Tuesday, December 16, 2014

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS... (...as told by ABC FAMILY): DAY 3

Because of my impeccable taste, for 353 days I watch only the most sophisticated and enriching of entertainments. But during the holiday season, I have made a tradition of finding the worst possible Christmas-centric TV movies (usually from the powerhouse film factory at the ABC FAMILY network), getting loaded on bourbon, and watching third-rate basic cable actors teach us all about the meaning of the holiday. These are the reviews of those movies.


Hey, Tom Cavanagh! He's great!

Already this is not so bad. I mean, it's not good, but it's not totally painful.

We start with foxy Zookeeper Sandy, played by an actress I've never seen before, but my beautiful bride tells me that she apparently was a girlfriend to "Ted" on a show called HOW DID I MEET YOUR MOTHER? She's perfectly charming. No complaints.

Sandy lives in a boarding house with a sassy black child and a sassy elderly couple. She has some Christmas Sad that isn't ever quite explained, or if it was I missed it. Even though this movie wasn't offensively bad, it still went on way too long, and somewhere in the second hour it's possible I started putting dishes away. So far, three movies in, the one thing I'm noticing is that all of these movies are way too long. Too many subplots, too many wacky comedy set-pieces, too many third act arguments. I've never seen so much hung onto plots that offer so little.

Cut to the North Pole! Tom Cavanagh is apparently Santa Claus! But he's a normal Canadian guy named Nick. The whole premise, you see, is that Santa Claus is not the bastardized version of an orthodox Saint, but a genetic trait passed from father to son. So Nick is the latest Santa, and you have to swallow that to keep moving. A reindeer escapes, is shot with a tranquilizer by the Bad Guy, and "Nick" has to go to southern California to rescue him. And we're off!

We meet the Zoo Security guard, who is doing an admirable Barney Fife riff, the Bad Guy (whose deal is never quite explained; he's a big game hunter that also works at the zoo, I think?), and the bigger Bad Guy, who is the most ridiculous EVIL RICH GUY I've ever seen on film, complete with dastardly cackle and slow burn cigar lighting moves. He also looks so much like Larry Flynt that I had to check IMDB to make sure ABC Family hadn't cast the famous pornographer in a cameo. 

Tom Cavanagh is really great on THE FLASH, by the way. He took a character that could have been wildly stupid and made him work on so many levels. For my money, he's the best part of that show. In SNOW, he is much "wackier", but he has some very sweet chemistry with sassy black kid and foxy zookeeper. Hell, he has great chemistry with the rescued reindeer. There's a funny running gag about he is very concerned about all the kids he meets and if they are naughty or nice, which could have been creepy, stupid, or both, in anyone else's hands. The ending is telegraphed from minute one, but I am learning no one watches ABC Family for subverted expectations. This is in the "foxy girl learns to love oddball because Christmas" category.

There's a lot of wacky hijinx, and some "fish-out-of-water" silliness, but it all actually had me sold by the end, despite dragging in the middle. With any other cast, this nonsense would have been so flipping hokey as to be unwatchable. But the leads are great, and Tom Cavanagh puts the hard sell on some deeply dumb material. The supporting cast does a pretty job, and despite some dicey CG reindeer effects, there's way worse things to have playing in the background as you drink spiked eggnog, and bullshit with friends while unwrapping gifts.

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