Every year around this time, it seems studios are attempting to release the next holiday classic, or at least a film that will be revisited by fans. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Elf, and Die Hard (yes, it is a Christmas movie) are just a few that are in heavy rotation in my household. For those looking for something a little more wholesome and family-friendly, you may be in luck with the release of Dashing Through The Snow, which will be debuting on Disney Plus just in time for the holidays. At first glance I wasn’t so sure about this film, but when I saw that the film was written by Scott Rosenberg, I couldn’t resist. Rosenberg is responsible for writing the screenplays for Beautiful Girls and High Fidelity; both movies are near and dear to my heart, and if you haven’t seen these films, I highly recommend checking them out. More recently he’s been attached to more big-budget popcorn films like Venom and the newer Jumanji films. Then helming the film is director Tim Story, who has an impressive resume as well with The Barbershop and the Ride Along films. So does this film deliver us something nice, or was the viewing experience on par with receiving a massive lump of coal in my stocking?
When we first meet Eddie Garrick, we are taken 30 years back, as we get to hear why it is that he isn’t a fan of Christmas. It’s a slightly amusing yet tragic story about a mall Santa coming into his home to rob the family, and things end up getting worse for poor Eddie. Modern-day Eddie is played by Chris “Ludacris” Bridges. Eddie has grown up to be a social worker who helps out the Atlanta PD and is also a divorced father. For Christmas Eve, Eddie is spending time with his daughter, Charlotte (Madison Skye Validum), but things are not going to remain peaceful and quiet; in fact, the night is about to turn into an adventure of a lifetime when Eddie comes across Nick (Lil Rel Howery), who claims to be Santa. Eddie is a good guy and wants to help Nick. It’s Christmas, after all, but Nick aka Santa is being chased by a trio of goons who have been ordered by Conrad Harf (Oscar Nunez), a corrupt congressman, to retrieve a tablet that Santa may have accidently picked up earlier that night.
What follows is a trek through downtown Atlanta, where Eddie and Charlotte are trying to get Santa to safety (Eddie wants the man mentally evaluated), while Santa is trying to convince Eddie that he is the real Santa. The story has flashes of charm, but it never quite takes off. I understand that this is a Disney film, but I feel the film never seems to figure out what it wants to be. While being on the run from the trio of goons is fun, it never really feels like anyone is at risk. I mean, the burglars in Home Alone are way more intimidating than these three. But then the wholesome aspect of getting Eddie to believe in the magic of Christmas and Santa — it just wasn’t whimsical enough. I don’t know if the film was restrained for budget reasons, but it was just missing that fantasy element for me.
Lil Rel Howery is one of the bright spots in this film. He seems to be having a blast as this version of Santa, and I do like some of the quirks they gave this character to make him different from what we’ve seen before. Chris Bridges also does a good job as the anchor for this film, and I wouldn’t mind seeing him in more roles like this. At the end of the day, where the movie succeeds its solid as a family film, but it just isn’t the fantasy thrill ride it could have been. It’s worth watching, but I feel this is one that many will forget about by the time New Year’s Eve rolls around.