Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Poop In Your Stocking: The Dog Who Saved the Holidays

When I learned that someone had essentially done a remake of Home Alone with an adorable yellow lab cast in the role previously played by the adorable blond Macauly Culkin, I ran to Netflix faster than a Greyhound at the racetrack. Searching for The Dog Who Saved Christmas led me instead to what I assumed to be its alternate title, The Dog Who Saved the Holidays. Imagine my confusion when upon popping in the DVD I was greeted with a trailer for The Dog Who Saved Christmas (starring Mario Lopez as the voice of the title character), only to wonder why a movie is advertising the very movie you're about to watch. But see, THAT trailer was followed by one for The Dog Who Saved Christmas Vacation, now with Paris Hilton paycheck grubbing along to voice a poodle. Finally, the DVD menu showed me the title of the movie I was about to watch, "The Dog Who Saved the Holidays."

So to recap, this is a film franchise that goes as follows:

The Dog Who Saved Christmas

The Dog Who Saved Christmas Vacation

The Dog Who Saved the Holidays

Maybe they feared that calling this one The Dog Who Saved Christmas Again would scare off those who never watch a sequel without seeing its source? Or maybe they wanted to be more inclusive? There is indeed ONE mention of Hanuka in this movie, although it's basically thrown in when a bratty child complains about going to church and his dad (played by Kevin James' older brother, proving here that things can always get worse) says something to the effect of "Be Jewish and you can celebrate Hanuka."

Note: the dog (now voiced by Joey Lawrence, presumably because Mario Lopez got too expensive) does not seem to give a sh*t about Hanuka. I declare false advertising.

Quick Plot: Zeus is an extremely talented Labrador living with the terrible horrible no good very bad Bannister family. Dad George (Kevin James' aforementioned brother) is a terrible human being with little manners and two nasty, whiny, ungrateful and disloyal children. Mom Elisa Donovan (whose resume post-Clueless is about 85% these types of Christmas movies, making her the Lance Henrikson of the genre) is okay enough, save for the fact that she's pregnant which means this terrible horrible no good very bad family is getting bigger. Which is terrible, horrible, no good, and very bad.

The Bannisters are heading to Malibu for Christma--er, I mean THE HOLIDAYS where they'll be staying with Babs, George's wealthy sister played by a sad Hostess snowball that tragically ate Shelley Long. 

Co-PRODUCER Shelley Long.

For THE HOLIDAYS, Babs bestows upon this unworthy family an adorable puppy who, as fate turns out, is about as big an a$$hole as the family she joins. Really the only likable characters in this movie are Zeus and Michael Gross as Babs' neighbor, mostly because his role lets us realize that Michael Gross is on the same sacrifice-a-virgin diet plan as Vanna White.

Conflict arises in two places: Zeus' challenge adjusting to his bitch of a little sister (literally) and a pair of thieves who must steal Babs' diamond-encrusted star (not a vaginal reference) in order to pay back their mob loan shark. Played by the once mighty Dean Cain and the always farting Joey Diaz, the duo tries in vain to channel the way superior Wet Bandits. It's not pretty for any of us.

Nothing about this movie is pretty. We're about 10 minutes in when Kevin James' brother prances around his bedroom wearing a color-matched satin pajama suit, all the while begging his pregnant wife for a massage. Yes director Michael Feifer, THAT'S what the ladies want to see in their children's films. Because he is overweight, Kevin James' brother's character constantly farts, as does the OTHER overweight character, and a llama. You think I'm kidding, but were I to track it, I'd say a good 37% of The Dog Who Saved the Holiday's dialogue is just farts.

One of which is Kevin James' older brother

Things are no better in the non-fart filled scenes. Take, for example, a simple conversation between Elisa Donovan and The Sad Hostess Snowball That Ate Shelley Long. For some reason, Feifer chooses to shoot it in extreme closeup, meaning we're off-centeredly shoved in the faces of these two unknowing actresses. This is sad for the otherwise attractive Donovan and truly tragic for the hasn't-aged-great Long, especially since the EXTREME CLOSEUP forces us to stare down some of her otherwise unnoticeable blemishes. Look: I get pimples too, but that doesn't mean a camera is supposed to focus on them.

Sadly the big Home Alone-ish finale doesn't make anything better. After two films of outwitting the bad guys, I expected great things from the Kevin McAllister mind of Zeus. All he actually has to do to thwart Dead Cain and his farting assistant is throw tennis balls down the stairs, fake rabies, and dial 9-11 with his (admittedly adorable) paw. We don't even get a good groin injury!

The Dog Who Saved the Holidays is a rather dreadful little film, mostly because it expects us to care about a group of disgusting human beings and their mean-spirited puppy. Yes, you read that right: I didn't even like the puppy in this film, and she was adorable. That's a problem.

Sass Factor
An angry black car rental employee serves it up well to the terrible human beings who attempt to bribe her into a reservation. Note that the actress Shirell Ferguson-Coleman also stopped by Feifer's A Christmas Wedding Tail to give Kelly Taylor a touch of urban sass

Lessons Learned
A girl shouldn’t have to ask for a man to lick her face

Just because it’s the 21st century is no reason for today’s youth to not say ‘radical’

Cujo is a good movie

Holiday saving boy dogs do not have genitalia

Token Slapstick Alert

Montage Mania
Almost as many montages as there are farts! We get a slow motion dramatic recap of the Bannister family unwrapping presents and singing carols, a token decorate-the-house montage, and what I imagine must be clips from the first two movies as Zeus remembers being adopted by the terrible horrible no good very bad Bannisters

Stocking Stuffer or Coal In Your Stocking?
As I sit here thinking about how much I hated everything about this movie save for the dog, I realize how unhealthy a person I've become because damnit, I know I'm still going to seek out The Dog Who Saved Christmas AND The Dog Who Saved Christmas Vacation. So what does that say about me? I guess that I deserve coal and dog poop in my stocking. But dear readers, please love yourself more and demand better from your canine holiday cinema. The world should not follow my example.


  1. Wow, the things I miss when I limit my annual holiday movie marathon to the instant watch section of Netflix. Joey Lawrence? Mario Lopez? These movies are like some weird Christmas purgatory for 90s stars. The best find this year for me was Holiday in Handcuffs. Not only does it feature both Mario Lopez AND a neurotic, lazy-eyed Melissa Joan Hart, but it taught me that if you're single around the yuletide you can just kidnap a boyfriend and it'll all turn out okay, because... the magic of christmas!

  2. MOST of these kinds of films are indeed on Instant Watch, but a talking dog holiday film was worth the rental for me. And yes, holiday family films are DEFINITELY like purgatory, but also a sort of waiting ground for C-list actresses that are either pregnant or working on losing their baby weight. Seriously, EVERY 'name' in these films seems a little chubbier than usual...even Melissa Joan Hart in Holiday In Handcuffs! (which was totally one of my favorites from last year:

  3. Oh, talking animals always justify the disc rental.

    And how did I not guess that you'd seen Holiday in Handcuffs? Thanks for the link!

  4. Mario Lopez AND Clarissa directed by the guy who made Tremors? How could I possibly resist?!

  5. Well, even though this one didn't pan out, I'm sure you'll have better luck with one of the other 'The Dog Who...' movies.

    I do have to mention that the artwork for 'The Dog Who Saved Christmas Vacation' is really sad looking. Like, even the dog looks like it knows it's part of a shitty Photoshop job. Poor guy... he might need a dog to save him. Preferably on Christmas.

  6. Isn't it though? I'm looking forward to The Dog Who Saved the Dog Who Saved Christmas Vacation. If n else, it totally gives them yet another way to title their film around acknowledging that it's a sequel.