The Search For Santa Paws is a G-rated new-to-DVD release from Disney, packaged with Blu-ray and regular DVD discs, plus bonus features.
The trouble with being a film critic is that when you come across an innocuous kiddie film, you keep thinking of better films aimed at that age group. My first question at the end of The Search for Santa Paws was why did Disney put its honored name on it? It lacked charm, performance, or anything that would resemble a film budget. Even the dogs, the elves and the lead little girl were dull.'
Here's the story. A good friend of Santa's, a toy shop owner who only made a penny a year beyond expenses, dies, kind of bringing a downer to Santa's birthday party. The dead friend has bequeathed a stuffed dog to Santa and a crystal. Once you put the magic Christmas crystal around the toy's neck, it comes to life. (Santa has one of those crystals, as well – it's magic.) So, Santa takes a special trip to New York with his new bestest friend, Paws the toy-turned-real-life puppy. But things happen. Santa gets an amnesia bump on the head and Paws gets lost then found by a little orphan girl (think Annie).
Santa ends up working as a toy store Santa for a couple who need to learn the meaning of Christmas (think Miracle on 34th Street). Amid these trials and tribulations, we learn the true meaning of Christmas – and that would be, "Isn't it amazing what can happen when we spread love and kindness" (think every direct-to-video with "Santa" in the title). Now, for those who think there might be a yuletide prayer or a mention of Jesus' birthday, remember this is a film aimed at everybody – not just those who think this is the time of year when we give thanks for the birth of the Savior of the world. It's about Santa, not Jesus.
Some in the Christian community may have a problem with the film's plot device, crystals used to represent the power of light and life. With the New Age popularity of crystals as a healing and meditative element, to which many people devote religious energy, some may feel the subject matter might be confusing to adolescent minds, and possibly intriguing to their older siblings. Since there is no affirmative biblical instruction concerning the use of crystals as a healing element, and because sorcery and the occult are frowned upon in both New and Old Testaments (Leviticus 19:31, 1 John 4:1), those who study God's Word can only question where the true power source of these crystals comes from, and, therefore wonder if such an element should be incorporated into a film about the Christmas holiday.
Of course, maybe we should defend the crystals as symbolic in this film, that they are being used as metaphor concerning the true life force – Christ. Yeah, that's probably what the filmmaker had in mind (he said, tongue stuck in cheek).
Putting that whole crystal thing aside, the film is fairly harmless, despite the fact that while it's aimed at the very young, kids may be spooked as we see children mistreated by a wicked foster mother, Santa is seen struck by a car, and a little girl nearly gets burned up in a furnace.
The production values look like a 1970s Saturday morning TV series by Sid and Marty Krofft, the songs (oh, yeah, it's a mini-musical with about four or five unmemorable tunes evidently choreographed by Stevie Wonder), and the sentiment is as real as flying reindeer. But, in its defense, The Search For Santa Paws is not a complete waste. It's still better than the recent Marmaduke (another movie with talking dogs). Oh, did I forget to tell you, the dogs in Paws talk via CGI effects? What will they think of next?
Lest you (or Disney Studios) think that I'm the Grinch who stole Christmas movies, let me highly recommend the soon-to-be-released theatrical film Tangled, a delightful fairytale, a perfect movie!