Hello, Spongey here.
Christmas has come and gone, and we’ve come close to the end of 2015. It’s weird to see a year end, but more reflection will come tomorrow. For a lot of people, those Christmas blues have set it again.
But that doesn’t happen too much for me. It’s always sad to see Christmas go, typically I’m too busy with the happy stuff it brought me be too worried. Plus, my plans for the next year get me too excited.
Since next year will be very special for reasons that will be known tomorrow, I’ve been just as hyped for the year to end, as I was for Christmas. Not to mention that the film I have to review for the week after Christmas is actually good!
Last year this slot was filled with a Christmas DCOM, I figured we’d finally do the last one we have to do. I find it odd that their shows make a bigger deal over Christmas than Halloween, but their movies are the other way around.
Anyway, of the two big classic Christmas DCOM’s, this one is known less. I think it’s only because The Ultimate Christmas Present has Brenda Song while this one has no Disney stars.
Because of that, UCP has prime time slots every year while this gets 2 am showings, although Disney xd did it show it prime time this year. And I keep getting more proof that xd is better.
While I had only seen some of UCP before I reviewed I, I have seen this one before. I even started doing a review for it way back in DCOM-cember! But stuff lead to me just ditching it so I can cover it properly.
And you know what? I actually like it more than UCP. Why? Well, we’ll get into it. While I get Disney ignores this one, I don’t get why this hasn’t gotten some kind of cult following, due to the interesting star it is.
But we’ll get to that. Released in 2001, this would be the last Christmas DCOM until Good Luck Charlie, it’s Christmas, 10 freaking years later. Hopefully we won’t have to wait til 2021 for the next one.
Our director is the man behind the 90’s Dennis the Menace movie. Of our 3 writer, one did nothing, one did the DCOM Genius, and one did Jack the Giant Slayer. Got nothing witty to say here.
So to close out the year, let’s see what makes this one so solid.
This, is Twas the Night
The movie opens with narration.
“Twas the night before-
ROLL CREDITS IN THE FIRST LINE. …Sorry, had to point how amazing that is. This guy is our hero Danny, giving us his own version of the titlular poem.
“There he was, right there in our house!”
But of course he’s getting ahead of himself, in order to hook us in. Hey, we didn’t just start in a boring way, like most DCOM’s. We truly begin the day before Christmas, He continues to narrate as a charming way to give us exposition, although it kind of ends abruptly.
Danny is so busy with an early 2000’s computer game that he only just now realize it’s Christmas and he needs money to buy gifts, or do something else that will be explained. The former brings up some logic problem.
He solves it insanely quickly by selling his brother some old junk, which Mom is not happy about. Apparently they think Danny was shaking them down even he was just offering him stuff in exchange for money.
I imagine Peter could have said no if he really didn’t want anything. We learn that Danny gets his morals from Uncle Nick who is the black sheep of the family. Wait…Nick…as in…St Nick?
…Eh, that’s kind of clever.
“He’s a con artist”
Well, if you wanna put it bluntly…
Danny goes to his room and thinks about what Nick is up. And yep, we cut him, and he’s played by Bryan Cranston. Yep. This isn’t too shocking given this is 2001, but still just ….amazing.
Bryan Cranston is in a Disney Channel movie. Why has no one made a big deal out of it? Every jokes about Malcom in the Middle, but not just? This is actually even funnier in terms of the role here vs Breaking Bad.
But don’t get too excited, this is Disney Channel, it’ll be pretty different from his most famous work. We see him captured by bad guys who are pissed they got swingled out of money.
Actually, maybe this would belong in an episode of Breaking Bad.
Nick rather joyfully explains what he did with the money he wrongfully got from them and he’s already amazing. Hey, there is a reason he got cast in that show to begin with.
The details are pretty complicated, but the important thing is that Nick has a plot device on his laptop that they need. I just love how much of a shift this is from typical DCOM’s antics, and again, it’s funnier if you realize he close this is to something that could happen on Breaking Bad.
He is told that they need their money by Christmas or he is toast. Well, we already have some decent stakes and a rather…different plot than you see in most Christmas movies.
Also, the villains are enjoyably lame.
With the bad guys guy, Nick has to go as far away as possible to avoid his punishment. This leads to a a chase scene set to a pop-y Christmas song, because…yeah, we need it I guess.
He hides out at a store, and puts on a Santa outfit he finds as a disguise. …Uh, one hit on the head and this will be too close to Santa with Muscles for my liking. …Actually, that would be amazing.
He escapes that random bad guy that started chasing him for some reason, but he naturally needs to play the part of Santa due to his disguise. …That doesn’t stop him from running away anyway, but whatever.
For his next act of desperation, he hits up Danny’s house.
“St Nick, today”
Thanks for explaining the joke.
Nick bonds a bit with the family and of course Dad is all grumpy and the kids have no idea why he’s like this. Don’t worry, this is a case where they have-wait, you saw what shit he does, you already know he’s bad enough to warrant this!
A step up from Johnny Tsunami, at least.
“I think he’s trying to amend fences”
Not sure what repairing fences has to do with anyt-oh…figure of speech. Got it. At least it wasn’t a pony show for girls teaching me that phrase this time.
Nick and the kids talk about the existence of Santa, which is pointless given we know he’s gonna pop up soon. The parents have to do go do stuff that night, and are forced to leave the kids alone with Nick.
This turns out as well as it sounds like it will.
With that, we cut to that night as Nick tries to us computer tech stuff to do….money things, which goes south as the bad guys hack the device and brag about it. Damn, I hate it when Disney Villains are smart!
Thankfully, he has a big virus that wipes our their singal….with every other computer within 5 miles. And Santa just so happens to use one and thus, plummets to the ground.
Gotta love how sudden this happens. We know Santa exists, so might as well cut to the case. The noise this causes wakes up Danny and startles Nick. Suddenly, time pauses and Santa comes in.
Yes, here he pauses time to do his job. I can’t remember if this was before or after the Buzz Lightyear episode that did the same thing. Santa is here to take care of the whole virus problem, which he takes care of very easily.
I agree, way too easy. But of course, there’s plenty more to take care of in this plot. Since he’s here, he may as well deliver presents. However, it turns out Danny has been on the naughty list for a while, mostly due to Nick’s influence.
Now this is an interesting angle, and it becomes more interesting later. His device screws up and time unpauses, making his presence known. Thinking it’s a crazy guy, Nick knocks him out.
Man, Santa is pretty accident prone if specials like this are any indication. Still not as dumb as dying from falling off a roof. The two bumble around a bit and discover Santa’s device, which can do a bunch of different stuff to help out.
So yeah, kind of like the stuff he did The Santa Clause, with shrinking and stuff. Now the men have discovered the real Santa Claus and aren’t really too shaken up by this. They are more shocked that he’s knocked out and can’t do his job.
Nick discovers the time freezing part of the device, and another part of it takes him to Santa’s sleigh on the roof. This makes him so happy he wrigns his hands like a bond villain!
There’s an image for you, Walter White vs James Bond.
He goes back to Danny and unpauses to solve their problem. If you watch as many Christmas Specials as I do, oyu know what they gotta do. Yep, they must step in for Santa!
It seems a bit odd to Danny, but Nick assures him that this can work because Santa’s Sleigh happens to have a mechanism similar to something Danny uses. This whole virus thing proves his Santa using science is never a good idea.
Without further hesitation, the men take the sleigh and head off. Why doesn’t Santa’s sleigh have any security to prevent people from taking it? Whiel haven’t the elves back at the North Pole check in at all?
They drop in at their first house, which belongs to a naughty girl. Because she’s naughty she gets…an ant farm. …Yeah, instead of coal, they get bad gifts. That’s pretty damn cruel I must say.
Actually, that does make think about certain scenarios. What if someone was naughty, but was real into barbecuing and ASKED for Coal to use as charcoal? What would he do then?
- have a lot of time on my hands.
As it turns out, Nick is only doing this to rob people’s houses, like the jerk he is. Now he seems pretty damn terrible….but honestly, Bryan Cranston’s performance keeps him kind of likable, because he’s just that darn charming.
Maybe the redemption isn’t the greatest, as we shall see, but he is a fun jerk for the moment. Also, someone go write a You’re a Mean Mr Grinch Parody about Walter white.
While that is going on, Danny looks at the naughty list and finds he out his naughty due to “shaking down his brother’. Even Santa can’t tell the difference?!
This causes a bit of a dilemma with Danny, which is pretty darn interesting. Yes, the movie mostly focuses on this theme and we’ll get deeper into it as we go on. Nick tells him Santa is full of shit, so they just move on.
Back at home, the brother and sister find Santa knocked out and tie him up, bringing us back to what was hinted at earlier. They aren’t sure if this is Santa but he proves himself pretty quickly.
They figure out pretty quickly that Danny and Nick must have taken the sleigh, although Santa likes to think Danny really wants to honestly save Christmas. Nick being part of it doesn’t please him all, though.
Now the situation is pretty dire and we have our basic plot, with hints of themes. Pretty decent I must say. Oddly this slightly cliché premise is more interesting than snow in a hot location via a machine.
Also, you gotta love how the movie is talking about all this new fangled tech that Santa is using. His sleigh is computerized and kids send him their lists through a website. It’s like the writers are so amazed by 2001 technology.
I also how Santa here. He’s a bit out of it, being an old man in 2001, and it’s kind of amusing.
They need a computer to take down a computer, so the plan to go to the computer store. While that is going on, Nick and Danny arrive at the house of a naughty kid who just has temper issues.
So Danny gets him a punching bag so he can work on his issues and become less naughty. Huh, that’s an angle I didn’t think about. Giving naughty kids a way to get better. Granted, I think the parents should help a bit more with that but that’s a nice idea.
Seeing this inspires Nick to go into his obligatory sob story about how he never got what he wanted for Christmas, and he knows it was because he was naughty. But with the kind of stuff Danny is doing he could have been better.
They just move on here, to let that sink in, which is very nice. That’s how character development works. Even if you have to set time aside, you can still do it gradually instead of rushing it.
Anyway, Santa and the kids end up in a bad neighborhood, as he asks some hoodlums to move. Oh god, the concept of this part alone is amazing. I love how naive Santa is here, even when they give him some shit.
Eventually he gets tired of their crap, and tickles them into submission. Now that is fantastic.
This gets Santa some respect and they help them get to a computer store. I don’t think this is mentioned again, so this is just…an odd but obligatory diversion. Again, big tough guys are almost always nice in specials like this.
Anyway, Nick suggests switching the Christmas dinners of the homeless shelter and a big rich mansion, to even things out. It just hit me that this is kind of the lair revealed….but in this context, it will be interesting to see the sad part later.
The kids get a hold of the most advanced computer ever, which is amusing for obvious reasons. They plan to use it to take over the sleigh, which will show just how shitty Santa’s security is. Any old joe can hack it?
To be fair, this is the first time he’s doing this, so not everything will be planned out perfectly. Danny suggests cutting the power, then turning it back on so they can get control back.
Again, first time, I can let it slide.
This works, which puts Santa and the kids in a pretty bad place. Santa is now planning to put Danny on the naughty list for life, and he will make sure The Easter Bunny never gives him an eggs.
Weird how many specials put Santa and the Bunny together before Dreamworks/William Joyce got it.
So Nick and Danny stop at the mansion, as Nick continues to be a charming douche. And of course, here’s we get the inevitable moment where Danny catches Nick in the act. Oh boy, here we go.
“That’s it, we’re done”
Well okay, that was an abrupt end-oh….wait…
Jokes aside, this moment does work because it’s not too overblown compared to other stories like this. Although Nick could be a bit less ..weasel-y as this is going on. I suppose that kind of works, as this is the moment where Nick seems to choose himself over his nephew, so they can go mope and dope for a bit.
Indeed, Nick stays behind while Danny tries to go fix this Santa mess. Speaking of Santa, he’s pretty much lost all hope. The little brother suggests Danny will give him his sleigh back and say he’s sorry.
“That’s not too likely to happen”
Guess what happens. Just guess.
Well, first Danny crash lands, but the general joke is the same. They immediately get to fixing the sleigh, while Danny tries to deeply apologize for his actions, and vouch for Nick. It’s a pretty nice moment, actually.
Speaking of Nick, it’s time for him to have his change of heart. The bad guys from earlier appear, and wow, I genuinely forgot about them. I think they should have been a minor threat throughout the film, as not to just be as sudden as it is in the film right now.
Anyway, they are headed for Danny’s house, and Nick catches wind of this. Yep, time for a slightly forced action climax! Back at home, Santa starts to get really depressed, and I must say I love sad Santa. You really feel for him here, as he rants about how crappy everything is.
“Maybe I’ll get this old carcas to Florida, let Rudolph rub sunblock on my back-‘
Whoa, keep your private life Private, if you know what I mean!
With that, the bad guys show up and when they refuse to back off, Santa tries to tickle again but the muscle of the group won’t budge. I’m not sure what to say to that, so I’m glad Nick is back to save the day.
I would prefer it to be an actual change of heart, and not just him coming here due to cliché danger.
This is where he pretty much admits he was wrong and all that good stuff. He’s able to take care of the big bad easily due to his shrinking device. Eh, figured that would be big plot device In the end.
With that, the bad guys all flee. Well, that was anti climatic.
Santa thanks him and everyone hugs it out, but the sleigh is still broke, so we’re not quite done, of course. Don’t worry, the solution is insultingly simple: It gets powered by Nick’s laptop!
Man, these writers have a fetish for technology at this point.
With that, Santa is finally ready to go after this big adventure, and he thanks everyone for their help.
“I think I’m going to have to reconsider this whole naughty and nice tradition. It’s not as black and white as I thought”
And that’s where our big theme comes to a head. It’s a rather nice take on it, I think it. Nothing is ever black and white, as not everyone is just flat out bad for no reason.
For Disney, that’s a pretty good lesson to teach, even if it’s not done perfectly. Santa leaves, and I suppose we’ll end here, maybe after one quick bit. That’s how these movies work, after all.
Wait, with credits we have quite a few minutes left. Enough to have a proper wrap up….nah.
Nick wakes up on Christmas morning and of course everything is all happy. Yes, Nick gets that gift he asked for, because predictable. Eh, it’s still satisfying. We get a few nice minor bits, as well as a bit of Nick trying out his gift, before Danny chimes in with his narration.
“Twas the morning of Christmas, The end of our tale. Santa brought all the stuff back, my uncle Nick didn’t go to jail. And I’ve learned the best gifft of Christmas, comes at no price. It’s to be with your family, whether your naughty or nice. So that’s the end of our story”
Yeah, you already said that.
“Merry Christmas, everyone”
The end. ….Wow. Did we seriously just get a proper wrap up that is satisfying and shows the development of the characters properly? It may be slightly abrupt but still does it all correctly!
Holy crap, it’s a Christmas Miracle. It’s not perfect, but this is EXACTLY why I bitch about this stuff. Because you can just do what this film did and just do something small ,but satisfying.
But whatever, let’s wrap it up.
As a whole, this film is flawed, but still pretty decent. I suppose we should get the flaws out of the way first. Aside from minor things like the tech talk and the plot holes, the biggest issue is regarding Nick.
He mostly works, but he’s not really given much development. We don’t find out exactly why he is the way he is, we just get a hint and he changes at the end. That’s about it. Given the moral, I would have liked for them to go even deeper
Some bits are also a bit forced and cliché. Your enjoyment of the film will depend on how much of this you can let it slide. If you appreciate the other elements enough, you can forgive this but if this bothers you too much, you may dislike the movie.
I get that, and as you can tell, I can forgive that. I like pretty much everything with Santa here. He himself is charming, and I like the angles they take with his mythos and themes. They go into the naughty/nice thing and how nothing is ever black and white.
It could go deeper, but it’s still a Disney Channel Movie after all. The moral itself is good enough to carry the film.
On top of that, there are some amusing moments, and Bryan Cranston is very charming in this, making his jerk character somewhat likable. And top it all off, it avoids an abrupt ending!
While it’s not a perfect holiday film, it’s still enjoyable with interesting ideas and morals, and some charming performances. I like it more than Ultimate Christmas Present because the execution was just more interesting, even if that one was a bit funnier.
This film deserves a cult following, even if only for Bryan Cranston. It’s nothing amazing, but it is worth watching for those nice moments. Not in my top 10 DCOM’s, but still very much worth your time, if you have time for it next year.
Overall, it is a solid flick that has a few problems, but makes up for it with interesting ideas and one charming actor. It’s a solid watch overall.
And that, my friends concludes 2015 in terms of reviews! It was…not my best year, but I had plenty of fun. Be sure to stick around for 2016, because it will be….very interesting. Find out why tomorrow as I’ll look back at the year gone by. That should be fun.
As far as reviews go, how shall I start 2016? With another YA Movie!
….2016 is already shaping to be rough.