Review: Looking for Santa – The Search for Santa Paws (2010)

Looking for Santa – The Search for Santa Paws (2010)

Directed by: Robert Vince | 92 minutes | adventure, family | Actors: Richard Riehle, Bonnie Somerville, John Ducey, Kaitlyn Maher, Madison Pettis, Danny Woodburn, Reese Alexander, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Kathryn Kirkpatrick, Bill Cobbs, Chris Coppola, Michelle Creber, Patrika Darbo, Pete Gardner, Jen Halley, G Hannelius, C. Ernst Harth, Eric Keenleyside, Alex Kliner, Nicole Leduc, Amber Lewis, Tom McBeath, Jonathan Morgan Heit, Peter New, Mark Parr, Mikey Post, Nathan Smith

‘Looking for Santa’ (‘The Search for Santa Paws’) is a sequel to ‘Santa Buddies’ (2009), but it’s actually a prequel because it tells the story of the origins of the friendship between Santa and Santa Paws . That the events then take place in the present time is a bit strange: you would rather expect the story to take place at least decades earlier. While the messy ‘Santa Buddies’ was chock-full of talking puppies meant to be cute, the dog lover in ‘Looking for Santa’ is less than satisfied. Still, or probably because of that, this film is easier to digest. Santa Claus is celebrating his 1600th birthday at the North Pole. When he receives word that his old comrade Mr. Hucklebuckle, a toy salesman in New York, has passed away, he is very sad. However, Mr. Hucklebuckle has given him a special present, which his lawyer is sending him: a white toy dog, which is brought to life by the magic of Santa Claus and can speak immediately. Santa promises the dog, which he calls Paw (Paws), that he will always be friends.

Meanwhile, in New York, James, the grandson of Mr. Hucklebuckle (John Ducey), and his wife Kate (Bonnie Somerville) come to take a look at the old toy store. Because they live in LA themselves, where James runs a thriving accountancy firm, they don’t feel much for the business at first. But before they can sell the property, it must first have turned a profit for Christmas, according to a rule in the will. Surprised at this demand, but with no other options, James and Kate decide to give it a shot. In the third storyline, we meet the orphaned child Quinn (Kaitlyn Maher), who takes up residence in an orphanage where a strict headmistress holds sway. The toddler befriends the oldest orphan: the approximately twelve-year-old Wilhelmina “Will” (Madison Pettis), a girl who has lost all hope for a happy future because of her long stay in the home. The headmistress is the kind you only see in fairy tales: she just puts children who don’t follow her rules for a night in the basement, where the incinerator is also: everything the kids love disappears, like a doll of little Janie.

Santa Claus has now arrived in New York with Paw to do something ‘Christmas’. In a collision he not only loses his bag with clothes (is stolen by a bum), to make matters worse, he also suffers from amnesia and loses sight of Paw. Fortunately, he ends up in pretty good shape when he lands a job as… Santa Claus at the Hucklebuckle toy store. Business is going well, but Mrs. Santa Claus becomes very concerned when she hears nothing more from her husband nor from Paw. The main elf Eli goes in search of Santa Claus and Paw together with dog Eddy. The orphans are also involved and eventually all the storylines come together.

What is particularly striking about ‘In search of Santa Claus’ (the Dutch title covers the load much better than the original, after all, only a small part of the film is searched for Pootje) is the large number of characters that are introduced. It is quite difficult for the little ones to follow all that. Thanks to this amount of characters, there isn’t a single character that really stands out or that we really care about. Admittedly, however stereotypical, the scenes in which James and Kate try to run their toy store are fun, thanks in part to Bonnie Somerville’s charismatic appearance. An even bigger cliché is formed by the story of the orphans, in which it is not shunned to emphasize the drama of the story in every possible way. Yet here too a few fragments (even the musical ones!) provide entertainment, although the acting of the children is nowhere convincing. Just like ‘Santa Buddies’, this sequel is very messy, but the various plot lines are neatly tied together. The special effects also lack something, but the film does look colorful and is finished with a little more care than the predecessor. Certainly not a Christmas classic, but still quite doable for a lost afternoon during the Christmas holidays.

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