Like a kid opening presents on Christmas, there is no greater disappointment than tearing off the wrapping paper and discovering that your parents didn’t put much effort into choosing the gift – receiving a generic MP3 player with a limited capacity of 16 songs instead of the desired brand or a misaligned SpongeBob plushie labeled as a “Rectangle Friend” due to poor assembly. Although it’s technically what the child asked for, the gift lacks the authentic quality that was hoped for. Something just doesn’t feel right.
Viewers of Dashing Through the Snow, a family comedy that was in development at Disney for six years with Kevin Hart attached, are left with a general sense of disappointment. Despite being released on the streaming platform Disney+, the film lacks authenticity and feels rushed or incomplete. While technically meeting the criteria of a movie by using fast-paced images to create the illusion of movement, it lacks essential elements that make a story believable. It seems as though important scenes were cut and replaced with dialogue explaining actions that were never shown. It is possible that director Tim Story had to make changes and could not gather the entire cast for reshoots, resulting in scenes with body doubles facing away from the camera. Whatever the reason, the final product has a feeling of insincerity, similar to a toy made with hazardous materials.
In the beginning of the story, a young child confides in a mall Santa about his father leaving, which the mall Santa sees as an opportunity for theft and ultimately gets severely beaten by the child’s mother’s new boyfriend. In the present day, the now grown Eddie (played by Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) has a negative attitude towards the holiday season, but in his role as a social worker and father to Charlotte (played by Madison Skye Validum), he is all about peace and kindness. He is reintroduced as he talks down a potential jumper by bonding over their love for red potatoes, making him a likable protagonist in this light-hearted tale where even Santa’s flatulence smells like cinnamon. It’s possible that Bridges has shown gratitude to a waiter at a Mexican restaurant or made a handshake faux pas, but this is likely the most uncool thing he has ever publicly done.
However, he maintains a professional demeanor for a job, despite lacking the basic skills to fully succeed. The same can be said for Howery, who gives it his all in his role as Nick Sinterklaas, even though it is not his forte. Along with the optimistic Charlotte, he teams up with the doubtful but cooperative Eddie to uncover a bribery scheme involving a local congressman (Oscar Nuñez) and his associates (Mary Lynn Rajskub, Marcus Lewis, and Ravi Patel). There is a sudden appearance of an incriminating iPad in Nick’s possession, with a brief explanation that refers to events that are not revealed until much later in the film. This reveal is treated as a surprise, even though it was hinted at earlier. However, it doesn’t quite add up, just like Nick’s powers which seem to be all-knowing when convenient but have limits when needed for the wandering plot of their wild night out.
This sturdy fruitcake has its own points of interest: a lively musical performance comparable to Kurt Russell’s “Jailhouse Rock” in The Christmas Chronicles, Kevin Connolly (known for his role in Entourage) as a top-hatted steampunk elf, and a climactic fight scene with subpar CGI reindeer and forced reaction shots that represent the mindset of “we’ll fix it in post.” However, these elements are all crammed into an inadequately put-together attempt to entertain parents in need of distractions during school breaks. This lackluster production offers no deeper understanding of the holiday spirit aside from the basic concept of it being good and believing in its magic. (Sorry, Luda, but yes, there is a Santa Claus.) Like many other seasonal products that rely on cheap sentimentality, this film’s sappiness masks a cynicism towards low standards and taking the easy way out. Just as in gift-giving, it’s the thought that counts, and there isn’t much thought put into this film.
The movie “Dashing Through the Snow” can now be streamed on Disney+.