I’m officially sick of the defense, “Oh, but it’s just a kids’ movie. You shouldn’t be so hard on it.”
The genre shouldn’t immediately dictate the intelligence level. Just because a movie is aimed at children of a certain demographic, doesn’t mean the filmmakers are given a pass to simply give up on everyone else. It’s all rooted in laziness, itself borne out of some strange kind of genre entitlement (“I’m beneath these kinds of movies!” I’ve heard a writer complain). Every filmmaker worth a damn, no matter what genre he’s handling, can make something that EVERYONE can at least sit through.
Not all the filmmakers of the following fall into that bubble I just blew. But then again, some do, and I swear I can see their resentment of the material practically goring out of my television, the sloppy, writhing chunks of hateful mediocrity slowly dying in piles on the floor before me. An army of way-too-proud check-cashers collectively patting my kid on the head and saying, “Tanks fuh watchin, ya’ little dummie!”, all the while torturing me for being the fool who actually PAYS FOR IT.
And I’M the one being hard on THEM?
Anyway, the following ten movies had three easy things to do: Tell a story; Show cute dogs doing cute things; and convey the spirit of Christmas in some way.
THEY FAILED. All of them.
10. PRINCESS POOCH 2: THE MYSTERIOUS CHRISTMAS (2009)
When the first Princess Pooch was released in 2007, it gave Angela Lansbury a decent payday, and was a bona-fide sleeper hit. Furthermore, it was briskly paced, crisply directed, and actually had an air of slight mystical charm about it.
But no one really cared. And no one was ever clamoring for a sequel. Especially a bloated, half-hearted sequel to a story that needed no continuation. Concerning the “bloated” criticism, there is no reason why a movie called Princess Pooch 2: The Mysterious Christmas should be 137 MINUTES LONG. Even Angela Lansbury (replaced here by Betty White, and not for the better) couldn’t have saved it from being a total and calamitous bore.
Taken all of this into consideration, PP2TMC could have been a lot worse. Its laughably “dark” tone is enough to keep things lively, at least for awhile. And Edward Gelbinovich’s ever-angsty Jakey Millnew is always a hoot.
9. 12 CHRISTMAS WISHES FOR MY DOG (2013)
This one is guilty of a few heinous crimes, chief among them being the title, which is an absolute farce. Very misleading moniker indeed, given that the dog here is used as mere window dressing, with none of the film’s feeble plot points turning on the darling little pooch. The other crime is utterly wasting not only the terrific Fred Willard, but also Michael Gross, who hasn’t been wasted this prominently since the last time he was wasted in a Tremors flick.
Seriously, though, stay away. Hardly any dog action here at all!
A young married couple can’t pay their mortgage, so they abandon their house in the suburbs, also leaving behind a Golden Retriever and her six puppies. Animal control comes and scoops up the mother dog, unaware of the puppies’ existence. Now, the puppies must try and find a way out of the house and back to their mother before they die. Pretty uplifting stuff, right? Enter a crew of pre-teen video-game-playing home-invaders who want to sell the pups for a lifetime supply of “game and candy money.”
This one gets extra garbage points for its aggressively creepy and poor lip-syncing of the dogs. Even Disney has a hard time making this kind of thing look natural and not horrifying. So don’t expect a company like The Asylum to somehow perfect the technique.
7. SANTA PAWS 2: SANTA PUPS (2012)
I wasn’t going to include this one, but the opportunity to include the sequel to a spin-off of another spin-off of another movie was just too much to resist. Oh! The sweet, heavenly mind explosion! Think about it. Air Bud begat several sequels, eventually birthing the spin-off Air Buddies, which itself spawned a slew of follow-ups, leading up to Santa Buddies, which then spun off into Santa Paws. And now we have Santa Paws 2: Santa Pups! Woof! Woof! Lap it up, kiddies!
6. DUMPLETON EATS! THE CHRISTMAS FIX (2011)
Okay, well…We knew that eventually we’d get a Dumpleton Eats! Christmas movie. That was a forgone conclusion after Dumpleton Eats! The Thanksgiving Show was a God damn success (people, please stop!). And, we further knew that it was going to be terrible. Because if there’s one thing that the Dumpleton Eats! franchise has been consistent at, it’s that they’re always bad. So here we are, getting our Dumpleton Eats! Christmas movie at last. Sorry to say, but we deserve it. The story here is essentially the same as it was in Dumpleton Eats! Graduation Dinner Time, Dumpleton Eats! The BBQ Bandits, and the aforementioned Thanksgiving outing: The Denny’s are frantically trying to organize some fancy meal around an occasion in their lives, and foster dog Dumpleton shows up to wreck the proceedings, but ultimately eats his way into their hearts.
This time around is extra painful for a few reasons. For starters, there is way too much eating! What little story there is takes a back seat to repeated close-up montages of Dumpleton sloppily feasting on whatever he can get his gross mouth wrapped around. Also, this is the most pathetic portrayal of Santa I’ve ever seen. Dan Aykroyd, as a homeless and intoxicated man in a Santa disguise in Trading Places, had more genuine thought and concern for preserving the jolly one’s dignity. This Santa is a sad, growling, petulant man-child, who seems to delight in starving animals.
In addition, can anyone explain to me why a virtually plotless film needs to have this many characters? Seriously, there are dozens of supporting characters here. And a lot of them have 1 or 2 lines, tops. But we’re introduced to every single one as if they’re going to contribute something later. Nope! The filmmakers just really, really want you to know who their friends are, I guess. It makes for a very claustrophobic picture.
5. CHRISTMAS IS FOR THE ‘BURBS: THE CURSE OF QUEENIE’S GHOST (2005)
In terms of classic bad Hollywood decision making, this poorly conceived follow-up was the perfect storm. From conception to completion, nothing went according to plan. It was never released theatrically after test audiences were so reviled by it. Hanks, usually so careful with his career choices, infamously accepted the offer to reprise his role as Ray Peterson while in the throws of a methamphetamine binge. After he signed on, every one else soon followed, save for the newly retired Rick Ducommun. This one shouldn’t be too hard to stay away from, as it’s only available through the rarest of bootlegs.
4. THE ADVENTURES OF BAILEY: CHRISTMAS HERO (2012)
As a dog, Bailey is a pathetic and irrepressible douchebag. And as a Christmas hero, he doesn’t disappoint, either. But Bailey’s meek mischief-making is only par-for-the-course in this truly dreadful Yuletide offering. You know you’re in for the most rotten of treats when one of the opening title cards carries a glaring typo.
Anyway, the gist is that Bailey, a rambunctious pooch, exposes his rotten, rambunctious ways in front of Santa himself, in a scene that reaches for all kinds of something, anything, to engage our senses.
The film is full of scenes exactly like that one. It’s really incredible once you start to think about it.
3. JOEY’S CHRISTMAS BLANKET (2013)
Mike Rowe looks positively confused throughout this whole movie, like he was genuinely not sure how he came to be involved with it at all. I’m not sure what he thought he was getting into when he signed on for a movie called Joey’s Christmas Blanket, though.
Joey is a dog who lives on the streets. His only friend in the world is a Christmas blanket. When Joey gets rescued by the overachieving and chipper Martin family, his blanket gets left behind. Joey, however grateful for having a home, can’t help be depressed about losing his best friend. So it’s up to Mike Martin, the family patriarch, to help Joey get his blanket back in time for Christmas.
This movie is deadly dull, and incompetent to the extreme. Establishing shots are nowhere to be found, and aside from Mike Martin, no one else in the movie has a first name! Seriously, look at these credits!
Plus, the poster is incredibly misleading. For starters, that is NOT the Martin family. That is not even Mike Rowe! It’s just his head plastered on some other guy’s body. Other notable cosmetic differences are, in no particular order: Joey is a French Bulldog in the movie. His Christmas blanket is much dirtier in the movie, and is a solid red blanket with a tree embroidered in the center. AND, the most glaring difference–the posters says “Family fun!” That was NOT in the movie, either.
2. HEADLESS FOR THE HOLIDAYS (2010)
Creepy…CREEPY! And so stupid! Dog Sparky (named “Willie” in the film?) pees on a gypsy/scientist’s (Lloyd, never worse) leg. In retaliation, the gypsy/scientist concocts a potion/curse/spell thing that causes Sparky to wake up Christmas morning without his head! If he doesn’t find his head before midnight, he’ll be headless forever.
95% of this movie consists of people encountering the headless dog, screaming like idiots, and running away. Seriously, NINETY-FIVE PERCENT!
Does Sparky get his head back by the end? WHO CARES?!?! This dog is a jerk anyway.
1. HERCULES SAVES CHRISTMAS (2011)
One need only watch THIS scene to know what they’re in for with Hercules Saves Christmas:
Or THIS one:
Uuuuuuuuuuuggggghhhhh… I won’t bother you with a plot synopsis here. Just know…This movie is for your most hated enemies, and is easily the worst of all the bad Christmas dog movies.
Now that I think about it, though… I’m not sure there is such a thing as a good Christmas dog movie. Oh well.