A Christmas Puppy

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I hesitate to call “A Christmas Puppy” a Mary Crawford film since technically the directorial credit is listed as David DeCoteau. Of course, David DeCoteau is Mary Crawford’s real name, so it’s all just semantics, really.  Anytime Decoteau applies the Mary Crawford name to a film though, it tends to be pseudo-family oriented, while those directed by “David DeCoteau” tend to have more overt sexual overtones (yes, even more overt than “A Pony Tale”).  Nevertheless, “A Christmas Puppy” fits all the criteria for a Mary Crawford special, so we’re just going with it.

Why did I even bother to preface this review with that? On the off-chance you’re high out of your mind and actually go buy the movie, I don’t want you noticing a different director’s name and getting confused. If you’re about to watch “A Christmas Puppy”, you’re about to be confused enough as it is.

Mary Crawford films are inherently nonsensical, but “A Christmas Puppy” really takes the cake.  The other films I’ve reviewed have all had some sort of talking animal in them, so it’s a safe assumption that “A Christmas Puppy” would be no different. Well, there is a talking dog in the film…for all of 20 seconds.

No, that’s not a typo.

There is a voice-over by what we are told is the family dog in the very beginning and end of the film, perhaps a minute long each.  We never see the dog during this monologue, we just have to somehow figure out that it’s a dog and not some random crazy person stalking an unsuspecting family.  Other than that, there are a few brief shots of a dog (not puppy; this dog has seen better days) sitting on a dog-bed, not moving.

Exhibit A (a.k.a. the only exhibit)

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This clip is used two or three times in the film, for a sum total of approximately 20ish seconds of combined screen time.

That’s it. That is the entirety of the dog’s role in “A Christmas Puppy”.

You’re probably scratching your head right about now.  Even if you’ve read my other reviews, even you must be confused as to how a movie titled “A Christmas Puppy” could have so little to do with an actual dog.

Let’s pause a moment and sum up what the film is actually about:

Sarah and her teen son Riley have lost the Christmas spirit. Sarah is about to lose her job, and Riley isn’t feeling the season.  As he so eloquently puts it: “I’ve never really been a big fan of Christmas. The magic is dead.”

Over-dramatic much, Riley?

One night Riley is visited by Hope, one of the Christmas spirits (why Hope is just some random woman and NOT a cute little talking puppy is beyond me). Hope tells Riley that he must help spread Christmas spirit to another family.  The next day a magic fortune cookie leads him to the house of the aforementioned sad family.

Never in my life did I think I would type that sentence, yet here we are.

Winnie, Tom, and their daughter Allison are seriously lacking any Christmas spirit. Winnie the writer (not the pooh) can’t come up with a sequel to her best-selling kid’s book, and her husband Tom is working overtime knowing full well he’s going to be laid off after the holidays (ease up on the work ethic there, Tom).  Allison is just a spoiled brat and likely Mary Crawford’s image of stereotypical teenage girls: constant door slamming and bitchiness for no apparent reason.

As a former teenage girl I can confirm that that depiction is completely, unequivocally… okay fine, it’s pretty accurate.  She’s still annoying as hell, though.

Riley stumbles into the family’s backyard like a burglar and Winnie, mistaking him for a friend of Allison’s, invites him in.  The two bond, all while Riley must avoid being introduced to Allison, lest Allison reveal that she doesn’t actually know this crazy boy wandering around their house.  Being the evil teen girl she is, Allison finds Riley and rather than exposing him, decides to use him to piss off her parents. I have no idea why, but that’s her nefarious plan throughout the film.

Hope pops up from time to time to check on Riley. He makes progress, spending time with each family member one on one and somehow convincing them that the Christmas spirit is alive and well.  These scenes are the slowest and most tedious to get through, as they feel just a bit too much like a Hallmark movie. Of course, they still have that fine layer of Mary Crawford grime about them to keep them from ever feeling totally wholesome.

At one point Riley calls Winnie’s mom and invites her over for the holiday (after Winnie uninvited her earlier in the film. Awkward).  This was all at Allison’s behest, and Allison even tries to get Riley to steal Tom’s wallet in order to buy a plane ticket for dear old Grandma to get there.  Riley refuses, but the wallet and Riley disappear, and the family’s newfound holiday spirit starts to dwindle. How could this complete stranger they let wander through their house not be trustworthy?? Shocking.

The real climax arrives when the family realizes their beloved dog Chompy (or Choppy, depending on which character is saying his name) disappears. They search the house until finally finding her right back in her bed, where she appears to be permanently glued. They also realize Chompy is a bit of a thief, finding Tom’s wallet, along with other household items, in Chompy’s bed, thus clearing Riley of any wrong-doing.

The film ends with the family inviting Riley and his mom over for Christmas dinner.  Tom and Sarah realize they work for the same company, and as the movie closes they decide to start and co-run their own business: marketing a line of toys based on Winnie’s children books. Everyone is happy, and Hope is glad that the Christmas spirit has been returned to two loving families.

Based on this, it sounds like a bland, boring, run-of-the-mill tv movie, right?  There’s just one problem:

WHAT ABOUT THE FRIGGING CHRISTMAS PUPPY?!?!

A movie called “A Christmas Puppy” should have a damn puppy in it, no? Wouldn’t you think the dog would be a central plot point? In any other film that would be the case, but apparently Mary Crawford likes to screw with us.

There’s no getting around it. The title is a misnomer, plain and simple. If you look on IMDB, the film has an alternate title (of course it does) of “Christmas Spirit”.  This at least makes sense for the film, based on what actually happens.  Where the frack did “A Christmas Puppy” come from, then??? I know the animals on the covers of Mary Crawford movies are never the ones in the actual film, but this time he said screw it and just decided to leave out the animal altogether.  Who decided this was a smart marketing move? Anyone who watches this is going to be disappointed.

Promise me a cute little puppy and then fail to deliver? Damn right I’m going to be angry.

Obviously the complete lack of a Christmas puppy in this movie is the most glaring issue (I feel very strongly about this, can you tell?).  Of course, this is still a Mary Crawford film, so the lack of a puppy in a movie titled, “A Christmas Puppy” is just the tip of the iceberg.  There’s plenty more ridiculousness for us to unpack:

1)  The dialogue is cringe-worthy. Mary Crawford is an alien-being trying to study our ways. That is the only explanation for this film’s writing. Just look at some of these lines/phrases:

“Marshmallows make everything good.” (spoken by a 17-year old boy)

“You teens with your intertubes and your myfaces.”

“Her stupid pranks are so stupid.”

“Is that why you looked like a slack-jawed, narcoleptic panda?”

“Flying coffee weasels”

[Mary Crawford’s idea of a job description]: “He works with numbers.”

I take back my previous statement. Any aliens with the technology to travel all the way here would do a much better job of understanding our language. I don’t know what Mary Crawford is, but wordsmith-genius seems an accurate description, no?

Also, I plan on calling people “Slack-jawed, narcoleptic pandas” from now on.

2)  The sets, as usual, are sparsely decorated at best.  Since it’s supposed to be Christmas, they decided to just drape a strand of Christmas lights over one or two items in a scene and call it a day.

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No wonder these people aren’t feeling the Christmas spirit.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering: IT’S THE SAME DAMN HOUSE FROM EVERY OTHER MARY CRAWFORD MOVIE.  Check that off on your Mary Crawford bingo card.

3) As though set dressing wasn’t hard enough, apparently they couldn’t even be bothered to get clean clothes.  Winnie spends most of the movie walking around in a shirt with a stain right on the boob, and it drove me nuts the entire time I was watching.  It wouldn’t show up in any of the pictures I took, but trust me, it’s definitely there.  It’s such a minor detail in the grand scheme of this movie, but it pisses me off to no end. They couldn’t get her a clean shirt? It’s pretty obvious on camera, so you can’t tell me Mary Crawford didn’t notice while filming.

Maybe he was drunk that day.

Maybe he’s drunk every day.

It would explain a lot.

Of course, I don’t think Winnie was too concerned with a small stain on her shirt, since I’m pretty sure she was HIGH AS A KITE all throughout filming.

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Who sees this and thinks, “This is a great family photo. I’m going to frame it and display it prominently in my house for all to see”? One can only imagine what she looked like in the photos that didn’t earn a place on the mantle.

4)  I am 100% convinced that the boy playing Riley was hired last minute as a replacement after the original actor didn’t show up on the day they were filming.  He didn’t have a script, he was just thrown into the scene and told to go with it. THAT is how he delivers all of his lines. He reacts as though everything people say to him is completely crazy (since it is) and seems convinced he’s fallen into an alternate dimension where everyone is super depressed but needs saving by a Christmas spirit.

He speaks for everyone watching the film. Poor kid had to actually live it, though.

5)  In the twisted woods of Mary Crawford’s mind, there is no room for logic.  When the family is searching for their lost dog, it makes perfect sense to look in a multiple kitchen drawers and cabinets.  The dog could most certainly be hiding in any one of those places, obviously.

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6) The grandma is basically me watching any Mary Crawford film:

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No, it doesn’t make any sense, but then neither do these movies.

7) Did I mention that Maureen McCormick, a.k.a. Marcia from “The Brady Bunch”, plays Susan?  Can someone explain to me how Mary Crawford got not one, but two Bradys to be in his various films? Was he just a huge fan of the show as a kid? Does he have blackmail on them? I need to know.

In terms of content, “A Christmas Puppy” isn’t quite as enjoyable as some other Mary Crawford gems.  There aren’t lengthy, unnecessary establishing shots, there’s no terrifying talking animal, no Kristine DeBell looking high as hell throughout the film.  If it had been in the hands of a more capable director with a slightly bigger budget, it would have been a ho-hum Hallmark movie that I likely would have passed out watching.  The movie still has the few trademark items that set it apart and give it that Mary Crawford stamp of approval, but it’s missing something. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is.

Oh wait, yes I can.

IT’S MISSING A GODDAMN CHRISTMAS PUPPY.

I will never let this go. Never.

-Jess

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