"Dashing Through the Snow," directed by Tim Story, ventures into the holiday movie scene with a modern twist, but it might not leave the lasting impression of a festive classic. In this contemporary take on Christmas lore, overworked social worker Eddie, portrayed by Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, grapples with his dwindling holiday spirit, a casualty of a childhood disappointment involving a mall Santa and his parents' subsequent divorce. Now a father himself to the lively Charlotte (Madison Skye Validum), Eddie musters up enthusiasm for the season for his daughter's sake, despite the strain in his own marriage to Allison (Teyonah Parris).
The storyline gets complicated when Eddie encounters Nick (Lil Rel Howery), a magical figure in trouble, pursued by a corrupt politician (Oscar Nuñez) and his clumsy henchmen, Peter, Paul, and Mary. This plot device echoes the familiar "saving Santa" narrative, reminiscent of holiday classics like "Miracle on 34th Street," yet "Dashing Through the Snow" struggles to find its unique voice amidst the chaos of its convoluted plot and over-the-top characters.
Director Story and writer Scott Rosenberg pack this film with an array of subplots and characters that contribute to a disjointed viewing experience. The narrative veers from corrupt politics to bizarre fanatics and even to a group of Santa's "associates," adorned in steampunk attire, adding more confusion than holiday cheer. Ludacris, known for his vibrant musical persona, seems disengaged, particularly when delivering self-referential lines. The energy in the movie largely comes from Howery, whose overzealous portrayal of Santa aligns with the film's exaggerated tone, complemented by Validum's exuberant performance. Parris, unfortunately, remains in the background, while Nuñez fully embraces his role as the villain.
One of the film's more interesting aspects is the casting of Howery as a Black Santa, a progressive move that addresses the historical lack of diversity in Christmas storytelling. Rosenberg subtly integrates this theme, challenging traditional Santa depictions and acknowledging a wider spectrum of cultures. However, this moment of depth is lost amidst the movie's overall absurdity and erratic narrative shifts.
From its opening scene, where Eddie calms a distressed man, to its eventual plunge into farcical scenarios involving swapped tablets and animal attack squads, "Dashing Through the Snow" can't seem to find a consistent tone or clear direction. The film's attempt to blend serious themes with whimsical holiday elements results in a haphazard mix that fails to resonate deeply with its audience.
In the end, "Dashing Through the Snow" aims to be a lighthearted holiday adventure but ends up feeling more like a forgettable addition to your Christmas movie watchlist. Despite its promising concept and a few noteworthy performances, the film falls short of delivering the heartwarming holiday magic it strives for, settling instead for being a passable but ultimately underwhelming seasonal offering.