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KUNG FU PANDA 2: ULTIMATE EDITION OF AWESOMENESS (DVD)

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KungFuPanda2coverGrade: B+
Entire family: Yes
2011, 91 min., Color
Rated PG for sequences of martial arts action and mild violence
DreamWorks/Twentieth Century Fox
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Featured audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Bonus features: B (same extra disc as on original rerelease)
Includes: DVD, Bonus Disc, Digital HD
Trailer
Amazon link

Thoughts I had about Kung Fu Panda 2 as I watched it for the first time:

Hey, this sequel is as good as the original.
Sequels—especially animated action movies—often suffer from brain drain. Once the origin story has been told, what’s left for the characters to do? More action? Usually, and often at the expense of character development. But that doesn’t happen to Po (Jack Black), who became the Dragon Warrior in the first installment.

Huh, it’s actually a second origin story.
If the first film had me seeing elements of Star Wars, this second one had a Superman vibe. Like young Clark Kent, Po is found as an infant and raised by someone else, and of course like Clark Kent little Po grows up to be a superhero who is tasked with responding to all threats against their community. Despite their different species, it never occurs to Po—now so famous that children play with his action figure as well as the Furious Five—that he might be adopted, which he discovers in Kung Fu Panda 2. Mr. Ping the noodlemaker (James Hong) is worried that his son might abandon him, as he sets off to learn the truth about his origin and also stop Lord Shen (Gary Oldman), an albino peacock, from taking over all of China. As a result, there’s as much action and as much room for Po to grow as there was in the original Kung Fu Panda.

The animation actually kicks it up a notch.
The peacock fight scenes are especially mesmerizing because of their combination of grace and implied power. Long shots and action scenes are this film’s strengths—no doubt one reason why it received a Best Animated Feature Film Oscar nomination. That Rango won instead probably is a reflection of one thing:

KungFuPanda2screenThe plot of Kung Fu Panda 2 is essentially the same as Kung Fu Panda.
Po tries to find himself in the first film—the son of a noodlemaker who seems destined to follow in his father’s footsteps, though he dreams of being a kung fu warrior—and he does in this one too. Action will help him arrive at a point of recognition, but instead of a former pupil of Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) who escapes from prison and threatens to take over China, it’s the son of a Peacock Dynasty that invented fireworks who turns his parents’ good invention into something bad by creating gunpowder, cannons, and cannonballs that Poe and the others must fight. Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chen), Viper (Lucy Liu), Mantis (Seth Rogen) and Crane (David Cross) return to fight like animal Avengers, along with two new characters, Master Ox (Dennis Haysbert) and Master Croc (Jean-Claude Van Damme). Still, despite the warmed-over plot, the action is different enough and the writing and the animation are strong enough to make you overlook any similarities.

Looks like the filmmakers had a trilogy in mind from the very beginning.
We don’t realize until Kung Fu Panda 2, which picks up shortly after the action of the first film had ended, that there’s a three-movie narrative arc. Po’s revelation that he’s adopted and the film’s ending make that perfectly clear.

Beware of several “Bambi’s mother” moments.
There are a few more sad scenes in the sequel than there were in the first movie, because you’re dealing with death and feelings of abandonment and/or rejection, and because the comic relationship between Po and his adoptive father turns more serious at several junctures. Small children might need a little coaching along the way. Or else, heck, you could just let them find their own way, as filmgoing children have been doing for generations now.

But what sense does it make to include identical bonus discs on both rereleases?
In addition to an audio commentary, deleted scenes, and a short voice talents feature, for whatever reason DreamWorks/Fox decided to include the same bonus disc of content on this rerelease as on the Kung Fu Panda rerelease. So if you buy both films on DVD you’ll find yourselves with an extra disc.

Language: n/a
Sex: n/a
Violence: More intense action than the first, especially since Po absorbs more punishment
Adult situations: Those few Bambi’s mother moments of off-camera loss or implied loss
Takeaway: The Kung Fu Panda series is that rare model of consistency that Hollywood too often seems incapable of producing, especially in animated “franchises.” 

KUNG FU PANDA: ULTIMATE EDITION OF AWESOMENESS (DVD)

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KungFuPandacover

 

Grade: B+
Entire family: Yes
2008, 92 min., Color
Rated PG for sequences of martial arts action
Dreamworks/Twentieth Century Fox
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Featured audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Bonus features: A- (extra disc)
Includes: DVD, Bonus Disc, Digital HD
Trailer
Amazon link

Twentieth Century Fox decided to rerelease Kung Fu Panda and Kung Fu Panda 2 to coincide with the January 29 theatrical debut of the much-anticipated Kung Fu Panda 3. And when I say “much anticipated” I’m not talking about anyone who lives in my house.

It took two weeks before I could even convince my two teens to finally watch the original Kung Fu Panda with me. I have to admit, I don’t blame them. The previews made it look like an all-action/no-cleverness Saturday morning formula cartoon. Maybe the studio was playing to the lowest common denominator, but if the trailer had included a couple of the many clever lines and character-driven moments instead of all that wax-on wax-off stuff, we would have watched it LONG ago.

Though critics who’ve seen the second sequel at early screenings have said #3 is the best of the bunch, the original film turns out to be a tough one to beat. In it, a Panda named Po (voiced by Jack Black) could be the alter ego for any number of slacker kids who aren’t yet ready to face up to their potential, though that potential is all but proven by a dream for the future that they have. In Po’s case, he wants to be a Kung Fu master, like Master Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Master Viper (Lucy Liu), Master Monkey (Jackie Chan), Master Mantis (Seth Rogen), and Master Crane (David Cross)—though he was “born” into a family business, a noodle shop—and I use air quotes because in Kung Fu Panda his dad (James Hong) is a goose. Is Po adopted? Is this cross-species family a writer’s joke? Could be, because it made us smile. And Po turns out to be the perfect hero for all the kids who have been told they are too short, too tall, too chubby, too uncoordinated, or too dumb to reach goals so lofty you’d have to call them dreams.

KungfupandascreenPo’s dad expects him to carry on the family business—a familiar trope—but destiny intervenes. When Po devises a fireworks way of launching himself into the courtyard of the temple so he can witness the coronation of the Dragon Warrior, a chosen one who can defeat the evil Tai Lung (Ian McShane), he launches himself right into the middle of the affair. And a tortoise grand master (Randall Duk kim) anoints him the chosen one. Hey, if he falls out of the sky, he must be right? Because there are no accidents.

Well, except for a visit to check on the security of the prison where the villain is kept immobilized, which goes horribly wrong. With an escape impending and doom just around the corner, Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) has no time at all to train Po to become the Kung Fu master he always aspired to, and the Dragon Warrior he reluctantly becomes. Star Wars fans will also recognize a familiar pupil-gone-to-the-dark-side storyline.

But the film’s familiar action-oriented plot doesn’t come close to telling the whole story of this film, which is brought to life by sharp dialogue, terrific animation, and voice talents who can take that dialogue and use it to make their characters distinctive and sympathetic—and none more so than Po.

This reissue comes with a bonus disc of special features. The main ones are three short Kung Fu Panda “Secrets” films: “Secrets of the Furious Five” (2008, 25 min.), “Secrets of the Masters” (2011, 23 min.), and “Secrets of the Scroll” (2013, 23 min.). These direct-to-video shorts capitalized on the popularity of the full-length features, and while they’ll entertain young ones, the animation isn’t up to the standards of the feature films—which are really quite impressive in their animation and set, character, and background designs. The other bonus features feel like filler: two mash-ups (blooper collections), a martial arts awesomeness music video, and a Kung Fu Panda 3 sneak peek, for those who haven’t gotten to the theater yet.

Language: n/a
Sex: n/a
Violence: Some moments of fighting-related peril
Adult situations: n/a
Takeaway: Kung Fu Panda ought to have plenty of replay potential because it’s complex enough to satisfy with every new viewing.

EVEREST (3D Blu-ray/Blu-ray combo)

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EverestcoverGrade: B+
Entire family: No
2015, 121 min., Color
Rated PG-13 for intense peril and disturbing images
Universal
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Featured audio: Atmos Dolby True HD
Bonus features: B/B+
Includes: 3D Blu-ray, 2D Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD
Trailer
Amazon link

“Because it’s there.”

That’s the reason George Mallory gave in 1924 when asked why he would risk his life to reach the summit of Mt. Everest—Earth’s highest point and the tallest of 14 mountains in Pakistan, Nepal, and China that are more than 8,000 meters (five miles) high. For dedicated climbers and adventurers, that’s reason enough.

Everest is a 2015 adventure-drama based on a 1996 climb when a blizzard took the lives of eight people, several of which are dramatized here. Reaching the summit takes more than courage and experience. It also takes $65,000 to join one of the commercial outfits leading expeditions each year. Because there’s only a small window of opportunity, based on the weather conditions, the mountain can get crowded. Thirty-four climbers were trying to reach the summit on the same day that year. That’s one of the points made in the movie, which focuses on Rob Hall (Jason Clarke), leader of Adventure Consultants, and his six clients, but also peripherally on Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal), the Mountain Madness guide that Hall recruits to cooperate with each other.

Everestscreen1Hall lays it all out for his climbers and viewers at the beginning. This will be a survival challenge. “Human beings are not designed to function at the cruising altitude of a 747. Your bodies will be literally dying.” Like Quint in Jaws, he pulls off his shoe and sock to show them his scars—a foot with no toes on it—and reminds them that one out of four climbers who attempt the summit will die.

Those odds don’t seem to bother the climbers, but one wonders about the film crews. The IMAX documentary Everest (1998) was being filmed at the time of this 1996 climb, and when disaster struck, the crew joined the search and rescue. That’s not highlighted here, though some of the stock footage from that earlier documentary does find its way into the film. Ironically in April 2014, when this fictionalized drama was being shot, filming was postponed because a sudden storm killed 16 people, most of them Sherpas, at a base camp.

That’s the true-story backdrop to this harrowing drama, which begins like an adventure and quickly starts to feel like a slow-march-to-disaster movie. Although we spend a lot of time with the characters, we don’t get to know too much about them because the focus is on preparation for the climb and the climb itself. But we know enough to care when some of them die, reach or fall short of their dreams, or barely make it down the mountain. It’s impossible not to be moved, especially by Rob Hall and his Texas client Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), the latter of whom had “forgotten” to tell his wife and children that he was attempting Everest.

Everestscreen2This fictional treatment has more power than the documentaries, and on 3D Blu-ray the film looks spectacular—especially those long shots of Everest and the views from the mountain. Depth of field is superb, but don’t look for things to break the viewing plane. The film is nearly as remarkable looking on standard 2D Blu-ray, with solid detail even when snowstorms come. That clarity really brings this experience to life, and the acting and cinematography are as convincing as a script that only briefly flirts with melodrama as we watch wives (Robin Wright as Peach Weathers, Keira Knightley as Jan Hall) come to terms with the situation as it unfolds. If you’ve ever dreamed of doing the impossible—like the Washington mailman who hoped to inspire the schoolchildren of his town who raised the money so he could climb—Everest is a powerful, if unsettling, film.

Language: Nothing much. They’re bundled up and wearing oxygen masks much of the movie
Sex: n/a
Violence: Deaths are shown
Adult situations: Drinking but no drunkenness; frostbitten flesh is shown, along with frozen dead bodies and plenty of moments of peril
Takeaway: As much as you admire the climbers that inspired this movie, you also have to admire anyone who would risk their lives to film such an adventure-drama

THE INTERN (Blu-ray combo)

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InterncoverGrade: B
Entire family: No
2015, 121 min., Color
Rated PG-13 for some suggestive content and brief strong language
Warner Bros.
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Featured audio: DTS-HDMA 5.1
Bonus features: C+
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD
Trailer
Amazon link

What goes around, comes around. In The Devil Wears Prada (2006), Anne Hathaway played an assistant to an intimidating boss, but in The Intern, a 2015 indie comedy (that’s more fairly called a “dramedy”), SHE’S the intimidating boss. And the poor beleaguered assistant trying to deal with her? None other than veteran screen tough guy Robert De Niro, who plays a 70-year-old widower looking to fill the emptiness in his life and thinking a pilot senior internship program at a new-but-rocking Internet clothing business might be just the ticket.

For an indie film, that’s pretty high-concept, and director Nancy Meyers (The Holiday, It’s Complicated, Something’s Gotta Give) gives Hathaway and De Niro plenty of time for their relationship to simmer away—so much so, in fact, that you’d almost expect a December-May romance to develop. But to the credit of Meyers, who also wrote the script, that doesn’t happen. We also don’t get a heavy-handed allegory about how useful seniors are, though that’s certainly obvious from their interaction. The Intern may have a gimmicky premise, but Meyers lets her two stars do all the heavy lifting. And you know what? They’re fun to watch. You know what’s going to happen from the outset, and it does. But there are also moments where you go, “Huh, I didn’t see that coming.”

Like Fiona (Rene Russo), a massage therapist who isn’t afraid to go after what she wants, or an apparent second-in-command (Adam DeVine) who’d do the same if he knew what that was. Or Matt (Anders Holm), Hathaway’s character’s husband, who gives up a successful career to let his even more successful wife launch her dream company.

InternscreenPredictably, the CEO and the intern she’s forced to take on follow an arc that goes from “I don’t need you” to “I can’t live without you,” but it’s everything else in between that offers unexpected pleasures and delights. There’s some clever dialogue, too, as when Ben (De Niro) tells Jules (Hathaway), “You’re never wrong for doing the right thing,” and she responds, “That’s great. Who said that?” Ben responds, “I did. But I’m sure Mark Twain said it before that.”

The Intern is rated for “some suggestive content and brief strong language,” but really it’s a pretty upbeat and positive film that mostly keeps any unwholesome moments off-camera. There are three exceptions: the use of the “f-word,” an implication that a man is getting an erection (because someone helps him cover it up), and a woman who drinks too much throwing up in a trash can. But honestly, the whole trajectory of this film is so positive that those few moments (the latter of which can be seen as a cautionary tale) really don’t amount to much. The Intern, however, does. It’s fun watching Ben “get back into the game,” never too forceful but always managing to do and say the right things. He’s as intuitive and resourceful as MacGyver, without all the gadgets.

Our family of adults and teens agreed that it was a solid B. Maybe even a B+. It all depends on how much you like Hathaway and De Niro, and we liked them a lot in this engaging comedy with dramatic moments.

Language: Three instances of the “f” word and a few minors
Sex: That one implied erection incidence
Violence: n/a
Adult situations: An old woman flips someone off, and there is drinking (and from-a-distance puking)
Takeaway: Two pros can make just about any premise work. Make that three pros, counting Meyers. 

PAN (Blu-ray combo)

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PancoverGrade: B-
Entire family: Yes
2015, 111 min., Color
Rated PG for fantasy action, violence, language, and some thematic material
Warner Bros.
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Featured audio: English Dolby Atmos
Bonus features: B
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD
Trailer
Amazon link

Pan is an ambitious 2015 live-action fantasy adventure from director Joe Wright (Pride & Prejudice, Hanna) that’s as different as can be from previous film versions of J.M. Barrie’s tale of Peter Pan—and not just because it’s an origin story.

For starters, Hugh Jackman plays a post-apocalyptic looking villain with the kind of flamboyant flair we saw from David Bowie in Labyrinth, and the villain he plays isn’t even Captain Hook. It’s the pirate Blackbeard, who’s snatching British orphans from their beds and taking them to Neverland in his flying ship to work in his fairy dust mines—reminiscent of what we saw in the second Indiana Jones movie. You’ll also have Indy flashbacks when you meet James Hook (Garrett Hedlund), an adventurer whose Fedora and mannerisms seem unmistakably patterned after the character Harrison Ford made famous. Thankfully those “influences” fall short of seeming like rip-offs.

Panscreen1Partly that’s because Pan has distinctively edgy look and feel to it, as if a punk-rock band got inspired by The Who’s rock opera Tommy and decided to make a film of their own . . . without the songs. This fantasy has more fantastic elements to it than even Barrie could have imagined, and young Peter (Levi Miller) goes from being an orphan with a pan pipe necklace and a mother he tries to track down to a budding superhero who finds his place not in London but in Neverland, where he will become champion of the downtrodden.

The people he defends—the Indians of Neverland—are a curious bunch, though. Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) seems Eurasian, while others of her “tribe” are Asians, blacks, and Latinos. Was this done to avoid racial stereotyping? Possibly, and I wouldn’t blame them. Look at the crap that Disney took for Pocahontas, and they even were careful enough to create a strong, positive heroine who was voiced by a Native American actress. But in Pan the whole idea of “tribe” seems weirdly subverted by multiculturalism.

Panscreen2Those weirdnesses aside, Pan is an energetic fantasy that will satisfy your curiosity about the early days of Peter Pan and his Neverland rivals, unless you’re like my son and you expect to see the story of how Hook lost his arm to the crocodile. Sorry. It’s not here. But would it help to know that the crocodile is animated more like a grand sea monster than the cute nemesis Disney dreamed up? In general, the special and visual effects are quite good, as is the production design. We buy this bleaker, post-apocalyptic version of Neverland precisely because it seems so far-out and young Miller as Pan and the others seem so believably earnest. The action scenes are also more honest and intense than we normally see in a Barrie adaptation. Yes, it’s a little over-the-top in spots and as fantastic as fantasy gets, but Pan is entertaining enough not just for one family movie night, but for replays as well.

Language: A “damn” or two
Sex: n/a
Violence: Some intense action scenes, though no blood or guts or anything
Adult situations: Hook comes on to Tiger Lily, but that’s about it
Takeaway: Just when you thought Peter Pan was as tame as can be, along comes this origin story to prove that you can take even a beloved classic and give it a new, sharper edge

THE BAT (Blu-ray)

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BatcoverGrade: B
Entire family: No
1959, 80 min., Black-and-white
Not rated (would be PG for some violence)
The Film Detective
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Featured audio: Dolby Digital 2.0
Bonus features: n/a
Trailer
Amazon link

The Bat (1959) is billed as horror-thriller-mystery, but the way those genres have evolved over time it’s now mostly a straight-up mystery, noir style.

Vincent Price stars as a doctor doing bat research and Agnes Moorehead (Bewitched) as a mystery writer looking for new material. She finds plenty at an old country estate she’s rented—a quintessential dark-and-stormy-night Victorian mansion that comes with servants . . . at least until they’ve abandoned her because they’re convinced a murderer called The Bat might be returning to the scene of his crimes. A local detective (Gavin Gordon) plods around and a complicating factor is that bank securities were recently stolen and may be stashed somewhere inside that same creepy old house. A lot happens, but the spotlight is on Price and Moorehead, two iconic actors.

The Bat won’t be for everyone, but if your children aren’t averse to old black-and-white movies, this one is family-friendly. The violence is mostly bloodless or mostly off-screen, and the focus is on the mystery.

BatscreenMy son is a teen who appreciates good plotting, and he and I both marveled how a relatively simple concept could be complicated by believable twists and enhanced by cinematography that showcases all the shadows and angles we’ve come to associate with film noir. There are only a few melodramatic moments, with otherwise straight dramatic acting—decent acting, too. Director Crane Wilbur had written the script for the Price horror classic House of Wax, so it’s not surprising that with Price in the starring role he’d slip in a few Gothic elements here too.

Old films like this are often campy, but while The Bat has its unintentionally funny or tongue-in-cheek moments, it really is a mystery that unapologetically goes about it’s business of planting clues and red herrings. There are a few slasher moments, and The Bat’s hat and distorted face and claws will suggest to horror-slasher fans that this film may have had a direct influence on the Freddy Krueger character design from the popular A Nightmare on Elm Street series. That’s kind of cool for film buffs, who might also find it fun that Darla from the original Our Gang/Little Rascals short films turns up as one of the adult female characters. And it’s certainly enjoyable seeing Moorehead in a serious role before she turned into one of TV’s most famous witches.

The Bat is now in the public domain, and while The Film Detective’s restored version looks good, for the most part, there are vertical white lines in spots and other flaws that are obviously a part of whatever print was used for the master. I haven’t seen the DVD version so I can’t offer a comparison, but I have no complaints other than what I just mentioned.

I asked my son what grade he’d give this, and he said a B+ or A-, since he really liked it. That’s almost ironic, because Price went on record as saying he thought the script wasn’t very good. I lean toward a B for this B-movie because mystery fans will recognize a formula and certain other conventions. That’s part of the genre, but the bottom line is always how well were those conventions and plot points integrated and developed? With The Bat, I’d have to say it does a fairly decent job on both counts, and still holds up today. If you grab a copy for a family home movie night, you might as well go all out and for the warm-up also show a “Thriller” video featuring iconic horror actor Price—maybe even dance a bit. Those are the kind of things your kids will remember years from now!

Language: Not much
Sex: n/a
Violence: Several murders, not very bloody or graphic (see trailer)
Adult situations: Nothing besides the murders
Takeaway: Vincent Price was always fun to watch onscreen

SANTA’S LITTLE HELPER (DVD)

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SantasLittleHelpercoverGrade: B-/C+
Entire family: Yes
2015, 91 min., Color
Rated PG for a comic fight scene and some suggestive humor
Fox
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Featured audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Bonus features: C
Includes: DVD, Digital HD Copy
Trailer
Amazon link

There have been so many mediocre or downright bad Christmas movies that my family approaches every new one with as much suspicion and guarded anticipation as a child shaking presents under the tree. But the thing about low expectations is that it leaves the door open for occasional surprises . . . like Santa’s Little Helper.

This 2015 film from WWE Studios, distributed by Fox, won’t make it onto anyone’s best Christmas movies list no matter how many times you check it. Santa’s Little Helper looks and feels like a made-for-TV movie, but it’s surprisingly entertaining. The biggest surprise is that the film’s star—World Wrestling Entertainment dynamo Mike “The Miz” Mizanin—turns out to be as good of an actor as the most famous wrestler-turned-actor, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. This guy has a future in comedy and displays way more expression and range than body-builder-turned-actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Plus, because he comes across as a regular guy except when the script calls for him to look as if he’s posing for a GQ cover, he’s actually pretty likable.

Good thing, because everyone who wants to step up and ring the Christmas bell tries to do so with the same old recycled plots. In Santa’s Little Helper, a youth center is going to close because they can’t keep up with the mortgage payments. Add music and change “youth center” to “church” and you’ve got The Preacher’s Wife. Mizanin plays the Scrooge that gleefully hands them their notice. He’s a corporate hatchet man who delights in serving those kinds of papers, and naturally he’s also an alum of that youth center. Like the real estate developer in The Preacher’s Wife he’ll have his turnaround, but Santa’s Little Helper throws in a lot more fantasy . . . and a little more cheesiness.

SantasLittleHelperscreenThe wholesomeness meter dips a bit when we go to the North Pole and see one of Santa’s helpers looking more like a hot calendar model than an elf. Given her skimpy short-shorts, it’s hard not to think of another context when she and Santa talk about filling the job of “Ho Ho Ho”—Santa’s #1 elf. But former model AnnaLynne McCord gets to be a lot nicer and more wholesome than the characters she’s played on Nip/Tuck or 90210. Like the angel Clarence in It’s a Wonderful Life, she’s given the task of interacting with a mortal and trying to convince him of something. In this case, Santa wants her to put Dax (Mizanin) through a series of challenges to test his temper and gauge his mettle to see if he’d be a contender for the Ho Ho Ho position, as Santa suspects. Her job is to convince him that this dream job with its unspecified brand and CEO are worth jumping through all the hoops.

The filmmakers try to address the inconsistency of having a human as top elf, and the explanation they offer won’t satisfy some viewers—adults especially. But hey, it’s fantasy, and that means anything goes . . . or almost anything. WWE wrestler Paige, a two-time Divas Championship winner, plays the daughter of an elf who last held the Ho Ho Ho position. Unfortunately, she’s seems an afterthought: hey, we need an antagonist, don’t we? She tries, but she really doesn’t have the acting chops of the other two and really doesn’t have much to do until the third act, when the plot shifts from Dax’s tests and trials to a full-out competition for the Ho Ho Ho job.

As I said, there’s nothing new here and no great set design or special effects. But unlike many crank-em-out Christmas movies that are sappy or just plain dull, this one is fun to watch. And that’s mainly because Mizanin and McCord are enjoyable to watch—despite a script that calls for him to go shirtless and flex, and for her to dress to showcase her own physique. Still, the sexuality is muted compared to most films these days, and there is no (repeat, NO) sexual tension between the two main characters. That keeps it wholesome, and good thing. Kids will like this one more than adults, but that pretty much goes for all things Christmas, doesn’t it?

Language: Pretty squeaky clean
Sex: n/a
Violence: One fight, with comic overtones
Adult situations: Other than a skimpy outfit? No
Takeaway: I suspect we’ll be hearing more from Mizanin.

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