Christmas movies have an expected path they’re supposed to follow—a familiarity of magic and easy nostalgia. They let us enter a world where Santa could very well be real, and the Christmas spirit is a tangible, undefined but perfectly understood thing. It’s a place where finding out the meaning of Christmas can solve all of your problems. We’ve all seen movies like that, and we all have our favourites. Dashing Through The Snow knows this, draws upon this, but doesn’t go any farther than that. Tim Story’s holiday comedy is a movie you’ve already seen. It’s familiar, comfortable, and hard to dislike but likewise, also hard to care about. It moves quickly through the familiar beats of Christmas movies that we know and love, and deals with the same themes and the same ideas. But that isn’t to say it’s not enjoyable, because I did find myself smiling and laughing, but there isn’t enough originality here for this new Disney film to become a Christmas staple the way films like Elf have.
Dashing Through The Snow features a marriage that’s on the rocks, a kid who’s a true believer in Christmas, a Santa Claus who’s in a situation and can’t use magic to get out of it, and a bad guy who’s out to get Santa Claus. The plot is mostly an excuse to move from joke to joke, with the vast majority aimed at a younger audience. The comedic routine is broken up by set pieces, like the world’s tiniest car chase, the obligatory Santa singing a rock and roll Christmas song, and many others we’ve seen before.
But the movie isn’t without its charms; Eddie Garrick, played by Ludacris, has a charismatic everyman charm that grounds this otherwise very silly and whimsical movie. It’s hard not to enjoy his performance as a good guy who he believes he is helping someone going through a mental health crisis, as opposed to the real Santa Claus. We all like good guys and relatable guys, and Ludacris personifies that here.
Lil Rel Howery also brings good energy to his role as Nick, a.k.a. Santa Claus. He’s a good foil for Eddie at the very least. Nick is a whimsical, silly, fast-talking, joke-cracking magical being that frequently gets himself (and Eddie) into and out of trouble in creative ways.
Where the film really starts to fumble is with the supporting characters. They aren’t written well enough, or in some cases acted well enough, to elevate them above unfortunately tropey characters. Madison Skye Validum plays Charlotte, Eddie’s Christmas loving daughter, who’s not given any more personality traits than that to work with. The goon villains are definitely only there as plot devices, because they’re too inept or interesting to create any tension. The goon boss, played by Oscar Nuñez, hams it up and creates a few funny moments—enough that I would say he steals his scenes, if there was anyone for him to steal them from.
Dashing Through the Snow isn’t without heart, but the attempt at an emotional ending feels unearned. It is never truly established why Eddie and his wife Allison, played by the talented Teyonah Parris, are separated. The only clues provided are that Eddie himself is a child of divorce, and that they are going to couples therapy. He doesn’t seem to be an inattentive father or a bad husband. In fact, he clearly tries to balance what his daughter wants with what he believes is safe for her. Unfortunately, the movie seems confused as to which is more important: whether or not Eddie believes in Nick being the real Santa Claus, or if the central characters can patch the cracks of the family at its heart.
If you’re looking for something to watch with the family that has just enough charm to make it fun, Dashing Through the Snow is not a bad choice. It’s carried by Ludacris and Lil Rel Howery’s performances, but as much as they make an enjoyable comedic duo, it’s doubtful the film as a whole will earn a spot on many people’s essential holiday season watch lists.
Dashing Through The Snow is streaming now on Disney+.
Photo Credit: (L-R): Lil Rel Howery as Nick and Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges as Eddie in DASHING THROUGH THE SNOW, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Steve Dietl. © 2023 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.