Snow might look and sound like a Hallmark movie, but don’t be deceived by its Hallmark-friendly stars and plot. The movie is an ABC production that’s geared more for families than for thirtysomething single women – not that the latter demographic can’t enjoy it since I’m watching (thank you, Tom Cavanaugh). But if you’re more familiar with the actor or his costar, Ashley Williams, from their work on the channel known for soppy Christmas movies, you might want to adjust your expectations.
Cavanaugh plays yet another dopey, socially awkward guy, only this time that guy also happens to be Santa Claus. St. Nick is a little desperate this year because it’s his first time taking over the family business and just three days before his debut, one of his reindeer, Buddy, has gone missing. Well, not so much missing as poached, which means he has to find his way to the San Ernesto Zoo to retrieve the reindeer or lest Christmas be cancelled.
To Santa’s surprise, one of Buddy’s keepers is Sandy (Williams), a kind woman who loves animals and children but dislikes Christmas. Again, not a Hallmark movie. Santa adopts the alias Nick Snowden and talks his way into lodging at the boarding house where she stays, though not because he wants to romance her. I mean, Santa’s got other priorities, and the first one is to sneak Buddy out of the zoo, a task made harder by the fact that the young reindeer can’t really fly.
The movie low on magic and wonder compared to bigger budget films but still has enough of a wow factor to impress the younger crowd. After seeing Snow, kids may be keeping a closer eye on their mirrors come Christmas Eve since that’s Santa’s main mode of non-reindeer transport. I was also enchanted by Nick’s retelling of his own legend, a twist on the traditional story and instead a tale about a selfish man who is cursed into giving away his treasures but who comes to find joy in giving.
There are some madcap moments as well, made sillier by Cavanaugh’s manic energy. His wiry disposition amplifies all of Santa’s insecurities about taking on his very important job for the first time and his worries about how he’s going to pull off his plan. The actor isn’t a natural choice for St. Nick being neither jolly nor old, but he’s a kid-friendly Santa, especially when he partners with a young boarder named Hector (Bobb’e J. Thompson). It’s hard to say which is the more level-headed of the two, but both generate laughs when they come up with an improbable scheme to ferry Buddy out of the zoo and then through the mirror.
It’s nice to watch something that isn’t dripping with sugar and romance for once, though Sandy still goes through the motions of rediscovering her Christmas spirit. She’s too calm to be much of a foil for Santa, which is why she’s his well-matched love interest. She has a more fiery relationship with big, dumb Buck (Patrick Fabian), the poacher who stole Buddy and who’d probably be charged with sexual harassment if Sandy pressed her case. That she doesn’t might be down to the fact that this movie was made in 2004 and this is children’s entertainment.
Dir: Alex Zamm
Writer: Rich Burns
Cast: Tom Cavanaugh, Ashley Williams, Patrick Fabian, Bobb’e J. Thompson, Jackie Burroughs, Leslie Carlson, Karen Robinson, Paul Bates
Time: 83 min
Country: United States