family films

Scoot and Kassie’s Christmas Adventure (2013)

Scoot and Kassie’s Christmas Adventure is less of an adventure and more of a romp, a dull Christian romp to be exact. Lured by the promise of dad Luke Perry, I wasted a sunny spring Friday on a subpar Christmas movie for small children. Only the very littles will enjoy seeing this film about kids and a dog who fundraise for charity while also foiling some bad guys. I’d opt for one of a dozen other holiday classics or something else in the Luke Perry catalogue if you’re going in that direction.

The Scoot and Kassie of this Christmas adventure are a police dog and ten year old girl, respectively. The movie opens with Scoot chasing down a pair of bank robbers. He gets ensnared in some barbed wire but, being the intelligent pup that he is, escapes and finds his way to Kassie (Ariana Bagley). She’s just moved into town with her teenage sister, Esther (Camrey Bagley Fox), and hot widowed dad, Paul (Perry). Bullied by the rich kids and the boy who pounds her face with a dodgeball, she finds a kindred spirit in Scoot and surreptitiously brings him home.

A stray dog is the last thing Paul needs. His job as the bank’s new manager is off to a shaky start and only gets worse when he unwittingly hires the robbers as security guards. He also struggles to bring in donations for the Toys for Tots drive and fears the shortfall will result in a lot of sad kids on Christmas Day. Scoot may be the lucky charm Paul and his family are looking for though, and the friendly canine starts to turn the holidays around for them and the whole town.

There’s plenty of wholesome, G-rated content if that’s what you’re looking for, though not much of a Christmas ambiance. The scariest thing may be Scoot getting a bloodied by the barbed wire. Otherwise, the criminal element is like something lifted out of a cartoon. The robbers pose a minimal threat and are the kind who might be taken down by a bunch of Nerf guns. Kassie’s classmates are more vicious come to think of it, and damn, these mean girls start young. Unlike real life though, a church choir sing-along will mend broken, abusive relationships, and Kassie uses her musical talents to win over the other kids and save the Toys for Tots program. Also for good measure, everyone huddles in a prayer circle when things get really rough.

The story’s simplicity will appeal to some, but I thought it too saccharine even for children. The whole bullying issue, for example, gets an easy pass. The movie puts it down to a matter of character, and Kassie’s spunk rather than an adult stepping in is what resolves the conflict. One thing that does deserve credit though is the acting, and it’s solid across the board. The adults strike the right tone and the kids avoid preening too much for the cameras. There’s also a lovely Christmas tune, a bonus for making it through this movie.

“The World is Ours”:

Alt Titles: K-9 Adventures: A Christmas Tale
Released: 2013
Prod: T.R. Gourley, David M. Wulf
Dir: Ben Gourley
Writer: Ben Gourley
Cast: Luke Perry, Ariana Bagley, Taylor Negron, Jake Suazo, Camrey Bagley Fox, Lillian Hepler, Adam Johnson, James Andrews
Time: 86 min
Lang: English, some French
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2020

Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever (2014)

Grumpy Cat was right when it growled that “this movie is awful.” The Lifetime production tries to get ahead of the game with a lot of fourth-wall-breaking and puts it out there that this is a shameless cash grab. Apparently memes weren’t enough for the unhappy kitty and it, or its owners, thought it best to leverage internet fame for a bigger payday. There’s a reason why viral clips don’t last more than a few minutes though, and now here we are with a film no one wanted.

I suppose children may get a kick out of this, but I’d be wary of letting any kid I care about watch it. For all the goofiness, Grumpy Cat is just really cynical, and it’s a tiring act from the start. Aubrey Plaza, despite her comedic talents, brings the whole mood down. I know sarcastic deadpan is her thing and she’s probably a natural choice to voice a cat that hates everything, but it’s too much for a 90 minute movie and especially at Christmastime.

Thankfully one’s exasperation wears off as the adventure progresses. The entire movie is not about Grumpy Cat or talking animals. Chrystal (Megan Charpentier), a sweet teenager, is the real star and a far more joyful presence. She’s friendly with everyone at the mall where her mom works but is having a harder time breaking through to the mean girls in her class. After making a wish on an internet-purchased Christmas coin, she finds she can hear and talk to Grumpy Cat, and thus the excitement begins. Chrystal stumbles on a kidnapping one night, or a dognapping rather, at Mr. Crabtree’s (David Lewis) pet store. Two boneheaded musicians figure they can ransom Mr. Crabtree’s slobbery Leonberger, valued at one million dollars, and finally have money to go on tour. The young girl gives chase, taking Grumpy Cat along with her because why not?

There goofy plot has hints of Paul Blart: Mall Cop, a film I actually enjoyed, thank you very much. Grumpy Cat, however, has almost none of the heart. Plus, the production values aren’t great, something the testy feline can tell you him/herself. The movie has a plain and boxy look that’s low on visual interest. For my part, I wish the script would have strengthened the relationship between Chrystal and Grumps and show that dogs aren’t man’s only BFFs. The more I think about how improvements though, the more I’m reminded that we’re really just talking about a meme. I’m not in the business of encouraging full-length features based on snarky GIFS, so I’ll end by suggesting you watch something else.

Released: 2014
Dir: Tim Hill
Writer: Tim Hill, Jeff Morris
Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Megan Charpentier, David Lewis, Russell Peters, Evan Todd, Isaac Haig, Casey Manderson, Jay Brazeau
Time: 87 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Lifetime
Reviewed: 2019

The Amazing Adventure of Marchello the Cat (2008)

The wonderful thing about libraries is that you never know what you’ll discover. Sometimes you come across great gems, stories that excite the imagination and inspire real wonder, and sometimes you come across The Amazing Adventure of Marchello the Cat, a movie to be sure but not at all what I expected when I checked out this feature film.

At least it is true to its description and delivers on a story about “a sheltered indoor cat [who] escapes and is forced to face the mean city streets in order to find his way home.” There’s a plot, which is more than you can say for some kids’ movies, and it proceeds in logical fashion. Marcello (Troy Garity), a coddled black and white furball, ventures outdoors when his human mom goes off to meet her boyfriend’s family. Blame it on his kitty hormones. He attempts to flirt with outdoor cat Jujube (Michelle Rodriguez), but his efforts are cut short when he’s catnapped by a rollerblader. Naïve to the ways of the world, he is easily taken advantage of by animals who either wish him harm or who just want a laugh. All Marcello wants though is make it back home, wherever that is.

I can see someone embarking on a remake and turning this into a movie worth watching. It has cats, and I’m not going to turn down a cat movie. I did watch Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties and Nine Lives after all, so there’s no bottom line for me. Marcello encounters some interesting characters, like Pinky and Blackie, who have quite touching stories. Pinky is under the illusion that her human mom will come back to their palace any day, except she’s just an abandoned cat who sleeps in a dump. Blackie, meanwhile, is a do-gooder trying to find new homes for the strays who cross his path. The crows are a different story. They control much of the animal-to-animal communications and love nothing more than to stir up trouble.

The problem, however, is that this plays like someone’s home movies from the 1990s. You’re honestly going to get better production values by sticking your iPhone on a tripod and capturing the neighborhood pets. Writer and director Susan Emerson, who has a handful of credits to her name, pieces what I assume are the best bits of her grainy, zoom-happy footage and still ends up with something that looks like amateur YouTube. In addition, the perspective is all over the place, which I guess is what happens when you take a handheld camera and chase a few animals around. Sometimes we get shots from Marchello’s point of view and sometimes we’re just creepy voyeurs from afar spying on him and his furry friends. If you must watch this, I’d recommend muting the sound, but really, just stick with the cute cat videos already populating the internet.

Alt Titles: Cats: The Movie!; A Cat’s Tale
Released: 2008
Prod: Paul Williams
Dir: Susan Emerson
Writer: Susan Emerson
Cast: Troy Garity, Michelle Rodriguez, Mara Lane, Dominique Swain, Troy Hall, Jeremy Sisto, Shannon Conlon, Jeremy Piven
Time: 100 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2019