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A Christmas Puppy

Posted by martinteller on December 25, 2013

Riley (Aaron Jaeger) has lost the holiday spirit.  With his mom (Maureen McCormick… yes, Marcia Brady) working overtime at a job she’s likely to lose any day now, any Xmas festivities are on hold.  Riley is understandably cynical about the holiday, but he’s visited by the spirit of Hope (Vanessa Angel), who gives him a mission: spread the Xmas spirit.  Hope leads Riley to the Sims household.  Tom (Jason Brooks) is having occupational problems of his own, and as a manager at a failing company, he’s also expecting the axe to fall at any moment.  His wife Winnie (Alexandra Paul) is a once-successful author of children’s books, but has been unable to produce another hit.  And daughter Allison (Mariah Buzolin) pines for neighbor boy Justin (Bryan Craig) but can’t express her feelings.  And the entire family, facing foreclosure on their house, laments that they can’t afford to fly grandma Betty (Janet Carroll) out for the holidays.  It’s up to Riley to inject this home with a little Xmas spirit.

We were looking on Netflix Instant for something fun to watch on Xmas Eve.  As we scrolled through all the movies with “Christmas” in the title, nothing really sparked any interest.  We settled on A Christmas Puppy, which at least held the promise of a puppy.  If you look up this film on IMDb, you will see the actual title is “Christmas Spirit”.  You know why?  Because THERE IS NO GODDAMN PUPPY IN THIS MOVIE.  Oh, there’s a dog in it… in fact he narrates the movie (Judy Landers).  But he’s far from a puppy, only briefly (and unremarkably) figures into the story.  In fact, we only see him in a couple of quick shots of him lying on his bed (most likely the same footage each time).  But some cynical bastard probably thought the movie would attract more attention if it lured people in with puppy potential.  Hell, it worked on us.

Look, we knew we were gonna see a bad movie.  That was part of the fun of it.  And A Christmas Puppy delivers plenty of bad.  I hardly know where to begin.  It’s not on The Room‘s level of incompetence (or wtf-ness) but it’s not too far off.  The performances are terrible across the board, from Jaeger’s poor man’s Jesse Eisenberg routine to McCormick’s “please pay me for this” phoning it in to Carroll’s oddly bubbly shtick.  All of the reactions feel wrong… too chipper and casual.  And the dialogue is truly godawful.  Our favorite gem was “Her stupid pranks are so stupid,” and most of the other lines are overwritten in that dumb sitcom-y way where no one talks like a real person, but everyone is simply a vehicle for lines that someone thought — mistakenly — were clever.

Even ignoring the metaphysical aspects, the plot is ludicrous and calculated.  Character motivations are all over the map and make little sense.  Again, no one acts like a believable character.  And the Sims house is a gigantic Malibu estate with a pool, fully-equipped exercise room and electronic security gate.  We’re supposed to feel that this family is on the verge of financial ruin?  Speaking of the house, the set design is laughably absurd (someone really loves boats) and hideous.  Cinematography is as bland and thoughtless as it gets, shot on cheap digital video with obvious plug-n-play special effects for Hope’s appearances.

There’s something almost charming about Riley’s goofy persistence (and complete inability to improvise in a sticky situation).  But for the most part this feels like David DeCoteau (director of classics like Petticoat Planet and Test Tube Teens from the Year 2000) and Andrew Helm (writer of Death Racers and A Talking Pony?!… which at this point I have to suspect does not contain a talking pony) simply decided to throw together a cheap holiday movie for a quick cash grab.  There’s no sincerity to it… but hey, it’s good for some laughs.  Just not at the parts they thought were funny.  Rating: Crap (23)

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9 Responses to “A Christmas Puppy”

  1. JamDenTel said

    A Talking Pony has a talking pony. I haven’t seen it, but I have seen the related A Talking Cat, which is so bad it cannot be believed.

  2. JC said

    Hey just thought I’d let you know in case you weren’t aware. Filmspotting featured you and your top film of the year on their Top Films of 2013 pt 2. podcast. Just out of curiosity, how do you get on their advisory board?

  3. Aaron Jaeger said

    Hey, fuck you Martin.

  4. Kayla Jones said

    Just watched The Christmas Puppy…. About halfway through the movie, I said if I don’t see a damn Labrador retriever puppy by the end I’m gonna write a letter. This is not a letter. But I had to get it off my chest…. There is no Fucking puppy! We just laughed about it cause it was so stupid. Goodbye.

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