When It Says MarVista, It Has to Be Good
And by “Good” I mean probably very bad. Hopefully, wonderfully bad.
If you watch many of these made-for-TV Christmas movies, especially if you are watching the ones that wind up on Peacock or Tubi or other free viewing platforms, you know MarVista. MarVista is a Los Angeles based production company that provides financing and creates original content. MarVista product winds up everywhere – Liftime, Netflix, Hallmark. They are connected to some relatively classy Christmas movies, like Lifetime’s The Christmas Setup, which I reviewed earlier this year; and Every Other Christmas, which was my (unironically) favorite film from the first holiday-rom-com-athon. But they are also behind the worst of the worst. I have watched these movies in their entirety, and reviewed them, but just watching the trailers will communicate how bad movies like Merry Kissmas, Christmas Mail, A Dogwalker’s Christmas Tale, or A Puppy for Christmas really are. Also, MarVista Christmas movies are obsessed with dogs. I consider this a plus, because in the worst movies you at least have a cute dog to look at, but it’s definitely part of their schtick.
Hallmark movies produced Crown Media (Hallmark’s original entertainment arm) have, traditionally, had a bland, workmanlike quality. The crews know how to operate lights and cameras, the actors are often boring but proficient. But MarVista has funded some absolutely disastrous movies. Movies clearly made people who are just learning how movies are made. The results are wildly uneven. Sometimes they are offensive, as in Merry Kissmas, sometimes unintentionally disturbing, as in The 12 Pups of Christmas, a movie in which the female lead is giving off strong “Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction” energy. But every now and then low budget gods smile upon us and the end result is something so delightfully incompetant that it becomes a truly polished….hunk of coal. I was going to say something else, but you get the idea.
I tell you all of this because this past week I had the pleasure – and it was a pleasure – of watching a MarVista-funded film that was one of the best/worst movies I have ever seen. It brought so much Christmas mirth to my daughter and I, and I just can’t recommend it highly enough. Read the reviews below and you’ll know which one I’m talking about.
Addendum: Just last week, Fox Entertainment acquired MarVista for $100 million. What will this mean for our ability to access MarVista’s catalog all over the place? I have no idea. Fox was partly tempted by MarVista’s “efficient” business model for churning out original content. Way to set the bar high, Fox! Looking forward to what this will mean for Tubi, where Fox plans to put that business model to use in the creation of original content.
FUNDRAISING UPDATE: Just a reminder that this is all about the Benjamins. We’ve now passed $2300 donated toward our adjusted $3900 goal for asbestos remediation in our friend’s home. If you would like to help us out by making a donation, you can find me on Venmo (@Sharon-Autenrieth), PayPal (@sharonautenrieth1) and the Cash App ($SharonAutenrieth).
(For the record, I have watched 20 Christmas movies from the MarVista catalog.)
Entry #26: A FURRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS (2021)
DIRECTED BY DYLAN VOX
Janel Apps Ramsey is the Co-Director of Brew Theology, a group that meets in pubs (and on Zoom) to talk about theology, philosophy, and social justice topics. They also have a podcast. She also does Interfaith Climate work. She loves Fiona the Hippo and washi tape, and lives in Denver, CO.
Watched: December 5, 2021Our Romantic Couple: Dr. Scarlett Miller (Kristi Murdock*) and Dr. Josh Foster (Jonathan Stoddard)
Their Meet Cute: Met at the local small town drug store (old fashioned everything store) over a box of cereal.
Plot Synopsis: A NYC vet goes home for the holidays to see her father, a small town country vet. She is used to serving high end clients, but quickly ends up delivering a calf when she gets home. She meets her love interest (a NYC raised doctor who fell in love with small town Vermont) right at the beginning, and they continue to get to know each other through “random” circumstances. After a few days together, it’s clear there is something more there, and …. (don’t want to spoil the ending.)
Star Power: There wasn’t anyone I recognized off hand. Kristi Murdock is an up and coming actress. Jonathan Stoddard has been in soaps, several TV shows and movies. Michael Swan (Mitch) was a soap opera star. Pono Say (Milo) seems to just be getting started.
110% Award: Kristi really carried the weight of this movie. She showed up for every scene and helped establish the story. Her co-stars did well. It was clear this was a small cast movie. I think her presence and acting was what helped keep it moving. It seemed to me they were doing this during COVID restrictions and I feel like they were able to pull off a pretty convincing story even with those limitations.
Observations: This is clearly a lower budget movie. There are just a few locations and much of the action takes place at Mitch’s house. This movie is focused on conversations, recollections, and hopes for the future. For the most part, it works. There are a few pieces of clunky or kitsch dialog, but for the most part, I enjoyed listening in on their lives.
I think they did a great job of capturing the tension that many GenXers are feeling (even though the main character seems a little young for this) about how to best take care of their aging parents. Mitch (Micahel Swan) is about to retire and wants his daughter to move back home to take over the business. All she ever wanted was to prove she was more than a small town girl. While eventually her choice seems to depend on the love interest, the exploration of caring for an aging parent is definitely an integral part of the story.
I do think they tried to stuff a little too much into this story. And honestly the “great misunderstanding” would have taken about 5 minutes to fix and, and because of the rushed ending/amount of ads, it seemed unnecessary. I would have much preferred and honest conversation about the future, then the over-reactive blow up around making a big decision. (However, the blow-up did reflect how sometimes this kind of pressure can make things go sideways; which is more honest than most Christmas movies.)
The kids’ Nutcracker was a little much too. I think they could have dropped that or the Josh as Santa scenes and the movie would have been fine.
Overall, I thought it was fun. I think if you’re looking for a BINGO candidate, this is your movie. Less flashy than some movies, it does encourage you to think about how our choices shape the course of our lives and how sometimes those choices can be challenging. Hopefully, for most of us, we don’t have to make them with 5 days warning but, sometimes real life is like that too.
Grab some hot chocolate, a blanket, and your favorite pet as you watch the story of a big city vet contemplating a small town future.
One Last Thing: Scarlett does momentarily resist the happy ending we’re all expecting. They call out the cliche and say a few things that are often left unspoken in regards to the expectations around women in these stories. While it could have been a little more subtle, I think it was good to include.
Technical Issues: One disappointing thing was that the sound editing was, I assume, incomplete, or they didn’t get good recordings. In the last third of the movie there were several places where it was hard to hear dialogue and where the music was out of balance with the rest of the scene. I hate that it reflects badly on the actors, because they were doing a great job. The technical side needed more attention.
Ads: If you watch this on Philo, be prepared for massive interruptions. The ads were stacked toward the end of the film. So, as you got to the most tense parts, you would get 3 minutes of movie and 3 minutes of ads. Honestly, it damaged the suspense of the ending because there was no way to get into the story. They really needed to do this differently.
Location: I do not believe this was filmed on the East Coast.(It was not.) This was very Rocky Mountain looking to me. (IMDB says Colorado.)
BINGO? Yup!! Filled in all but nine squares on the card.
*Kristi is a friend of mine and inspired me to watch the movie.Available on the Philo by UPtv.
Entry #27: YES, VIRGINIA, THERE IS A SANTA CLAUS (1991)
DIRECTED BY CHARLES JARROT
Justin Mory is a bald, bespectacled, middle-aged man who feels that a lack of ambition and absence of accomplishment is the best, or at least most readily available, form of social protest. His preferred form of travel is forgotten books, classic movies, and old TV. A firm Groucho Marxist, although in practice more of a Harpo Marxist, Justin would never belong to a club, group, or organization that would have the likes of him for a member, but is by no means outspoken about the fact.
Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus is a 1991 ABC TV movie-of-the-week starring Charles Bronson, Richard Thomas, and Ed Asner. As the familiar title suggests, it is based on the famous editorial, written uncredited by reporter Francis Pharcellus Church, which appeared in the September 21st, 1897 issue of the New York Sun in response to a letter from an eight-year-old girl named Virginia O’Hanlon. “Is There A Santa Claus?” went the late nineteenth century equivalent of ‘viral’ and quickly became one of the most reprinted journalistic pieces in American history.
Bronson, in quite the departure from, say, the third Death Wish sequel (1987), plays Church as the embittered, drunken, even suicidal newspaperman who has recently lost his wife and infant child to a pneumonia epidemic. On the other side of the city, dock worker James O’Hanlon, as played by Richard Thomas (John-Boy from the first six seasons of The Waltons), loses his job after he and a fellow Irish immigrant dump a racist co-worker into the Hudson River. Finally, O’Hanlon’s daughter Virginia (Katharine Isabelle) is made fun of by some jump-roping friends for still believing in Santa Claus.
No, it’s not a very merry Christmas. But fortunately the spirit of the season inspires Virginia to pose this Santa Claus problem to her father, who suggests she writes a letter to that beacon of truth The Sun; where editor Edward P. Mitchell, played by Lou Grant himself, Ed Asner, assigns the question to none other than Francis P. Church (Bronson). Initially nonplussed, the hard-bitten reporter finds a baby rattle buried in the snow of Central Park and so also finds the imaginative key to unlocking 250 words past “Yes, Viriginia, there is a Santa Claus…”
There’s also a kindly German postman who gives Virginia the one-cent postage for mailing her letter to the newspaper, a Jewish widow who ‘accidentally’ cooks an extra pot of stew for the impoverished O’Hanlon family, and an overenthusiastic office boy who uses the word “humdinger” a lot. Despite that character’s infectious overuse of the word, Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus is far from a humdinger, but it is mild and inoffensive holiday fare, made somewhat palatable by giving Bronson an opportunity to throw at least one punch. (I think it must have been written somewhere in his contract.) In fact, there happens to be a lot of fisticuffs in this movie, Thomas’s O’Hanlon being of the Fightin’ Irish variety, apparently – the aforementioned dock-scene, a later barroom brawl, he even foils a robbery outside a restaurant where he is waiting for yesterday’s copy of his beloved Sun – and his period-contemporary (and name-checked) aspiration towards Gentleman Jim Corbett and John L. Sullivan is a curious inclusion for a Christmas movie aimed at the family crowd.
But then, it does get O’Hanlon employment as one of New York’s Finest by the end of the film, allowing the film to employ one more cultural and historical stereotype: that of the Irish Cop. Oh, and I’ve gotten this far in the review without even mentioning the film’s romantic angle. Besides the photograph of his late wife Church carries around in his musical gold watch, admiring female reporter Andrea Borland (Colleen Winton) at one point finishes one of Church’s articles, in his inimitable style, no less, when he is passed out drunk at a nearby saloon, and seems to follow him about the city to his favorite haunts – the saloon, his wife’s grave – to see that he doesn’t get into too much trouble. Church even compliments her “tailing” ability.
In all, if anyone was ever curious what A Charlie Bronson Christmas might be like, this made-for-TV movie, shot in Vancouver – doubling for historical Manhattan – and oddly having given the stunt workers and fight coordinators of SAG-AFTRA a nice working vacation in picturesque British Columbia, will fulfill that burning desire. Also, there’s Ed Asner in his peerless wheelhouse as the gruff but kind newspaper editor – where Thomas’s O’Hanlon fearlessly foils a robbery with his fists, Asner’s Mitchell more subtly foils Bronson’s Church’s gas-grate suicide attempt with his wits – and of course he did play Santa Claus in 2003’s Elf. So while the question of whether or not there is a Santa Claus remains even after Francis P. Church crafted his famous answer, we as viewers can bask in the Sun-lit glow of there having been a definitive Ed Asner. Good acting, no matter where one finds it, is a Christmas gift that lasts the whole year.
Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus is streaming for free on Peacock (and free would be the only way I’d recommend watching it).
Entry #28: NEXT STOP, CHRISTMAS (2021)
DIRECTED BY DUSTIN RIKERT
Watched: December 16, 2021
Our Romantic Couple: Angie (Lyndsy Fonseca) and Ben (Chandler Massey)
Their Meet Cute: Angie and Ben are childhood friends who bump into each other at a New York bar on Christmas Eve.
Synopsis: Angie is a hard driving doctor in New York City who hasn’t gone home for Christmas in the 3 years since her parents divorced. On Christmas Eve she buys a ticket from a mysteriously old-timey ticket agent to go home to her apartment in Yonkers, dozes off and wakes on an old-timey steam train, headed for her hometown, with her old boyfriend, Grant. Basically, it’s 2011 and Angie is about to relive a critically important Christmas season – the one in which she turned down a proposal from Grant, who went on to become a nationally famous sportscaster. What changes does Angie need to make before her magic train ticket will let her return to 2021? That’s for Mr. Conductor to know and Angie – and you, dear viewer – to find out.
Star Power: Lea Thompson as Angie’s mom, Evelyn, and Christopher Lloyd as the conductor.
110% Award: Christopher Lloyd, giving his mugging, twinkly-eyed all. I don’t know that it’s an especially good performance, but it sure is Christopher-Lloydish!
Observations: Lea Thompson looks really good for 60. And speaking of that, LEA THOMPSON IS 60. I need to take some Boniva and go lie down.
The ticket which Angie purchases from Christopher is some shiny gold Willie Wonka looking artifact. Why does she, a seasoned New York train customer, think this is legit? Better still, why does the agent who takes her ticket think it looks legit?
Angie’s Christmas-obsessed hometown is named Shepherd’s Ferry. That has to be a weird nod to artist Shepherd Fairey, right? Right? If you think you don’t know who Shepherd Fairey is, you do. Just Google him. This ranks up there with the painting of Nick Cave in A Husband for Christmas as things that puzzle me for which I will almost certainly never have an explanation. You know what it reminds me of? It reminds me of the time I was watching an episode of Angel and a small child introduced himself as Linford Detweiler. I screamed in confusion. (You can Google Linford Detweiler, too, if you like.)
This is the second movie this year in which someone has been completely baffled by a white elephant gift exchange. Are they just a Midwestern thing? I thought everyone knew about them. I once received a spray bottle of artificial deer urine as a white elephant gift. At least I think it was artificial.
Lyndsy Fonseca is a very pretty and charming leading lady. There is a lightness to her acting that really helps this movie along. The two love interests, on the other hand….okay, so listen: Eric Freeman who plays Tyler is boyishly handsome with the emphasis on boy. I’m not sure why he seems so awkward, but he does, and he’s not helped along by the fact that his suits fit him so badly.
I pause here to note that this is a pet peeve of mine in Hallmark movies. The wardrobe budget seems to be disproportionately spent on the leading ladies, and men are often stuck in ill fitting suits and shirts that make them look like Dana Carvey in the Turtle Club. There is a scene in this movie in which Angie and Tyler go to a fancy party. Please note the length of Tyler’s pant legs. There’s absolutely no excuse for this.
But back to disappointing leading men. For his part, Chandler Massey is just too bland and boring to make a suitable partner for the vivacious Fonseca. And his character, Ben, needed some boldness about his feelings to save everyone a lot of time and trouble.
About that fancy party: it’s an annual event hosted by a wealthy family friend known as Aunt Myrt (Erika Slezak). She hires a group of Dickensian carolers to perform – the same troupe that performed 30-something years ago, the night that Angie’s parents met. I don’t go to a lot of swanky events, but I just feel in my bones that this entertainment is not up to the vibe that Aunt Myrt is going for, and she looks way too pleased with it.
Also speaking of that party, Angie’s mom wears the same dress she wore 30-something years ago, on the night she met her husband. It’s the result of a plot by Angie to save her parents marriage – the dress Evelyn planned to wear is suddenly missing and Angie says “Why not wear this?” and pulls this cocktail gown from Evelyn’s closet. I have questions. Has she been keeping that dress in her closet for 35 years, just in case? Why doesn’t she have a dry cleaning bag over it? And, in the absence of a dry cleaning bag, why is the dress not dusty? But I mean…good on Evelyn for still fitting in the dress, I guess. I certainly couldn’t fit in any dress I wore 30-something years ago.
One last thing about the soiree. Angie’s dad, George, plays “O Little Town of Bethleham on Aunt Myrt’s piano while making cow eyes at Evelyn. I don’t expect actor Matt Walton to be able to play the piano, but a little of the traditional trick of cutting to hands on keys might have been nice. We see so little of George’s arms that he could have been “playing” the song on a party sub or a canoe paddle for all I know.
Tyler’s burgeoning sports career allows him to lecture Angie and Aunt Myrt about the Premier League, Bundesliga, and La Liga. This is as close as any Hallmark movie will ever come to appealing to my husband.
In this movie, in which characters age 10 years, aging is shown by getting glasses, but only on men. Women just don’t age at all.
Next Stop, Christmas has the most underwhelming town tree lighting yet. They count down to the lighting of the star on the top of the tree and it’s just…the lighting of a star on the top of a tree. But George is really moved. It gets him, as he says, “Every time. Every time.”
Ben is this small town’s Santa. Ben, a slender 20-something is your best candidate for Santa? This is a common thing in holiday rom-coms: HYS (Hot Young Santa). Why? In real life, have you ever met a professional Santa that looked like that?
+10 for a sister bonding scene that had some real emotional weight to it, and +20 for an adorable bulldog named Boomer.(-10 for making explicit that when Angie returns to 2021, Boomer will be dead.)
Okay, finally, this is a time travel movie and the ending is a mess of contradictions. Next Stop, Christmas wants to have it’s gingerbread and eat it, too. (I feel I may have used that line already this year. If so, in the Christmas spirit forgive me.) It wants time travel without consequences, and that, my friends, never works. For a better handling of a similar plot in a Christmas movie, watch Nicolas Cage in The Family Man. It has the courage of its convictions. Next Stop, Christmas does not.
Available on the Hallmark Channel
Entry #29: FOUR CHRISTMASES (2008)
DIRECTED BY SETH GORDON
GUEST CONTRIBUTOR!Tim Parker is a native of Mississippi and cornerstone imaginarium and audiofeed imaginopolis veteran. He is a 21 year educator currently working as a high school counselor in inner city Las Vegas, Nevada. In his spare time you can find him hanging out with his dogs, visiting Disneyland with his partner, Ryan, studying for ordination in the episcopal church and listening to MxPx.
Confession: I’ve never been a fan of romantic comedies, save for Adam Sandler’s The Wedding Singer. I’ve particularly never been a fan of the Christmas romantic comedy; for almost three months of the year, they replace The Golden Girls on Hallmark and I get a little bitter about that. So, I went into this movie expecting to hate it, and while it didn’t redeem me the way the film redeems the characters, I did enjoy quite a few laughs.
Plot Summary- Brad and Kate (Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon);are a young, unmarried professional power couple who believe they have risen above the heteronormativity of other couples their age by refusing to get married, have children, and settle into what they believe is a very boring life. They want to travel and be pampered- no time for the inconveniences of family life. So, when every single flight in or out of San Francisco is canceled including their Christmas flight to Fiji, they end up on the news cameras in the airport. Now, their whole family knows they are free for Christmas! How convenient that all of their family split over four households sees this broadcast at exactly the same time! Over the rest of the 90 minutes, they visit all four family Christmas celebrations and in the process have their relationship tested and learn much more about each other and what they really want out of life.
My reactions: Visiting family can always seem like a test of the strength of a relationship, and over the next hour, we will watch as they are tested.
Test 1- Arriving at the home of Brad’s father (wonderfully played by Robert Duvall), we quickly meet Brad’s brothers and nephews and we see that Brad believes he has transcended the toxic masculinity of these simpletons. Kate also learns Brad’s real name- Orlando- and is shocked he never shared that with her. This is our first clue that these two really don’t know each other the way they think they do.
Test 2- As they arrive at the home of Kate’s mother, Kate warns Brad that it will be a cougar den. When they enter, this becomes clear as all the women (and one man) have eyes for Brad. Kate’s mother (Mary Steenburgen) has opened her heart to Jesus- or more accurately, their new minister (Dwight Yoakam)- and proclaims there will be no presents, only spiritual gifts this year and strangely, or maybe not knowing this family, most of the gifts are awkwardly sexual in nature. Here, Kate confronts a long standing fear and starts to grapple with the idea of maybe, someday, having children.
Test 3- Next up is a visit to Brad’s mother- who is now married to Brad’s childhood friend. Uncomfortable as Brad is with his mom’s liberal expression of sexuality, the family decides to engage in a game of taboo. As Kate desperately tries to get Brad to guess the answers with clues about who she is, both Brad and Kate realize how little they actually know about each other.
Test 4- The final test begins on the car ride to Kate’s father’s house. A conversation about their future together and the possibility of a child leads to an argument and a break up. Kate enters her father’s house alone and sends Brad on his way. Through conversation, Kate realizes that by not coming home for Christmas, she has lost lots of valuable family time from the people who know and understand her the most. At the same time, Brad and his father have a heart to heart about the realities of raising a family.
Will our couple pass the tests and come back together, live happily ever after, and raise a family? I won’t spoil the ending for you but as it is a sappy, predictable Christmas romantic comedy, you can probably guess where this goes.
As I stated earlier, this did not convert to being a fan of the Christmas romantic comedy, but it did provide an enjoyable 90 minutes. The all star cast certainly helps with that- I am a fool for anything Mary Steenburgen is in and Robert Duvall was certainly a welcome surprise. Watching this will be an enjoyable experience, even if not a particularly deep or intellectual one.
Entry #30: 12 DOG DAYS TILL CHRISTMAS (2014)
DIRECTED BY CHARLIE VAUGHN
GUEST CONTRIBUTOR/TAG TEAM REVIEW!
Tess Autenrieth is 17 years old. She is a jigsaw puzzle wizard and toaster strudel fan, refuses to let J.K. Rowling ruin Harry Potter, and describes herself as “a lover, not a fighter.”
Watched: December 17, 2021
Our Romantic Couple: Jack (Vincent Giovagnoli) and Ryan (Grainne McDermott)
Their Meet Cute: Jack, a troubled young foster kid, sets a pet supply store’s sign on fire and is given 120 hours of community service at an animal shelter. There he meets redhaired, bookish, but also tomboyish Ryan. He immediately nicknames her Cryan, and they bicker for most of the movie.
Synopsis: Jack, angry young man though he is, takes to working in the animal shelter. When word comes down that the shelter is going to close just before Christmas and that the remaining dozen dogs may be euthanized, Jack and the other shelter staffers – all three of them – set out to find adopters for the dogs. Meanwhile, Jack’s foster parents prepare to move out of state. Will he go with them? What will happen to his two adorable younger foster brothers, Tony and Trevor? Will all of the dogs AND children find homes? And those sparks flying between him and Ryan – could they be love?
Star Power: Reginald VelJohnson (Die Hard) as Jack’s probation officer, Art.
110% Award: This is Jack’s movie, but I’m giving the award to Peggy Barnell and Steve Earnest as Josie and Lou, Jack’s foster parents, for their spectacularly unhelpful overreaction when Jack sneaks a small dog into their house. You’d think they’d caught him selling meth, from their response.
When we discussed whether or not Vincent Giovagnoli should get the award, Tess said, “It’s for an actor who put a lot into a role, and he really put nothing into it at all.”
Observations: This is a MarVista production. Now, lots of the movies we review here are MarVista joints, but some of them really capture the special fast and cheap MarVista vibe. 12 Dog Days Till Christmas certainly does. It ranks among the best of the worst movies I’ve seen in three years of rom-com-athoning. I watched this movie with my daughter, Tess. While most of this review is my thoughts, I must include some of the things Tess said while watching 12 Dog Days Till Christmas. Her hot takes are much better than mine.
Jack is an angry young hooligan who we first see trying to sell a woman cleaning solution on the street. When a local store owner tells him to beat it, he lights the guy’s sign on fire. But Jack is also a teenage boy who says things lilke:”It was barely a candle’s flame” (describing the fire he started).”
She’s as quiet as a dormouse.”
“Good riddance to them both!”
So he’s written to be a little bit Pony Boy Curtis, and a little bit Charles Dickens.
All through this movie people keep talking about how ugly a particular dog, Petunia, is. Petunia is not only not ugly, she’s the kind of dog who is snatched up quickly in rescure. Tiny, scruffy – you know, cute.
Tess: “She is a perfectly normal looking dog! She’s just a dog!”
Why does Jack call Ryan “Cryan”? No idea.
Tess: “When he shows up at the shelter the first time she doesn’t say a word. She’s just quietly reading a book and out of nowhere he’s like, “See you later, CRYAN!”
The shelter is owned by a woman named Mrs. Rose who never visits because she’s allergic to dogs. Okay. Sure.
The shelter is run, as far as I can tell, by children. The “manager”, Blair, looks to be maybe 22 and is aided by Ryan (maybe 16? tops?), Ryan’s slightly older sister, Hillary, and Jack – doing his community service. That’s it. That’s the whole staff.
While mopping, Jack and Ryan have an angry argument in which they exchange these jabs: “Why are you such a wet spot?””Why are YOU such a dirty floor?”
Tess: “It’s like no one in this movie knows how to act like a human.”
In a strategy meeting on finding adopters, one of the “staff” suggests that their two most “hyper” dogs should be target-marketed to a family with “hyper” children. Sure. There’s nothing that the parents of rowdy children want and need more than out of control dogs. That’s just common sense.
I don’t even know how to describe Vincent Giovagnoli’s acting. He was a high school senior when he starred in this film, and this is the worst performance I’ve seen outside of The Room. His line deliveries and facial expressions (limited as they are), are utterly incomprehensible in the context of the story.
Tess: “If Jack was a real person I would want to be friends with him. He’s so ridiculous. He has never had a thought in his life. It’s just completely empty in there.”
The camera work in 12 Dogs Days Till Christmas is awful. The camera holds tightly on Jack’s smirking face as the character next to him, ALMOST out of the frame, speaks. He is shot from the side talking to Ryan while she is invisible to us because she’s standing in a dog run.
Tess: “Why is she just standing in a dog kennel???”
Continuity errors abound. In one dramatic episode, Jack trashes a room at the shelter in a fury, is picked up by his probation officer, Art, spends the evening at Art’s house, and returns to the shelter to apologize to Blair. “You really scared us tonight,” Blair says. But outside the shelter it is brightly lit day.
Tess: “Did they just drop cricket sounds over a day scene to try to convince us it’s nighttime?”
ADR is handled so clumsily, its like a slap in the face in a couple of scenes.”
Wow,” says Jack in one scene. “Woman really are confusing.”
Tess: “Did he just say WOMAN are confusing?”
Yes, Tess. He did.
You’ll never find a movie with a more hamfisted and cringe-inducing depiction of foster care and adoption than in 12 Dog Days Till Christmas. Jack coaches Tony and Trevor on exactly what to say to potential adopters (“Hi, I’m Tony and I”m a very good boy.”) and delivers this jarring line – “You’ve got a big day tomorrow. Christmas AND new parents!”
Here’s another great line from Jack: “It’s really not our decision to decide.”
Oh, my word, I almost forgot that a dog gets hit by a car – and yet it’s all fine and you don’t need to worry about it, because she bounces back in no time. Jack just needed to learn about what happens when he lets his anger get out of control. The scene at the vet’s office is chef’s kiss perfection.
I am underselling this movie. I can’t tell you how many times Tess and I stopped the movie because we were laughing so hard, or rewound to watch a choice moment again. This is first class, so bad it’s good entertainment. You MUST watch it. I’ll give the last word to Tess.
Tess: “I loved it so much. I could watch it again. Not tomorrow, but watching it could be a yearly tradition.”
BINGO? No, the budget would never allow for that.
Available on Peacock.