Dashing Through the Snow (2023)
Director: Tim Story
Screenwriters: Paula Pell, Scott Rosenberg
Starring: Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Madison Skye Validum, Teyonah Parris, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Lil Rey Howery, Oscar Nuñez
The majority of Christmas movies for kids follow a similar pattern: a jaded grown up is sick to their back teeth with the festive season, and they are completely unwilling to suck it up for their child’s benefit (you know, like millions of the globe’s parents have to do each year), that it takes a Christmas miracle to restore their faith.
If Santa can fix a failing marriage too, then every Hallmark box has been ticked.
Eddie (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges) is one such jaded adult, living alone while he and his wife (Teyonah Parris) go through therapy. He hates the holidays, claiming carol singers sound like wounded ducks, and he is happy to work through it to avoid any festivity. His daughter, Charlotte (Madison Skye Validum) is the exact opposite. She lives for Christmas and all the traditions that go with it. She wears red and green just in case her dad decides to take her somewhere nice this Christmas Eve.
Allison (Teyonah Parris) has some last-minute shopping to do so Charlotte is with grumpy dad who has an unusual Christmas off from work. After a pretty joyless dinner with nary a paper hat to be found, Eddie announces he needs to feed the neighbour’s cat. When looking for Pudding Foots, Eddie doesn’t find her (nor does he put any food out). What he does find is a man stuck in the chimney. Eddie is a social worker with the Atlanta police, his job is working with people who’ve fallen through the cracks and need a bit of help. This Nick Sinter-Claus (Lil Rey Howery) obviously needs it, the dude thinks he’s Santa! With Charlotte in tow, Eddie flips back into work mode to get Nick the help he needs.
On their way to the police station, Eddie realises they’re being followed. The disjointed style of storytelling means we haven’t been told why they are being followed, and won’t be told for another third of the film. But these goons are hellbent on taking Nick down.
In a lot of ways, Dashing Through the Snow is exactly what you would expect from a Christmas film. It is a short 90 minutes, features garish set designs, glimmer and shine, there’s a musical number, and there’s a boxing reindeer. However, it falls short…
The dreaded product placement logo as the opening credits roll prepares you for any awkward scenes of close-up iPad wiggling. Because that is what this film is about: an iPad. Why Santa can be seen on this night as opposed to any other is not explained. It barely snows and it’s not so much of a dash as a bumble around downtown Atlanta. Its strong cast are phoning it in. Mary Lynn Rajskub is woefully underutilised. She is a comic heavyweight and does little beyond gurn. While it seems Teyonah Parris’s soul purpose was to over-pronounce peppermintinis and go shopping. Lil Rey Howery’s Santa is given so many gags that when he does try to speak earnestly it seems insincere.
Oscar Nuñez is believable as corrupt politician Harf, but his storyline is completely two-dimensional. Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges is the star on top of the Christmas tree here; Eddie is likable and says the few genuinely funny lines in the film, but he doesn’t shine quite bright enough to save the venture.
Perhaps expectations were too high for Dashing Through the Snow – the back catalogue of the writers include an eclectic contribution to entertainment: ‘Saturday Night Live’, Con Air (1997), High Fidelity (2000), and the Jumanji reboots (2017, 2019) to name a few. All of which are highly popular and lucrative. It’s fair to say that people have lower expectations of Christmas movies. Schlock isn’t only accepted, it’s actively pursued. Tis the season for guilty pleasures and vegging out after all. It is a shame though, because with such talent behind the scenes it feels like Dashing Through the Snow could have been a good film, rather than a mediocre one.
Dashing Through the Snow has its moments but is ultimately a story about an iPad. It isn’t funny enough, and the story isn’t strong enough. Lil Rey Howery demanding cookies and farting cinnamon for 90 minutes might cut it for one watch, but it doesn’t feel like a new Christmas classic has made its way onto our screens. Ludacris earnestly saying things like ‘I believe in baby carrots and red potatoes. With the skin on’ is not going to be this year’s ‘yippee ka-yay.’