The Search for Santa Paws (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
November 11, 2010 by Dennis Amith
In the spirit of the original “Air Bud” films, “The Search for Santa Paws” features a return to a storyline about the human/canine relationship, the Christmas spirit and an easily accessible and enjoyable storyline that will easily appeal to both young and old. Definitely a Blu-ray release recommended for families over the holidays!
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TITLE: The Search for Santa Paws
FILM RELEASE: 2010
DURATION: 96 minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz/24-bit), French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English sDH, French, Spanish
COMPANY: Keystone Entertainment/Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Release Date: November 16, 2010
Directed by Robert Vince
Written by Robert Vince and Anna McRoberts
Produced by Anna McRoberts, Robert Vince
Music by Brahm Wenger
Cinematography by Kamal Derkaoui
Casting by Lorna Johnson
Production Design by Michael S. Bolton
Art Direction by Roxanne Methot
Set Decoration by Shirley Inget
Costume Design by Jori Woodman
Mitchel Musso as the voice of Santa Paws
Josh Flittner as the voice of T-Money
Zachary Gordon as the voice of Paws
Richard Kind as the voice of Eddy
Bonnie Somerville as Kate Huckle
Danny Woodblum as Eli
Richard Riehle as Santa Claus
Patrika Darbo as Mrs. Claus
Chris Coppola as Gus
Michelle Creber as Taylor
G. Hannelius as Janie
Pete Gardner as Franklin
Jonathan Morgan Heit as Jimmy
Nicole Leduc as Meg
Kaitlyn Maher as Quinn
Wendi McLendon-Covey as Ms. Stout
DISNEY’S THE SEARCH FOR SANTA PAWS is an exciting and uplifting movie from director Robert Vince about the power of giving and the true meaning of Christmas in the tradition of Disney’s classic holiday tales. This big city adventure for the whole family reveals the how the legendary friendship of Santa Claus and Santa Paws began.
The spirit of “Air Bud” and the “Buddies” continues in the latest Disney family feature “The Search for Santa Paws”.
For those who have watched the “Buddies” films (Note: buddies are the children of Buddy the Golden Retriever, the star of the “Air Bud” films of the ’90s) in the past three years , “The Search for Santa Paws” is a departure from the Buddies films in that the Buddies are not the main characters.
Last year’s Buddies film “Santa Buddies: The Legend of Santa Paws” introduced us to Santa’s canine helper, Santa Paws. For this new film available on Blu-ray and DVD, the buddies are not the main stars but this time, the focus is on Santa Paws. The storyline unlike the Buddies films focus more on the human and canine relationship that the original “Air Bud” films were known for but also incorporating some “Buddies” mischief as well.
“The Search for Santa Paws” takes place days before Christmas. Santa Claus (played by Richard Riehle, “Office Space”, “Glory”, “The Fugitive”) has received a letter from a dear friend, Mr. Hucklebuckle who had passed away. Mr. Huckblebuckle owned a toyshop in New York and dedicated his life to spread the Christmas cheer to the children. Accompanying the letter was a present he had given to Santa, a stuffed animal of a white dog.
Meanwhile, in New York City, aside from the Santa storyline, two other stories take place.
James (played by John Ducey, “Jonas”, “Deep Impact”) and Kate Huckle (played by Bonnie Somerville, “The ugly Truth”, “Bedazzled”) are a couple from California. James is the son of Mr. Hucklebuckle but shortened his name. The two are in New York to get the keys for the Hucklebuckle toy shop, which James intends to sell. But there is one stipulation, James must run the story for one Christmas season before the deed can be transferred to him.
James is eager to get home and get back to work in Los Angeles where he is a busy CPA. But if he wants the deed and sell the property, he needs to agree to the stipulation in which he does. We also learn that both he and his wife have not been able to have any children.
The second storyline focuses on a new orphan named Quinn (played by Kaitlyn Maher) who is arriving to the new orphanage ran by the very cold (and mean) Ms. Stout (played by Wendi McLendon-Covey, “Reno 911!”). Quinn runs the orphanage with strict rules and expects the older orphan Willamina (played by Madison Pettis, “Phineas and Ferb”, “Game Plan”, “Cory in the House”) to show Quinn around the orphanage and explain to her all the rules.
Willamina often visits Hucklebuckle’s Toys to look at the bike that she dreams of getting as a gift. But she knows in her heart that it’s a dream. Especially since Ms. Stoud doesn’t allow such things, even toys in her orphanage. In fact, when Ms. Stout catches toys from the kids (even toys given to them by their deceased parents) she burns them.
Meanwhile, due to the sadness of the passing of Mr. Hucklebuckle, Eli the elf (played by Danny Woodburn, “Santa Buddies”, “Employee of the Month”, “Passions”) and friends want to make Santa happy and so they take him to the magic crystal which brings life to the stuffed dog. Santa immediately names the new puppy Paws (voiced by Mitchell Musso, “Hanna Montana”, “Pair of Kings”, “Phineas and Ferb”) .
But due to the sadness in New York, Santa Claus feels he needs to stop by and bring some holiday cheer. Accompanied by Paws, while the two are walking in New York City, a taxi cab nearly runs over Paws and hits Santa. Not only has Santa lost his memory, a man named Gus (played by Chris Coppola) steals a crystal that belongs to Santa (the crystal that Santa wears keeps him immortal, while the crystal that Paws wears, keeps him alive).
Now walking around in New York City with amnesia, Santa finds himself walking into Huckleberry Toys for some reason and immediately, James and Kate Huckle think he is a man who has come to the toy shop for Christmas work and become an in-store Santa. Santa with no recollection of anything, has agreed to take the job and become Santa Claus and for some reason, goes by the name of “Bud”.
Meanwhile, both Willamina and Quinn end up going to Huckleberry Toy Shop to look at the toys but because of her dreams never being realized, Willamina doesn’t believe in Santa, while Quinn is a big believer. Quinn gives her Christmas wish to Santa and wishes for Santa to give Willamina a bike so she can truly believe in Christmas and also dreams of a puppy for the children for the orphanage.
Meanwhile, as days past, the presence of Bud has shocked both the Huckle’s as many people have lined up outside the store for him and it becomes a phenomenon that even captures the attention of the local news. But as each day passes, Santa gets sicker and sicker by the day.
As Paws continues to search for Santa, he ends up meeting Quinn and uses magic to show her that Santa does exist. Quinn would like to help Paws but because of how strict Ms. Stout is, she doesn’t know how to go about it. Meanwhile, Eli finds out that Santa is missing and finds out that a man named Gus has his crystal. Eli begins to worry because he knows that Santa will not be able to live long without that crystal and its imperative to get to him soon or else he will die.
Will Eli and Paws find Santa before its too late?
“The Search for Santa Paws” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1). “The Search for Santa Paws” is a vibrant and colorful film. From Santa’s workshop with the amber colored lights and red and green uniforms, toys around the workshop, one of the positive reasons why I enjoyed “The Search for Santa Paws” is that it has the spirit of the old “Air Bud” films in which the film is shot in various locations. One of the negative aspects of last year’s “Santa Buddies: The Legend of Santa Paws” was the use of CG for nearly everything and it didn’t look good at all.
This time around, we get to see Santa in New York, sleeping on the subway benches, walking in traffic and on Blu-ray, the film captures the whole city village during Christmas time quite well. Skintones are natural and even closeups of Santa show the red cheeks and detail of his curly beard to the fur of the dogs. A good amount of detail this time around and I didn’t detect any artifacts, combing or any significant problems while watching the film. Blacks are nice and deep and for the most part, the film has been given a quality Disney presentation on Blu-ray.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“The Search for Santa Paws” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz/24-bit), French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. The film is center and front-channel driven. I did notice crowd ambiance for the surround channels but for the most part, the film is front channel driven and because it is dialogue-driven, you’re not going to see too many action moments throughout the film. But for the most part, dialogue and music are crystal clear and detected no problems with the audio.
Subtitles are presented in English SDH, Spanish and French.
“The Search for Santa Paws” comes with the following special features:
- The Huckleberry Hero – (6:54) Rosebud does a special feature about the new pups being introduced in “The Search for Santa Paws” but presented in a T-Money storybook.
- Sing-Along – Watch “The Search for Santa Paws” via “Sing-Along” (think “karaoke”).
- Music Video – (2:24) “Deck the Halls” music video performed by “The Suite Life” actress Debby Ryan.
- Deleted Scenes – (11:50) Deleted scenes from “The SEarch for Santa Paws”.
“The Search for Santa Paws” comes with a slip over cover case and also comes with a DVD presented in Widescreen (1:78:1 – enhanced for 16×9 televisions), English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital and subtitles in English SDH, French and Spanish.
Having reviewed the “Air Bud” films and also the “Buddies” films, I have to admit that as an adult, “Santa Buddies: The Legend of Santa Paws” was probably the film I enjoyed the least. While I have no doubt that young children loved the film, I just felt that technically, things just didn’t look so good and the screenplay was just kitschy. Granted, I’m an adult and “Buddies” films are targeted for children but having watched previous Buddies film, “Santa Buddies” was good for toddlers but story and presentation-wise, I felt the film was a bit-lacking.
Now here we are with “The Search for Santa Paws” and while not a “Buddies” film, I felt that director and producer Robert Vince took things back to the basics, back to what made films like “Air Bud” so successful and that is capturing the human spirit but most of all, the Christmas spirit. The film was written quite well and it should appeal to families not just children. Also, the fact that the film was shot in various locations and not all CG, was a plus.
In this film, we have a family who are unable to have children, running a Christmas toyshop over the Christmas season. We have orphans who are treated meanly by the orphanage director and then we have a Santa who is slowly dying day-by-day. The film has a lot of emotion from sadness to happiness, the joy of Christmas is explored through others suffering and one can only hope for a happy ending and both writers Robert Vince and Anna McRoberts definitely make sure that young viewers are given that happy ending.
It also helps the film when you have recognizable Disney stars included in the cast of “The Search for Santa Paws”. Danny Woodburn reprises his role from last year’s “Santa Buddies: The Legend of Santa Paws” but you also get Hannah Montana’s Mitchell Musso, “Jonas” TV father John Ducey, “Corey in the House” actress Madison Pettis and one of the sweetest child stars Kaitlyn Ashley Miller who played a very effective orphan.
“The Search for Santa Paws” comes with a Blu-ray & DVD. Both picture quality and audio quality is well-done in HD and although there are not many special features included in this release, there is the “Buddies” tie-in with T-Money showcasing the new dogs featured in the film and Disney fans of “The Suite Life on Deck” get to see the musical debut of actress Debbie Ryan singing her rendition of “Deck the Halls”. I would love to have seen more special features on this Blu-ray release. For a Christmas release, perhaps interviews with the cast members, those who did the voices for the dogs but pretty much the usual number of extra special features that many people expect from Disney releases.
Overall, “The Search for Santa Paws” is a film that will appeal to families looking for a new Christmas film to show their younger children but also a film that parents can watch alongside with their children and enjoy it as well. It also helps that a DVD is included with the Blu-ray release, so parents planning a long commute during the holidays and want something safe and fun for the children to watch during their travels will be satisfied with “The Search for Santa Paws”.
Definitely recommended for the holidays!
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