus had chewed up the script entirely so that they could wing it. Still, I realize that this was the fourth movie in a series, and the people putting the movie together just wanted to do what audience had liked in the first three.
Aside from the mistaken-suspicions-of-adultery subplot (which somehow ended up in Gift of the Magi, which I reviewed last year at jolliness time, as well), the flatulence jokes are another thing I'd really loved not to have heard so much of. Is flatulence really what everyone thinks of first when it comes to holidays?
The cast, familiar names or not, isn't bad, but it's the dogs' show. The dogs get the best lines, and Joey Lawrence and Peyton List deliver them well. Shelley Long also took on the voice of that pesky cat, and I can see why she was itching to do it.
All those holiday decorations look good in this cheerfully bright production. Picture and sound quality are no problem. The commentary leaves a little insight into the production, enough to let you know that, while it could have been better, it could also have been a lot worse.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Does everything have to have earbuds in the post-24 era. The sorta bad guys here think so. That did leave me fantasizing about the multiseries, multinetwork plotline in which all earbuds are suddenly, mysteriously fried, leaving characters forced to find other ways to establish plot points.
The people behind The Dog Who Saved The Holidays were clearly trying to please their existing audience. If you liked any previous movie in the series, you should like this one.
Essentially, The Dog Who Saved The Holidays is filler. If you like dogs—yes, the four-legged cast members are as cute as (no, make that cuter than) buttons—and don't mind flatulence and adultery jokes in a family Christmas movie, it's a diversion for 87 minutes. The dogs even learn a couple of life lessons about sibling rivalry and teamwork; if you have dogs that don't play nice with each other, you might want them to see this movie. There were enough touches to let you know that it could have been more; I'll leave it up to you as to whether that's promising or disappointing.
I kind of got the idea that a sequel looms on the horizon. I also kind of got the idea that the producers feel a little flatulence is a necessary element. Please, please, though, don't let Belinda suspect George of fooling around again.
A little too much flatulence and imagined philandering tip the scales to Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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