'The Search for Santa Paws' raises a perfectly good question; do little people ever get tired of playing elves in movies? Talk about typecasting. At least 'Bangkok Adrenaline ' gave them a different job and had them running an auto repair shop.
'Santa Paws' opens in a happy-go-lucky North Pole workshop full of elves signing merrily while making toys as they get ready for Christmas. Santa walks in with his tummy looking very much bowl-full-of-jelly like. He joins in on the happy chorus and pretty soon Christmas has turned into a Disney Channel sing-a-long that could very well make you screech in terror.
Santa is sad though. His dear friend, a toy merchant in New York, Mr. Hucklebuckle has passed on. In order to cheer him up the head elf (you may recognize him from his stint on 'Seinfeld') decides that it will be a good idea to get Santa a new best friend. Good thing they're at the North Pole, where the Great Magical Icicle is located. All the head elf needs to do is find a cute stuffed dog, attach a glowing crystal to it, and then let the GMI go to work bringing it to life. Paws is born! Let the terrible looking CGI dog talking commence!
Right before Christmas Santa decides he should visit New York to give one last North Pole shout out to his deceased friend. He takes Paws with him to keep him company. Everything is perfect and joyful until Santa is mistakenly run down by another one of New York's crazy cab drivers. This is a kids show, so Santa isn't hit head on sending him flipping end over end. No he more or less runs into the side of the cab causing convenient amnesia.
Meanwhile, a group of orphans live with an evil woman who hates children. I've always wondered why in the world people that hate kids run orphanages, but it never fails to be the case. You hardly ever see a nice orphanage owner in the movies. So these poor little orphan girls are yelled and screamed at, and you guessed it, the evil orphanage owner also HATES Christmas.
So we've got an amnesiac Santa, a magical talking dog brought to life by the Giant Magical Icicle, a gaggle of downtrodden orphans, a detestable orphanage owner… What else do we need? Ah, yes…How about a rag-tag band of dogs that Paws meets on the street (It's really funny because the one with black dreadlocks has a Jamaican accent, the Scottie Dog has a Scottish accent, and the bulldog speaks in street slang. Creativity abounds!), a couple who has just inherited the Hucklebuckle toy store who have decidedly dicey beliefs in Christmas Spirit, a nasty old bum who robs our beloved unconscious Santa, and to top it all off eight CGI talking reindeer.
In case you hadn't already come to this conclusion, 'The Search for Santa Paws' is quite possibly the most frustratingly dumb Christmas movie ever made. So what if it's an electronic babysitter. There are so many other fine family Christmas films that aren't as moronic as this one. Dress 'Marmaduke' up in Christmas garb and this is the movie you get. With so many great films that your family could watch together during Christmas, why on Earth would you pick this one? The only interesting aspect about this movie is that it might make for a good experiment. Test your kid's IQ before watching 'Santa Paws' and then test it after. Then do the same to yourself. This is assuming that 'Santa Paws' hasn't sucked out any sort of intelligence that was once residing in your noggin. You may have a hard time just remembering how to breath.
The 1080p transfer of 'Santa Paws' looks fine for Blu-ray, but I have a few nitpicks with it. Let's start with the good first. Detail is wonderfully rendered here. Facial features will immediately jump out as a prime example of just how detailed the picture can get. Santa's scrunched up face has completely visible wrinkles, eye bags, and all. It may not be pretty, but it's all there for your eyes to see. Each individual hair on Santa's gleaming white beard is very much visible. The ridged textures on fabrics, like Santa's finely tailored suit, jump off the screen. Colors are also presented in their full glory, providing a rich tapestry of colors that never ceases to shine throughout the entire movie. Reds are particularly deep and crimson, which works well with a Christmas-themed movie.
Now onto the few nitpicks I mentioned before. I've said this before on movies with terrible visual effects and I'll say it again here, 1080p resolution isn't a friend to cheap hokey effects. The moving mouth effects used on the dogs here look particularly ugly. Someone could make better effects on their home computer. Whenever the dogs open up their faux mouths to talk, it's like we're watching a bad YouTube video. The North Pole is almost entirely green screen. When Santa and Mrs. Claus go and visit the Giant Magical Icicle the green screen effects are almost laughably bad. Santa and his wife look like they're hovering in midair as the ice cave has just been plopped in behind them. With the clarity of high definition these egregious examples of cheap special effects run amok is amplified. With the almost soap-opera look to the entire movie, the effects look even worse. Not like your kids are going to care much about terrible rendered special effects anyway. Just know that you'll be able to tell right away that this movie feels like it was thrown together at the last second.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation provided by Disney won't shake your house or rumble your Christmas tree. Instead it will do exactly what it's supposed to do, keep your kids entertained without necessarily bothering you if you happen to be a few rooms away.
The soundfield feels a bit front heavy, even during the movie's elaborate song pieces where people get up to sing and dance. Surrounds chime in with some nice ambient noise, but again it's nothing that will make audiophiles drool. Dialogue is crisp and clear through the center channel, with directionality working just like it's supposed to. If someone talks off screen their voice is placed exactly where it needs to be. Panning effects work smoothly with a heavy "whoosh" as Santa's reindeer-led sled flies from one side of the screen to the other. LFE kicks in every so often during the more frightening moments – Oh no! The dolly is in the incinerator! What's going to happen? – dun, dun, dunnn! Audio recording that took place on the bust streets sounds harsh compared to the indoor scenes. There's nothing technically wrong with the overall performance of the audio presentation for 'Santa Paws,' but it isn't going to be converting you to the movie any time soon. It will suffice for your kids, but if this same type of presentation was used on a movie you loved you'd be asking much more from it.
Just. Don't. Buy. This. Your kids deserve much better Christmas viewing than the hackneyed piece of rubbish that this movie is. It's just so utterly dumb that I don't know how anyone big or small could ever enjoy it. Call me a Grinch if you must, but like Ebenezer Scrooge I say "Bah! Humbug!" to you 'Santa Paws.' Your video and audio pass muster, your special features stink as much as the movie, and overall you're 90 minutes of eye torture. Make your Christmas merry by skipping 'The Search for Santa Paws.'