Santa Buddies: The Legend Of Santa Paws [Blu-Ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Jeremiah Chin (7th December 2009).
The Film

Puppies are cute. Scientific fact. Retired advertising executive Dan FitzSimons understood this fact, meaning that people love to look at puppies do whatever cute little things they do and thus created “The Puppy Channel” in 1997 to give people an opportunity to just completely shut down all rational aspects of their brain and stare at puppies at any given time 24/7. Due to bandwith, production costs or other reasons the channel of nothing but puppies and relaxing music lasted only 4 years, documented in an episode of “This American Life” in 2003, but my theory is that puppies get tiresome. Apparently Disney has had different results, or at least hasn’t reach the 4 year puppy capacity that puppy-centric media has. After the success of their “Air Bud” franchise (1997-2003), it seems like an older dog performing strange athletic feats with great ability wasn’t enough. The world needed something more, it needed talking puppies solving real problems. And thus the “Air Buddies” spinoff was born in 2006 from the puppies bred from the wunderkind sports dog Air Bud. Now in their fourth adventure, the ‘Air Buddies’ have to save Christmas, not from anything really malicious, but by bringing some Christmas spirit through their… puppy-ness.

In the North Pole, Santa Claus (George Wendt) and his dog Santa Paws (voiced by Tom Bosley) go to look at the Christmas icicle that contains all the Christmas magic created by belief, only to find it is melting more rapidly than they can handle. The only way to slow down this warming process is to have Puppy Paws (voiced by Zachary Gordon) discover the true spirit of Christmas and restore belief in the world. Unfortunately Puppy Paws tires of the responsibility of his destiny and seeks a normal life. After finding Budderball (voiced by Josh Flitter) on Santa’s naughty list, he hides in the back of Santa’s chameleonic mail truck and stows away to some small town in Washington State where he tries to fit in with the Air Buddies. At the same time there’s a fairly sinister dog catcher (Christopher Lloyd) who snatches up stray puppies in the town and then keeps him in his private pound to resell for $300 a dog.

As a Christian allegory the story is essentially “The Last Temptation of Christ” (1988) meets… well puppies. Burdened by the responsibility of his destiny to save the world, Puppy Paws seeks a normal life, free of his father’s preordained existence, as he is prone to the mortal temptations such as gluttony, vanity, impatience, and unseemliness exhibited by the Air Buddies. If you think I’m reading too much into it, you’re a little right. But only just. The film has so many blatantly Christian allegorical points it’s sickening, bringing an almost religious zeal to a movie about talking puppies that like Christmas.

What’s buried in all of this though is a heaping portion of subtle and old-fashioned Disney racism. There are no black, asian or otherwise non-‘white anglo-saxon protestant’ people in this town. Well, with the exception of the black butler who is seen on screen in the kitchen only whistling a jaunty tune and cooking for Budderball’s family. And the one black child in town who gets to sit on Santa’s lap for a few seconds. When Santa Paws makes his trip around the world, he hits all the major parts of the world, well that is except for the Middle East, Asia, South America, Africa and Canada. Basically just Europe, Australia, Japan, Mexico and the United States, with a brief excursion to Jamacia where they apparently live in tin houses with dirt floors, not exactly how I remember my Dad’s childhood home in Kingston, but I guess Disney knows best. Even when Eli the Elf (Danny Woodburn) gets his mail van ready to tour the world, he show’s off it’s chameleon abilities by activating the India camouflage that brings about some sitar riffs, a turban and a stereotypical accent. Nice.

Other than using my brain during the movie, the film is just plain creepy. These aren’t just talking puppies like in “Homeward Bound” (1993) who talk to other animals, these things’ mouths move like people and even talk to humans in creepy voices. They sing Christmas songs about a Christmas miracles and offer up prayers in thanks for food they discover in trash cans. And these mouths are terrifying, creepy, and fairly cheaply done. With the lack of real story or anything significant in the movie, these effects are done on the cheap and just operate on puppy logic, meaning that puppies are cute, therefore you will watch this movie.

For some people that’s enough, one of my younger sister sits through the “Puppy Bowl” on Animal Planet every year since she was 8, just because puppies are cute and she likes to watch them. My puppy-meter breaks once these puppies start talking, I’m scared; I’m not looking for some sort of “Summer of Sam” (1999) breakdown. Though bringing in John Turturro couldn’t hurt. If anything the movie leaves me with a feeling of sadness for Christopher Lloyd. I wish I could get a Delorian and 1.21 gigawatts of power to travel back and tell him that something has to be done about his future. Some miracles just aren’t meant to be, since despite my wishlist I still watched “Santa Buddies” and it just wasn’t good, though I did have a few laughs after sitting down to watch it with some friends.

Video

This little ‘Christmas miracle’ is displayed in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio with 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoding at 35 Mbps and shows off a fantastic transfer on poorly put together content. The mouths and effects on all the dogs are more creepy than cute in the transfer as you can see the blatant repeating frames and poor greenscreen cutting around the fur with a medium range feathering filter around the dogs. All of the CG environments and animals that go along with the transfer are borderline terrifying in the crystal clean transfer, with a super low budget production value that brings down the entire visual quality of the film.

Audio

The main audio track is an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track with 48kH/24-bit encoding. Again another huge waste of a good track, the voiceover dialogue sounds out of place and has a varied audio quality in contrast with the mixing on the rest of the film. Combine that with wacky sound effects and terrible original songs to make for a poor audio experience from the original composition and mastering in spite of a nice quality transfer.
There are also French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround tracks, along with English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish subtitle tracks.

Extras

“Santa Buddies” thankfully comes equipped with a breif amount of special features across the 2-disc set including sing along songs, a music video, instructional video, bonus trailers and BD-Live access.

DISC ONE:

The sing along songs can be played together for 3 minutes and 33 seconds or individually described below. Each is simply a collection of scenes of the buddies singing a song some karaoke style subtitle tracks on each sing incase you want to sing along. They include:

- “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” runs for 1 minute and 14 seconds
- “Deck the Halls” runs for 59 seconds
- “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” runs for 1 minute and 10 seconds

The music video is for “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” which runs for 2 minutes and 33 seconds, covered by Steve Rushton and featuring the biggest emo combover mullet I’ve ever seen.

Finally is the “Learn how To Take Your Favorite Movies On the Go: Disney File Digital Copy” instructional video which runs for 1 minute and 4 seconds.

Bonus trailers on the disc are:

- “Dumbo” which runs for 1 minute and 23 seconds.
- “Toy Story 3” runs for 1 minute and 52 seconds.
- “Ponyo” runs for 1 minute and 40 seconds.
- “Disney Movie Rewards” runs for 15 seconds.
- “Disney Blu-Ray Disc” which runs for 1 minute and 12 seconds.
- “G-Force” runs for 1 minute and 36 seconds.
- “Beauty and the Beast Diamond Edition” runs for 1 minute and 42 seconds.
- “Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue” runs for 1 minute and 39 seconds.
- “The Princess and the Frog” runs for 2 minutes and 33 seconds.
- “Disney Parks” runs for 32 seconds.

Finally there is access to the Disney BD-Live network through the player that grants access to a bunch of other trailers and ads for Disney related products. This feature us profile 2.0 only.

DISC TWO:

This is simply a DVD version of the film, with all the same special features, except for the BD-Live access.

The only additional feature is “Dylna & Cole Sprouse: Blu-Ray is Suite!” promo spot which runs for 4 minutes and 45 seconds, advertising blu-ray.

Bonus trailers on this disc are for:

- “Dumbo” which runs for 1 minute and 16 seconds.
- “Toy Story 3” which runs for 1 minute and 45 seconds.
- “Ponyo” runs for 1 minute and 32 seconds.
- “Disney Movie Rewards” runs for 20 seconds.
- “Micky Mouse ClubHouse Mickey’s Choo Choo Express” runs for 40 seconds.
- “G-Force” runs for 1 minute and 36 seconds.
- “Wizards of Waverly Place Movie” runs for 49 seconds.
- “The Princess and the Frog” runs for 2 minutes and 33 seconds.
- “Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue” runs for 1 minute and 39 seconds.
- “Disney Blu-ray Disc” runs for 1 minute and 2 seconds.
- “Disney Friends for Change” runs for 32 seconds.
- “Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam” runs for 39 seconds.

Packaging

This disc is packaged in a 2-disc Blu-ray case housed in a cardboard slip-case.

Overall

The Film: F Video: C+ Audio: B- Extras: F Overall: D+