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Good, but not great, holiday fun
vchimpanzee from NC
4 January 2013
In snowy Connecticut, former police dog Zeus is so happy that his
family is going to Malibu, California for Christmas. He lives with
George and Belinda Bannister, who have been married 20 years as of Dec.
26 and have two children and one on the way. Zeus can talk, at least to
other animals and the audience. Belinda's mother, who wishes Belinda
would come be with her for the holidays, can't understand him. Maybe
it's just as well. You wouldn't want to use the phone after he answered
George's brother Barbara has been married several times. Now she is a
widow whose husband has left her a fabulous house. She competes with a
cranky neighbor Ned to see who can put up the best Christmas
Ted and Stewey have a dog grooming service which is not doing too well.
And they are in debt to loan shark Tony Rowe, who insists on being paid
by Christmas Eve OR ELSE. If they can't come up with the money, he will
accept the very valuable star rumored to be on top of Barbara's
Dumb and Dumber, as Rowe calls them, set up a listening device which
appears to work very well, as it can hear what is going on in several
different rooms. They stake out the place as the family celebrates.
This film is apparently a sequel, as the guys have met Zeus and the
Bannisters before and can't believe they've encountered them again this
The first gift to be opened is a puppy named Mimi, a yellow lab like
Zeus. Zeus is reluctant to accept competition, as he has always been
George's best friend. But everyone just loves Mimi (who can also talk,
at least to other animals and the viewers). And while Zeus covers for
Mimi's bad behavior, Mimi also gets credit for something good Zeus
actually did. And then Mimi does something so terrible--for which Zeus
gets blamed--that Zeus gets banished to a fenced-in area. There, he
meets other animals who can communicate with him.
Meanwhile, Belinda believes George has forgotten their anniversary, and
she has reason to believe he is cheating. At the very least, he doesn't
make an effort to be romantic, and if he doesn't know what to do on his
own, she's not going to tell him.
What happens next is kind of a low-budget "Home Alone"--very little
excitement compared to that masterpiece of slapstick, but still a few
This is not exactly a Christmas classic. Two actors do stand out. Elisa
Donovan, who looks too pretty to be celebrating 20 years of marriage,
really rises above the material she is given. And Joey Diaz as "Dumber"
actually comes across as pretty smart, and does a better job as a
bumbling villain than partner Dean Cain. Jack Scalia does a good job
too as the evil loan shark. I just wish Cain had been a good guy
because for the most part, he just doesn't have the ability to play a
villain. That's not to say he doesn't have some good scenes. Gary
Valentine as George does reasonably well. And the actors doing animal
voices other than the dogs are pretty good. As for the dogs, their
voice actors are not that special.
The dogs seem really intelligent. I'm referring to the canine actors,
of course. The characters are geniuses.
It's a family film, but not squeaky clean. It does have some bathroom
humor and, while not explicit, does have some adult discussions about
relationships between married people. Kids might get bored with George
and Belinda's problems. Plus there are threatening situations for the
dogs, but nothing too serious--I mean, look who we're dealing with.
Still, it has to be geared toward kids because let's face it: most of
the dialogue is apparently intended just for them.
This movie should get credit for one thing: acknowledging the true
meaning of Christmas. The kids don't want to go to church on Christmas
Eve, but Belinda insists and George goes along.
There seems to be an epidemic of movies where Elisa Donovan has a dog
and doesn't want to spend Christmas with her mother, in which Michael
Gross plays a Scrooge. Keep in mind, though, how Scrooge turned out.
It's probably worth seeing. If you like the formula of heroic pets and
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