Eddie Garrick hates Christmas.
He doesn’t hate it in a “boiled in his own pudding” sort of way. It’s just that he’s haunted just a bit of his Christmas past.
See, when he was 8 years old, Eddie asked a mall-bound Santa to give his dad a fishing rod and pretend that it was from his mom. He believed that ol’ rod just might keep Mom and Dad from fighting—and if they didn’t fight, they just might be a happy family again.
Eddie didn’t think anything was wrong when Santa asked for his home address. But that night, “Santa” broke in, and Eddie’s dad had to deck Santa’s halls.
It was the last Christmas Eddie’s parents were together. Apparently, holiday breaking-and-entering events are hard on marriages.
Fast-forward three decades, and Eddie’s a police crisis counselor and a father of his own—helping to raise a Christmas-loving daughter named Charlotte.
He and the Missus (Allison) are sledding through their own rocky relational patch, and they’ve recently separated. But now, for the first time in practically forever, Eddie doesn’t have to work on Christmas Eve. Allison thinks it’d be wonderful for Eddie and his yule-loving little girl to spend some quality time together while she does just a touch of last-minute shopping.
Fine, Eddie says. He may hate Christmas, but he loves Charlotte. So he can at least pretend to be a right jolly-old dad for one Christmas night, right? Sing a few songs, eat a few cookies, maybe watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on TV, and then go back to his old Grinchy ways after Charlotte goes to sleep.
But first, Eddie must go next door and feed the neighbor’s cat, Pudding Foots.
He walks next door and turns off the security system. But hark! Not a creature was stirring. Not even Pudding Foots.
Well, not unless you count the joker who’s stuck in the chimney, hanging upside-down.
Eddie helps the guy out, who immediately heads to the fridge to look for some cookies and milk. Gotta keep his strength up for the night ahead, of course.
Why? Well, the stranger says that he’s none other than Nicolas Sinter-Claus—famed deliverer of gifts, famed eater of cookies. He’s got to get back to the sleigh pronto, to finish up his rounds.
Eddie has little patience for the ramblings of a madman. And let’s be honest: the sight of a guy in a red suit ransacking someone’s house (even if it’s just for milk and cookies) brings up bad memories. He and Charlotte will need to change their Christmas Eve plans and get this deluded, surprisingly jolly old elf a bit of help. Maybe take him to a psychiatric ho-ho-hospital.
But, as you might expect by now, this Christmas Eve will hold plenty more surprises for Eddie.
The generosity of Santa Claus is fairly well documented at this point. And if it’s not, Mr. Claus himself is quick to remind us. He delivers presents to roughly 2 billion children each Christmas Eve, and his global operation must boast an incredibly high overhead—one which we imagine Kris Kringle pays right out of his own pocket.
Eddie, if he believed in Santa, would definitely be on the guy’s “nice” list. When we first meet Eddie, he’s on his way to help a despondent fellow get a little help—and a nice Christmas meal. He assumes that Nick is also in need of help. So he and Charlotte spend much of their Christmas Eve trying to get him that help. “The most important part of Daddy’s job?” Eddie tells Charlotte. “It’s to never let someone who feels sad and alone keep feeling sad and alone.”
Charlotte reminds Eddie of this statement as the night wears on (and the circumstances turn evermore outlandish and frustrating). She wants to help, too—help Nick, help Eddie, help her own family stay together. Her heart and courage serve her, and her companions, well throughout the film.
Dashing Through the Snow offers some really nice messages about the beauty and importance of family, even as it acknowledges and reassures us that problems within the family are normal, not reasons to panic. When Charlotte mentions that her mom and dad are in counseling, Nick says that “every couple has problems.” He and Mrs. Claus are in counseling themselves: They need it (Nick says) every couple hundred years or so.
Outside of one religiously themed carol (“O Come Let Us Adore Him”), Christ is largely absent from this Christmas movie. We do hear a lot of talk about “faith” and “belief.” But of course that is mainly directed at Santa Claus: As an unbeliever, Eddie puts a serious harsh on Nick’s magical abilities, and he needs to come around for Christmas to go on as planned.
A politician makes a speech about how the Christmas season is one “of welcoming and sharing … where we all feel like little children.” He encourages (disingenuously, as it turns out) a spirit of charity, saying that we should “help those who have the least.”
When cornered by bad guys, Nick says he’s actually a worker for the power company. The Santa outfit, he says, is part of the company’s efforts to become more family friendly. On Easter he dresses up as a bunny (he explains), and on Halloween he dresses up as an old-school vampire.
As you might expect, we see quite a bit of magic in play as the film wears on, including flying reindeer and mysteriously bedazzled phones. Nick mentions that he needs to get back to the North Pole for “morning yoga.” Why? …
… Because, Nick says, Mrs. Claus “loves my flexibility.” (And while that passing comment isn’t necessarily sexual in nature, it could be just a wink in that direction.)
Workers at one of the North Pole’s branch offices are in the middle of a big Christmas party, which features women in ever-so-slightly revealing party wear.
Eddie, being separated from wife Allison, asks Charlotte if her mom has had any special friends visit—ones that might “put their arms around her while watching black-ish.” (Charlotte suggests that there’s one, but it turns out to just be her hamster.)
Nick (and, by extension, Eddie and Charlotte) are pursued by a bevy of villains who mean to disturb Nick’s Christmas spirit. Nick escapes once during a chaotic scrum in someone’s living room—one that involves falling Christmas trees and tumbling bad guys.
Nick suggests that reindeer aren’t just there to fly and take Mr. Claus where he wants to go. They come with a “special set of skills,” Nick says. They’re around to ensure no one messes with good ol’ Kris Kringle, and they’ll put a kringle on anyone who tries. We see them in action: People are head-butted, thrown, kicked, and hoofed, and one man finds himself hanging from a tree branch.
In a flashback, Eddie’s father and the pseudo-Santa fight in the family living room. Someone leaps out of a moving vehicle and tumbles down a street. Another guy leaps off a stage (hoping to crowd surf) and lands on the waiting floor below.
We hear two questionable uses of God’s name. Outside that, viewers need only navigate a handful of humorous insults. (Charlotte calls her father a Christmas “grumpus” and a “dodo,” for instance.)
Allison promises to make “peppermintinis” for her and Eddie when she’s finished shopping. We hear about “brandy fruitcake crumbs” interfering with transmission circuits.
Nick is not like most folks, and that includes certain involuntarily bodily functions. He sweats glitter, he tells us, and his flatulence smells like cinnamon.
Bad guys act duplicitously and lie about a variety of things. We hear about criminals, including “Ron Campbell, the Chimney Thief.” A character routinely hacks into NORAD to track Santa’s movements on Christmas Eve.
Dashing Through the Snow is likely not destined to become a Christmas classic. No, I don’t think Eddie Garrick will be joining the likes of Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch as reformed Christmas curmudgeons. And certainly, the lack of any real reference to Christ here will make many a parent feel a little Scroogish themselves.
But do we really expect any Christmas movie to teach our kids the meaning of Christmas? In a lot of ways, that’s our job as parents—and it should be.
This throwaway holiday story might not point to a manger in Bethlehem. But it offers some nice thoughts on family, some feel-good moments and even a few laughs here and there. And, while the movie might hit a small content bump or two, this sled mostly glides over issues like a sleigh with well-oiled blades.
Dashing Through the Snow is far from a Christmas miracle. But a nice little present under the entertainment tree? That it is.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.