Santa Buddies: The Legend of Santa Paws (Blu-ray)
Directed by Robert Vince
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 88 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: November 24, 2009
Review Date: November 19, 2009
Once again, Disney has produced a made-for-home video film featuring their adventuresome and mischievous talking dogs, the Buddies. This is the fourth nontheatrical feature with the conversing canines, and while this newest effort Santa Buddies: The Legend of Santa Paws may be marginally more entertaining than their last adventure from last spring Space Buddies, that may just be wishful thinking on my part not wanting to be accused of Scrooge-like behavior as the holiday season draws near. Families looking for safe, innocuous entertainment for their young ones can’t go wrong with this pleasant, undemanding little holiday trifle, but once again, it’s not a movie that will have much to offer for many folks who are teens or older.
Santa Claus (George Wendt) and his head pooch Santa Paws (voiced by Tom Bosley) are fearful this Christmas that the spirit of the season is not as high as it needs to be. Mail to the North Pole is way down, and Paws’ youngster Puppy Paws (Zachary Gordon), who’s being groomed to one day take over for his dad, is disinterested in being special. He longs to be an ordinary dog, and to that end, he hides out in the North Pole mail truck and departs in Fernfield, Washington, where he hopes to unite with the five Buddies who seem to have loads of fun and no responsibilities. Once there, however, he learns that the world actually needs what he has to offer as a special dog and with the help of the Buddies begins on the long road to recapturing the trust of his dad and Santa Claus.
The adventures in Fernfield that Puppy and the five Buddies blunder their way into revolve mainly around an ornery, miserly dog catcher named Stan Cruge (Christopher Lloyd) who picks up even dogs with collars which he abruptly takes off, throws the dogs in a cage, and then charges $300 to anyone who comes to the pound to adopt a pet. The script by director Robert Vince and Anna McRoberts repeats gags from previous installments including the mud slinging dogs' dirtying up an all white room and the klutzy misadventures of the town’s Deputy Dan (Michael Teigen). Still, it’s simple enough for the small fry to follow, and some joyous lessons about the spreading of love and the necessity of kindness in giving without expecting gifts in return are offered without too much heavy-handedness. What’s more, there are a few traditional Christmas songs sung by the elves at the North Pole fitted out with new words along with two lovely new tunes which fit the bill perfectly: “Christmas Miracles” sung by the stray puppy Tiny (Kaitlyn Maher), and the climactic “Christmas Is Here” which heralds the Buddies’ saving Christmas when Santa’s reindeer just can’t muster the strength to make deliveries on Christmas Eve.
The five Buddies, Budda (Aramis Knight), Budderball (Josh Flitter), B-Dawg (Skyler Gisondo), Mudbud (Ty Panitz), and Rosebud (Liliana Mumy), do their jobs adequately, but it’s Zachary Gordon’s Puppy Paws which makes the greatest impression of the talking animals. On the human front, George Wendt is underwhelming as Santa, but Danny Woodburn as head elf Eli is expressive and quite moving in all of his scenes. Christopher Lloyd has done this dark drone many times before, but he’s nevertheless effective in this, too. Ben Giroux has some nice moments as another busy elf, and Craig Anton and Ryan Grantham make a great father and son duo who want to adopt Tiny but don’t have the money to pay Cruge’s exorbitant fees.
The film has been framed at 1.78:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Color is nicely saturated without the many reds and greens ever blooming, and sharpness is well delivered without being quite reference quality. Sharpness is exact enough to note the difference between real dogs and CGI recreations during some of the more elaborate special effects sequences. The top of the dog pound, which could have been a morass of moiré with a substandard encode, is rock solid, and black levels are more than adequate. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is decidedly frontcentric with only occasional seepage into the rears with those back channels also used only for a few flybys of Santa’s sleigh occasionally and for the expanse of the music near the end of the film. Dialogue is well recorded and anchored into the center channel.
There are three sing-along Christmas songs with a bouncing paw to mark the lyrics. Each one uses clips from the film to illustrate the tunes and each runs one minute. All three are in 1080p.
The music video “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” as performed by Steve Rushton runs for 2 ½ minutes and is in 1080p.
There are 1080p trailers for Toy Story 3, G-Force, Beauty and the Beast, Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue, Dumbo, The Princess and the Frog, and Ponyo.
The disc is BD-Live enhanced, but the network had not been activated during the review period.
The set also contains a DVD version of the movie which has the same bonus features as the Blu-ray.
2.5/5 (not an average)
Santa Buddies: The Legend of Santa Paws is a fine little entertainment for children featuring the five talking Buddies who have proven to be real favorites of the younger set. Though the Blu-ray is not overflowing with much in the way of bonus features (no games or family activities as were on the last Blu-ray release), the excellent picture and sound will likely prove irresistible for the small fry during the upcoming holiday season.