JUMPCUT ALL THE WAY: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

Directed by: Jeremiah Chechik
Cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Juliette Lewis, Johnny Galecki, John Randolph, Diane Ladd

Written by Chris Gelderd

This 1989 Christmas comedy is directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik and the third instalment in National Lampoon’s Vacation film series. The film stars Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid, Juliette Lewis and Johnny Galecki.

With Christmas only weeks away, proud family man Clark Griswold (Chase) is determined to host the perfect family Christmas. It doesn’t take long to convince supportive wife Ellen (D’Angelo) and children Audrey (Lewis) and Rusty (Galecki) that he will have his work cut out with his vision far from reality.

Welcoming the family after a few slight hiccups, including finding a Christmas tree and getting the decorations to work, the Griswolds are united for a good-old-fashioned family Christmas. With bickering in-laws and clashes over who sleeps where things are going as expected.

But when Clark is under pressure to receive his annual Christmas bonus to fund the family swimming pool, and also welcome the surprise of his redneck cousin-in-law Eddie (Quaid) and family, the perfect Christmas soon starts to unravel in a series of chaotic, mad-cap and dangerous events that will test them all in sticking it out together…

From obtaining a Christmas tree out in the wilderness, to wiring up the thousands of decorative lights to the house and scheduling in the Christmas dinner all around the expectant delivery of his annual work Christmas bonus, events all seem to take an upside downturn and it just makes the family more determined than ever to soldier through and really make this Christmas the greatest ever!

Set around the Griswold home, this could be the greatest Christmas film ever. No need for fantastical special effects, sweeping magical stories or epic adventures; this is a film we all can relate to and provides all of the warm humour and comedy from situations we have experienced in setting up for the Christmas season, which is why it works so well. The Griswold’s are a likeable bunch and they invite you in from the start to share the holiday with them and experience every annoyance, irk and frustration we too have had over the years.

Working in the film’s favour as always is the straight delivery of some classic lines from the actors as they create the most memorable American family since the Walton’s, and they work together so well with a great festive script to seal the deal.

This is my perfect Christmas film for all the right reasons and with crackling comedy and a feel-good festive message running throughout, this is one you can’t help but love to re-watch every year and be thankful your Christmas holiday isn’t as disastrous as the Griswold’s.

JUMPCUT ALL THE WAY: Disney’s A Christmas Carol (2009)

Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Cast: Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Robin Wright, Bob Hoskins, Ryan Ochoa

Written by Chris Gelderd

This 2009 American motion-capture festive film is written and directed by Robert Zemeckis, is based on the classic story by Charles Dickens and featuring motion-capture and vocal performances by Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright Penn and Cary Elwes.

1843. Christmas Eve. London, England. Ebenezer Scrooge (Carrey), a bitter, miserable and rude moneylender manages to suck the spirit out of everyone he works and meets, including put-down colleague Bob Cratchit (Oldman) and nephew Fred (Firth). Reluctantly shutting his shop for Christmas Day, he returns to his home, alone, to spend another festive season away from others.

But as night draws in, the ghost of former business partner Jacob Marley (Oldman), visits him and warns him that if he doesn’t change his ways he will suffer the same fate as Jacob in the afterlife; heavy chains weighing down his soul forged by his greedy ways. Warning him of 3 spirits that will visit him before the night is out, Jacob vanishes.

As the clock strikes midnight, so begins a night like no other for Scrooge as he is sure enough visited by the spirits: the Ghost of Christmas Past (Carrey), the Ghost of Christmas Present (Carrey) and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (Carrey), all who will show Scrooge the mistakes he has made, the legacy he has lived and the pain he has caused in an attempt to salvage him and become a changed man before it is too late…

One of the greatest Christmas stories ever written, and told in many adaptations over TV, radio and film, always manages to convey the real spirit of what Christmas is all about in a heart-warming and entertaining, simple way. This adaptation, via the imagination of Robert Zemeckis, following his 2009 motion-capture animation The Polar Express, combines that same dizzying 3D spectacle with nightmarish action, well-presented characters and a well-meaning narrative.

Jim Carrey is on fine form in motion-capture and vocal mode as Ebenezer Scrooge; wiry, mean and cantankerous to the best, almost looking like a man corrupted by the bitterness he embodies with claw-like hands, a bent frame and leather face. The animation is superb, with lots of detail to every hair, inch of skin and location we see. Mixed with a great vocal performance, this Scrooge I feel is one of the best and probably one of the closest interpretations to the Dickens original; coming over at times like an old beast rather than an old man.

With good support from a fairly British cast including Gary Oldman, Bob Hoskins and Colin Firth, the simple story isn’t lost amidst the made-for-3D action that we are treated to; flying through a beautiful wintery Victorian London, or around a snow-capped countryside or even down the dark and dangerous streets at night-time. This manages to capture the time in history perfectly and looks just the part, with the animation helping our characters bend the laws of physics for a fantastical tale that never puts the actors in danger as they fly, fall and fight.

For a story that nearly everybody knows so well, the way it is presented is key to staying fresh and current, and this is clearly the first 3D motion-capture adaptation giving us lots of nice touches that brings the story to life (literally) with great detail to all the settings we see; flickering candle lights, creaky wooden houses, furious snow falls.

While the film may not be generally suitable for younger viewers thanks to, once again, the love of nightmarish visions Zemeckis injects into these tales that seem innocent enough (we have laughing skeletons, terrifying ghosts who scream at the camera, feral children and demonic horses thundering towards the screen), maybe younger viewers should stick with the fluffy fun of The Muppets Christmas Carol.

But, on the whole, this is a nice 90 mins runtime and doesn’t change the foundations of the story at all. With a wonderfully rousing and traditional soundtrack that channels that festive spirit and a beautiful rendition of ‘God Bless Us Everyone’ by Andrea Bocelli, this offers a very authentic adaptation of a classic with fresh fantasy injected to take not just Scrooge on an amusing and dizzying journey, but audiences too.

JUMPCUT ALL THE WAY: The Polar Express (2004)

Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Cast: Tom Hanks, Chris Coppola, Michael Jeter, Leslie Zemeckis, Nona Gaye, Eddie Deezen

Written by Chris Gelderd

This 2004 American computer-animated Christmas fantasy is written, produced, and directed by Robert Zemeckis. It features the vocal and motion-capture performances of Tom Hanks, Daryl Sabara, Eddie Deezen, Nona Gaye, Tinashe, Peter Scolari and Jimmy Bennett.

In the late 1950s, on Christmas Eve, a sceptical young boy (Sabara//Hanks) is whisked away from his street by a magical train called the Polar Express, overseen by a strict time-keeping but friendly conductor (Hanks). On board, the boy meets other children including a know-it-all (Deezen), a recluse (Scolari/Bennett) and a kind-hearted girl (Gaye/Tinashe) who all become friends.

The conductor sees something special about the young boy and girl and as the journey takes many dangerous and exciting routes across, through and over mountains, ice-plains and the countryside, all three of them keep an eye on each other as they rocket towards their destination; the North Pole.

Once at the North Pole with the promise to meet Santa Claus (Hanks), the quartet become separated from the train as they sneak a look around the workshop, and eventually make their way out to come face to face with Santa, and our young hero must decide if he truly believes in the spirit of Christmas once and for all…

The first ever fully motion-captured film comes from the imagination of director Robert Zemeckis, adapted from the novel of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg. With such a creative and imaginative director at the helm, it doesn’t surprise you to see this is fantastical journey taken where laws of physics are ignored, and the thrills, danger and excitement is heaped on sequence after sequence where it is obvious in places this has been made to profit the 3D experience on the big screen.

However, this doesn’t lessen the enjoyment of top-quality animation and the creepy-realism of the locations, the train itself, the wisps of snow, smoke and ice and the characters themselves. All are all rendered via computer animation to the point they can be 99% real, but it allows the other 1% to be escapist, thrown into danger and fantasy with no real risk to anyone – except maybe young viewers.

It will capture the imagination on first, maybe second viewing, but gradually on repeated watches, you come to see that the first 45/50mins or so is basically one long, dangerous train journey. It is also quite scary, un-nerving and perilous for our young heroes – scary hobos appear out of thin air to be in your face with demonic laughs and grins. Scary puppets are present in the rear carriage of the train that seem to have a mind of their own. The train itself is a monstrous beast that thunders towards and over the screen, and also races along the edges of cliff faces, ice lakes and mountain peaks where, if you’re not totally at ease, can be more nerve-wracking for young viewers than intended.

It edges into Tim Burton-esque surrealism with creepy imagery, peril and lots of tense moments that fail to capture a magical train journey to the North Pole but rather a nightmarish and disaster-filled ride that easily demonstrates exciting animation but loses that festive spirit in the story. Even segments in the finale at Santa’s Workshop edges us into peril and disaster, offering visual thrills as we race towards a crash or collision but are saved at the last minute. The soundtrack saves the film in places it drags; a thrilling and enjoyable flurry of music that is exciting, rousing and very bombastic with a sprinkling of festive charm along the way.

Tom Hanks does a superb job in his various mo-cap and vocal roles to keep your faith present as best he can, but it’s the opening and closing moments of the journey and the finale at the North Pole where he shines brightest – that wry, warm and witty Hanks gives us characters that are likeable and heartfelt, and his range is clearly on show. Our other supporting cast of relatively unknown actors help lend innocence to the children in their discovery of faith, friendship and Christmas cheer, while the mo-cap performances are near perfect in rendition.

So while the journey is itself not as magical as it could have been, the finale offers a few tender moments, much needed calm and a feel-good cheer as we discover what it means to believe in Christmas and Santa Claus; much more than toys and treats, but more about simply believing in all that is good, decent and honest. The message in the closing moments does tug at my heart-strings as it’s a wonderful summary of what Christmas should always be about, and how important it will be to preserve the magic for younger generations to come in a society so close to destroying it with commercialism.

REVIEW: Disobedience (2018)

Directed by: Sebastián Lelio
Starring: Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, Alessandro Nivola

Written by Ryan Morris

There’s a coldness to the core of Disobedience, Sebastián Lelio’s new romantic drama film,  released months ago across the pond but has only just begun screening in a small number of UK cinemas this week. Its colour palette defined by greys and a general muteness, its characters bundled in coats and walking through clouded cities. Lelio seems to want us to fight to reach the heart of his film – a heart that is unquestionably there, just not always in reach. It makes for gripping, ultimately highly satisfying viewing, even if this battle to embrace the film’s emotional side threatens to hold you at a distance until you can break through the surface and revel in the surplus of complex feeling that awaits you underneath.

Rachel Weisz is Ronit Krushka, a New York City photographer called back to London when her father, a Jewish teacher, dies suddenly. Her return to her roots isn’t quite a happy reunion though, as we slowly come to learn than Ronit was shunned from the community for reasons not yet clear. As she reunites with former friend Dovid (Alessandro Nivola) and his wife Esti (Rachel McAdams), we begin to piece together the full story – Ronit and Esti once shared an attraction, a spark the community long thought in the past but very much one that threatens to reignite with their re-immersion into each other’s lives.

Lelio’s script, co-written by Rebecca Lenkiewicz and adapted from Naomi Alderman’s source novel, walks the fine line between preachy and powerful. Disobedience is tackling some weighty subject matter here, concerning itself with themes of religion, sexuality and identity, but the film never makes the mistake of landing as judgemental. It would be easy for Lelio to point the finger at the Jewish community at the core of the film, but he wisely sidesteps the wide-reaching blame in favour of his own characters, resulting in a piece more impassioned than it is accusatory. Ronit and Esti are instantly compelling people, and watching their connection grow from former flames catching eyes in a crowded room to a night of uninterrupted, unmistakeable passion as if the world is theirs and no-one else’s, is both engaging and moving. By avoiding an overwhelming sense of anger or judgment, Lelio finds something notably more personal and microscopic. It’s a relationship that feels lived in, one we desperately want to succeed, even if we know it probably isn’t possible.

This very much comes down to two main factors: the way the film shifts its thematic core as it progresses, and the lead performances from Weisz and McAdams. We’ll start with the former. Disobedience begins on reliable footing, as it pokes into the kind of themes already mentioned here. It quietly establishes the differences in sexuality between Ronit and Esti, exploring them as people within their attraction to each other. It spends time looking at Ronit’s rebuttal of religion, her adamant refusal to conform to what the Jewish community expects of her. It uses these two elements to mark her character, but allows her to be defined by more than that – her determination and her respect for those she cares for are the aspects to her character remember more clearly.

As the film pushes forward, though, Lelio starts to dive deeper into Esti’s marriage with Dovid, finding there a powerful, surprising contemplation on free will and the battle between the lives we ought to lead and the ones we want to. The film tackles such topics in thoughtful ways, dedicating ample time to Esti’s uncertainty rather than posing a simple question and having her confidently resolve it. Sometimes our choices are difficult and sometimes we don’t have all the answers, Disobedience understands this and embraces it. Watching Esti’s struggle here isn’t always easy viewing, especially coupled with a reveal that drops at the end of the second act and threatens to derail both relationships in her life, but it’s persistently riveting in how it portrays her journey. What begins on solid, if familiar, ground has unfolded into something more thematically complex and daring than we perhaps anticipated, and the film is all the richer for it.

Carrying the weight of such dense material are Rachels Weisz and McAdams, both of whom give stunning, deeply felt performances. McAdams is given the quieter role of the two, but she twists this calmness into something bigger than her own character. There’s a history to Esti that McAdams makes us feel, transforming her from victim to empowerment. Weisz has the showier material of the two, mostly due to Ronit’s fiery personality and the circumstances she finds herself in here, but she nonetheless demonstrates control and command. By turns dormant and explosive, Weisz leads from the front and finds a compelling protagonist in Ronit. Both women very clearly feel the burdens of their characters, and both use this to give performances that rank with the best of the year.

That Disobedience succeeds in finding an ending that both refuses to take the easy options and feels entirely satisfying is merely a bonus on top of what is an already rich, complex study of character. It’s perhaps easy to argue that the film lacks the confidence early on that it wears on its sleeve by the end, but this growth can be seen as fundamental to the narrative pathway Disobedience has chosen to charter – it binds itself to its characters and allows itself to reflect what they exude. This is an intelligent romantic drama, with more on its mind than simple “will they / won’t they” dynamics. It’s a story worth telling, told well. You can’t really ask for much more than that.

 

RYAN’S VERDICT:

4

JUMPCUT ALL THE WAY: Christmas with the Kranks (2004)

Directed by: Joe Roth
Starring: Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Aykroyd, Julie Gonzalo, M.Emmet Walsh, Cheech Marin

Written by Chris Gelderd

This 2004 American festive comedy is directed by Joe Roth and stars Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Aykroyd, Julie Gonzalo, M.Emmet Walsh, and Cheech Marin.

When young Blair Krank (Gonzalo) leaves for Peru in the Peace Corps after Thanksgiving, her parents Luther (Allen) and Nora (Curtis) agree to invest the thousands of dollars they usually spend in Christmas decorations, food and gifts to fund a luxury cruise; skipping Christmas in their local neighbourhood.

They start to become frowned upon by their neighbours, none more so than Vic Frohmeyer (Aykroyd), who takes charge in rallying everyone to decorate their houses to win the local prize for best decorations. Luther stands his ground after coming under pressure from Vic, community carol singers and even local children, all hoping for him to reconsider and keep the festive spirit alive.

But on Christmas Eve, hours before departing, Blair calls to reveal she is engaged and is en-route home with her new fiancé to spend Christmas at home once more. Nora is more than willing to drop the cruise and rally around for last-minute decorations, food and gifts to welcome her daughter home, but Luther will face more of a battle to convince others to help him before Blair arrives home to nothing…

Probably one of the few Christmas films that I think is ok every year before watching, but when I actually DO watch it I remember how poor it really is on the surface. It’s got everything you need for a basic, run-of-the-mill madcap seasonal film; the festive community, chaotic shopping sprees, decoration disasters, a picture-perfect happy ending with cranky neighbours and bitter families alongside slapstick chaos…but something about this film is done in a way that is more irritating and drab than others.

Most of the film spends time making you resent the community the Kranks life in, as the basis of the story revolves around how two parents, parted from their grown-up daughter, want to go away on a cruise for Christmas. Sounds nice. BUT we are introduced to cantankerous and creepy, stalker-ish neighbours, headed by a silly and wasted Dan Aykroyd, who spend a good portion of the time bullying, moaning and threatening the Kranks to make them stay around and decorate their home.

Basically, pushing them into something they have no right to participate in. The Kranks are a very irritating couple from the outset – frumpy Jamie Lee Curtis comes across as very screechy and very unstable. Tim Allen, who increasingly comes over like he is the King of Christmas Comedy (after his ‘Santa Clause Trilogy’), gurns, goofs and over-acts his way through this in a series of un-funny set pieces, dialogue exchanges and slapstick humour. 

With an irritating couple to start with, mixed with a creepy community, this doesn’t give you anything other than maybe a few chuckles as the mad-cap dash to escape Christmas ensues (it’s been done better), and then the finale of the film has it all reversed for a mad-cap dash to build Christmas (it’s been done better).

Very flat and clichéd supporting characters – the lazy cops, the grumpy old man, the cheeky children – give you something that is very un-memorable and rather un-funny unless you like your Christmas films to come over as very over-acted, very hammy and very tacky – festive films are usually a mix of all three, but there is usually a charm behind them. This has nothing like that.

JUMPCUT ALL THE WAY: Deck The Halls (2006)

Directed by: John Whitesell
StarringDanny DeVito, Matthew Broderick, Kristin Davis, Kristin Chenoweth.

Written by Chris Gelderd

This 2006 festive comedy is directed by John Whitesell and stars Danny DeVito, Matthew Broderick, Kristin Davis, and Kristin Chenoweth.

Massachusetts Christmas patriarch Steve Finch (Broderick) has a seemingly perfect family and social life, with wife Kelly (Davis) and two children all set to celebrate Christmas. However, new neighbours arrive that immediately disrupts Steve’s idyllic neighbourhood scenario; Buddy Hall (DeVito) and wife Tia (Chenoweth) and two twin daughters.

After warming to many in town, Buddy decides to take on a mammoth task – to decorate
his house with enough Christmas lights to be seen from space. This is met with great excitement in the community, but Steve is furious at the growing “noise and light pollution” Buddy starts to create, followed by sleepless nights and many bickering confrontations.

Their mini-war soon escalates, each trying to better the other in the eyes of the community with Steve trying to sabotage Buddy, and Buddy trying to humiliate Steve. But as they clash, it soon takes its toll on the families, and soon the two men are left to choose what is more important to them at Christmas; family or pride… This mediocre festive film offers lots of cheese in respect of acting, plot and gags- enough to turn your milk sour but still be watchable to the point of how bad it is, but how good it is because of it.

It’s typically predictable, setting up two warring middle-aged men who will use Christmas as a battleground for many slapstick confrontations, fights and disasters and will then be won over by a loving community and even more loving family. Everything else is just very tepid.

Matthew Broderick seems to think he’s funnier than he really is, and many of his pratfalls and witty one-liners don’t ever take off and they all come over as very wooden. DeVito, however, is quite amusing with his taunts and slippery ways of humiliating his enemy. A few amusing put-downs here and there make him watchable, but surrounded by two big boobs (and Kristin Chenoweth), it’s quite distracting when his wife is on screen.

The action (if you can call it that) is slapstick, and a checkbox of festive disasters waiting to happen which doesn’t set the bar, but it’s harmless enough for this time of year for 88-minutes.

REVIEW: Creed II (2018)

Directed by: Steven Caple Jr.
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Dolph Lundgren, Florian Munteanu

Written by Cameron Frew

“If he dies, he dies,” said Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) in Rocky IV, arguably the finest entry in the series outside the all-time classic original. It was a film that captured the essence of its time; the ultra-machismo, the air-punching music, a self-aware corniness, post-Cold War observations. But Creed II, the follow-up to 2015’s acclaimed spin-off, is a much different beast from its ancestor.

After Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) becomes world champion, Drago, the man who killed Creed’s father, and his brutish son, Viktor (Florian Munteanu) challenge him to a fight. Against Rocky’s (Sylvester Stallone) better judgement, Creed takes the bout, sparking repercussions that will affect his life at home with Bianca (Tessa Thompson).

Lundgren’s mournful icon opens the picture, from the frosty-blue filtered snowscape of Kiev, awakening his boy for what we can only assume a long, hard day of montage-worthy training. It’s not long before we see the terrifyingly hulkish Viktor, deftly handled by Munteanu, in action in the ring. One thing is established fast; Viktor shares one huge trait with his dad – a lack of compassion.

Director Steven Caple Jr, taking the gloves from Ryan Coogler, plays a tension-raising little game – we’re reacquainted with Creed and co fairly quickly (in a sneakily modest one-take). Rocky says to him: “Are you here to prove something to other people, or prove something to yourself?” The triumphant spirit that helped give the first film a surprising strength is back, but Caple Jr is keen to remind you that there’s definitely a storm coming, and there’s only so far a good man can go against someone “who was raised in hate”.

Stallone earned himself an Oscar-nom for the (formerly) titular role, and here he’s on similarly excellent form. There’s a really interesting narrative in play between him and Drago throughout; the latter broke things in Rocky “that ain’t ever been fixed”, but he also lost everything and was exiled by his wife – and country – following his homeland defeat. Lundgren is fantastic here, bringing a cautious vulnerability and real, hard vindictive streak in a fractured, immensely satisfying performance that makes these two titans meeting again feel more than an exercise in cheap memories.

The moral conflict is meaty; Rocky is against Creed fighting Viktor because of the past, because of how dangerous he knows Drago’s son is and, obviously, because he can’t face watching the son of the man whose life ended at the hands of his Russian foe, also die. But Rocky fought Drago out of guilt, so if Creed wants to fight his son after Drago has the brass neck to challenge him, can he be blamed? It’s a tale as old as time – testosterone firing on all cylinders. Thankfully, writers Sascha Pem, Juel Taylor and also Stallone keep the story rooted in harsh reality; Creed II is more of a story about finding oneself in the shadow of our parents, and the need to let the past go to become who you really want to be. That, and some tellingly obvious comments on toxic masculinity, takes this a little further than more surface-level genre efforts.

Thompson and Jordan are a fabulous duo that endures a heart-wrenching plight – the writing in this regard excels at not romanticizing their lives (aside from the dreamy L.A flat they acquire just like *finger snap*).  With the exception of a small number of truly moving moments, their narrative is filled with foregone conclusions. In fact, the film itself is excessively formulaic, almost going exactly the way any relatively clued-up moviegoer would predict.

But that’s the thing; Creed II only works if you’ve got skin in the game, if you have more than a floating investment. You need to care and believe in the stakes and the people. If you don’t, the clichés will hit harder, but if you do, there’s much to be enjoyed here as both a series veteran and newbie.

The fight scenes are intense and muscular, shot with a firm hand and never, as the trap less adept efforts fall into, disorientating to enjoy. However, the choreography is miles behind decades-earlier movies; not just Rocky, but also Raging Bull, or even Warrior in 2011. There’s a certain lack of distance afforded to the viewer, always cinematically in amongst it instead of taking a step back. In a boxing picture, that would seem like a detrimental flaw – but Caple Jr is slick enough to carry it off.

Returning to compose is Ludwig Göransson, who separates this work even further from its family tree, weaving the soundtrack with a hip, modernized flare that rarely taps into that classic theme (oh boy when it does, though), exhibiting a rare confidence in the culture of sequels. The music makes for a thrilling accompaniment to Kramer Morgenthau’s raw, evocative cinematography; a natural at both establishing the emotional range of an intimate environment and accenting a brilliant montage. A little more recognition of its roots would have carried it that extra stretch (don’t wait on Drago saying that famous line), but this is a cool, unruffled entry in a franchise that would be welcomed back again.

Gripping and poignant, Creed II marks the humble passing of the mantle. Just need Mr. T’s son for next time.

 

Cameron’s Verdict:

4

JUMPCUT ALL THE WAY: The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006)

Directed by: Michael Lembeck
Starring: Tim Allen, Martin Short, Elizabeth Mitchell, Liliana Mumy, Judge Reinhold and Wendy Crewson with Alan Arkin, Ann-Margret

Written by Chris Gelderd

This 2006 American festive film is directed by Michael Lembeck and is the third and final instalment in the ‘Santa Clause’ trilogy. It stars Tim Allen, Martin Short, Elizabeth Mitchell, Liliana Mumy, Judge Reinhold and Wendy Crewson with Alan Arkin and Ann-Margret.

With Carol Claus (Mitchell) expecting her first child, Santa Claus/Scott Calvin (Allen) decides to unite the families at the North Pole to help boost her spirit as their secrets prevent contact with many in the outside world. Ex-wife Laura (Crewson), her husband Neil (Reinhold) and daughter Lucy (Mumy) visit with Carol’s parents Bud (Arkin) and Sylvia (Margret), but under the illusion that they are really in Canada, and Scott is a toy manufacturer.

Meanwhile, envious by Santa’s popularity, Legendary Figure Jack Frost (Short) pretends to help Santa prepare for Christmas, but really starts creating chaos by sabotaging many of the workshops and machines, sending the families into meltdown with the stress Santa must deal with.

Frost manipulates Santa into the “Escape Clause”, a series of actions that alters time to undo his career as Santa and effectively leaves the position open, which Frost intends to steal and change Christmas forever. Only with Lucy’s help can Scott unite his family and re-take his place as Santa before it is too late, and Christmas is lost forever…

The gags and general content from the original film back in 1994 have drastically changed over 12 years, and the final chapter shows the signs. With the shortest running time, this has a very thin plot and tired looking performances that don’t really have the passion the original did.

Its breath of ‘cold’ air comes from Martin Short as Jack Frost, one of the newcomers to the films cast, alongside the amusing and cantankerous Alan Arkin, to inject some fun into things. With an over-the-top but suitably creepy turn as our villain, he gurns and grins and sneaks his way along as only Martin Short can; camp and amusing for all the wrong reasons, but hard not to love.

Tim Allen is clearly devoid of new material and does a basic job, with little heart and passion, as a manic, bumbling and often inept Santa Claus; his turn as Scott Calvin is always better as he gets the chance to do a little more than run around looking stressed. But by now there is little real heart and meaning in the film and just focusing on slapstick gags and very thin sentiment.

The effects are a little cleaner and the set design is always improving film after film with the North Pole now a town rather than just a small underground workshop, and it’s cute and cuddly and Christmassy, but everything else is just a little lazy with no real meat to get stuck into.

It just about avoids being as childish as the second, but still comes over as tired and a little lost for ideas, and it certainly wraps up the story of Scott Calvin effectively with a sugar-coated finale that is eye-rolling naff, but still sums up what Christmas is all about when all is said and done.

REVIEW: Dog Days (2018)

Directed by: Ken Marino
Starring: Nina Dobrev, Vanessa Hudgens, Finn Wolfhard

Written by Elena Morgan

Set in sunny Los Angeles, we follow the lives of multiple dog owners and their beloved fluffy pals. When these human and canine paths start to intertwine, their lives begin changing in ways they never expected…

Dog Days is in the same vein as Garry Marshall’s Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve and Mother’s Day. However, it doesn’t have quite the A-List cast those three films have, and instead of being set around one day, dogs are what connect all the characters and their stories. All the characters have dogs in their lives, and a lot of them find romance and friendship thanks to their furry friends. There’s Nina Dobrev’s TV host who meets a former NBA player and Vanessa Hudgens’ barista Tara who fancies the sexy vet who works across the street, while Finn Wolfhard’s pizza boy helps an elderly professor find his lost dog. There’s a lot more characters and plots than that but if I listed them that’d take up this whole review.

Contrary to what the film’s title might suggest, the focus of Dog Days is on the humans rather than their canine counterparts. The cast all give decent performances and those whose character’s stories involve a romance, generally they have good chemistry with their love interest. The characters themselves are all pretty cliché and there’s no characters that stand out, for good or bad reasons. The various character’s stories are incredibly predictable but sometimes it’s nice to watch a film that’s nice and fluffy – in more ways than one!

Dog Days is a rom-com with dogs. The romance can be sickly sweet, and the comedy is a bit hit or miss with most jokes merely raising a smile rather than a proper laugh, but all in all it is satisfyingly sentimental. I’m a soppy dog lover so naturally there were a few moments that made me tear up, and there was one moment in particular that made me cry like a baby. In amongst the romance and friendship drama, these characters all love dogs and the relationships they build with their four-legged friends does tug on the heartstrings.

Elena’s Verdict:

3

 

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