As a child eagerly unwrapping a Christmas gift, nothing is more disappointing than discovering that your parents did not carefully check the quality of the present. For example, you may have wished for the latest MP3 player, but instead received a generic, kidney bean-shaped device that can only hold 16 songs. Or perhaps you wanted a SpongeBob plushie, but instead got a poorly assembled toy labeled as “Rectangle Friend” with one eye pointing in the wrong direction. While these gifts may technically match your request, they lack the genuine quality and authenticity that you were hoping for. Something just feels off.
Many viewers of Dashing Through the Snow, a family comedy that has been in development at Disney for six years with Kevin Hart initially attached before being replaced by Lil Rel Howery, feel an overwhelming sense of disappointment. The project was eventually released on Disney+ and, while it meets the technical definition of a movie by using fast-paced images to create the illusion of movement, it lacks authenticity. There are moments where it seems like important scenes were cut and replaced with dialogue explaining what happened, or that director Tim Story had to use body doubles and clever camera angles due to scheduling conflicts. Regardless of how it came together, the end result feels like a fake toy with dangerous materials.
In a flashback prologue, a young child tells a mall Santa about his father walking out, which the hourly Kris Kringle seizes as an opportunity for attempted petty larceny ending in a vicious beatdown at the hands of Mom’s new boyfriend. Flash forward to today, and the grown Eddie (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) harbors a rather Scroogelike disposition toward the holiday season, though he’s all peace on Earth and goodwill toward men in his capacity as a social worker and loving father to Charlotte (Madison Skye Validum). Reintroduced pep-talking a would-be suicide jumper into backing down through a shared fondness for red potatoes, he makes for a cuddly protagonist befitting a wad of kiddie fluff in which Santa’s farts smell like cinnamon. It’s possible that Bridges has, at one time or another, said “gracias” to the waiter at a Mexican restaurant or gone in for a handshake when the other guy went for a fist bump. But as far as what’s publicly known, this is the uncoolest thing he’s ever done.
Despite his lack of basic skills, he maintains a professional demeanor for the gig. The same can be said for Howery, who puts in a lot of effort to liven up his scenes as Nick Sinterklaas. Along with the upbeat Charlotte, he teams up with the skeptical but accommodating Eddie to uncover a bribery scheme involving a local congressman and his henchmen. Nick suddenly acquires an incriminating iPad with a hasty explanation that refers to events that are not shown until later in the film. These events are then treated as a surprise, even though they were hinted at earlier. The plot becomes convoluted as Nick’s powers fluctuate between being all-knowing and having arbitrary limitations during their wild night out.
This fruitcake, though solid, has some interesting elements: a lively musical number comparable to Kurt Russell’s “Jailhouse Rock” in The Christmas Chronicles, Kevin Connolly (known as “E” from Entourage) playing a steampunk elf in a top hat, and a final battle featuring poorly rendered CGI reindeer and forced reaction shots that reflect a mentality of “we’ll fix it later.” However, these elements are crammed into a poorly put-together attempt to entertain time-strapped parents during school breaks. It offers no real insight into the meaning of Christmas beyond a generic “it’s good and everyone should believe in its magic” (yes, Luda, there is a Santa Claus). Like many low-quality seasonal products that rely on sappy sentimentality, this film’s overly sentimental nature masks a cynical attitude of settling for lower standards and taking the easy way out. In both filmmaking and gift-giving, it’s the thought that counts, but there isn’t much thought put into this one.
The movie “Dashing Through the Snow” can now be streamed on Disney+.