• Nate Adams

Review Roundup: 'Blue's Big City Adventure,' 'A Christmas Story Christmas,' and 'The Santa Clauses'

Courtesy of Disney+, Paramount+ and HBO MAX

 

Review Roundup is a segment designed to give bite-size reviews of current movies in release either in theaters, on-demand, or streaming. 


BLUE'S BIG CITY ADVENTURE

A harmless, colorful and cheery addition to the “Blue’s Clues” canon, the Paramount+ original movie “Blue’s Big City Adventure” will have zero problem hooking its preschooler fanbase thanks to catchy songs, spunky animation, and with the return of past characters Steve (Steve Burns) and his brother Joe (Donovan Patton), alongside current host Josh (Joshua Dela Cruz), older generations might come along too. Forget “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” this is the real Multiverse of Madness.


The premise is cute and raises the stakes from that of the Storybook world where Josh and his trusty canine companion Blue reside with their various inanimate object pals like Salt, Pepper, Mailbox and Soap. Josh, who’s long dreamt of becoming a Broadway musical performer, packs his bags and heads to New York City after getting the audition of a lifetime for the prestigious Rainbow puppy. But once Josh and Blue arrive in the big apple, there’s an immediate culture shock, although various flash dance mobs ensue and, of course, a game of Blue’s Clues. Except things are upended when Josh forgets his handy dandy notebook and can’t locate the theater where his audition is held!


That’s where Steve, who now runs a detective agency called Blue Prints, and Joe, who owns a toy store, come into play and try to help their compatriot. Directed by Matt Stawski and written by Angela Santomero, “Blue’s Big City Adventure” runs a scant 74-minutes, which is ideal for the targeted demographic, and through it might lag in the middle, anyone who fancies themselves a fan won’t be deterred. Plus, there’s some fun cameos adults will be keen to spot. No matter where you fall on the age spectrum, “Blue’s Big City Adventure,” has a little something for everyone.


Grade: B


BLUE’S BIG CITY ADVENTURE streams on Paramount+ Friday, November 18th

 

A CHRISTMAS STORY CHRISTMAS

40-years in the making, the long-gestating follow-up, “A Christmas Story Christmas” brings Peter Billingsley’s Ralphie Parker back to the screen. Far more memorable than, say, the direct- to-DVD sequel “A Christmas Story 2,” “A Christmas Story Christmas” isn’t the calamity one would expect, but it never reaches the highs of its beloved predecessor. Did anyone think it would? The sequel takes place roughly 20+ years after the first: Ralphie is now married with children and struggling to make ends meet writing science fiction novels nobody wants to publish.


But the Parker clan is hit with a doozy when they find out “The Old Man” has passed away (the OG Old Man, Darren McGavin died in 2006), forcing Ralphie to be the beacon of Christmas cheer and salvage the holiday season. It forces him to look back on his memories of what the holiday season meant, but that doesn’t mean its any less chaotic. “A Christmas Story Christmas” checks all the boxes for a legacy sequel, including bringing back fan favorite characters Flick (Scott Schwartz) and Schwartz (R.D. Robb) and putting Ralphie’s kids through the various pratfalls he endured including meeting Santa and fending off bullies.


The answers nor will the trajectory of the film, which has an endearing finale that tastefully honors the first, won’t be that shocking. After all, this isn’t destined to become a 24-hour staple on TBS during Christmas, but the emotional core (and seeing Billingsley try to muster some hearty laughs with his wry narration) could have been worse. At least he doesn’t shoot his eye out.


Grade: C+


A CHRISTMAS STORY CHRISTMAS streams on HBO Max Thursday, November 17th

 

THE SANTA CLAUSES

In the streaming era, nothing is off limits. Hence the new series “The Santa Clauses” which brings back Tim Allen’s Scott Calvin after the less than satisfactory “The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause.” The new 6-part episodic adventure sees Santa contending with new-age technology and that pesky Amazon Prime delivery service. He’s also starring down the barrel of retirement and trying to find a successor so he can give his now grown-age children some semblance of normalcy outside of the North Pole. It won’t be easy considering belief in Christmas is at an all-time low and nobody, not even Scott’s first-born son Charlie (Eric Lloyd – returning), wants the gig.


The first two episodes provided in advance for reviewing press lays a firm foundation for what lies ahead, and I can only assume the Santa Clause mantle will get passed to ensure future seasons in the Disney machine. There are a few memorable one-liners and “The Santa Clauses” answers several questions on the mythology and lore of becoming Santa, but the writing and how it arrives at those conclusions feels lazy. Unlike the first two films, which had a sense of enchantment and childlike sensibilities, “The Santa Clauses” thrives on silly puns (Mrs. Clause, played again by Elizabeth Mitchell, enjoys her daily “Cider-down sessions” and battling stereotypes on her appearance) and Allen’s charm is certainly welcome. But will it be enough to sustain four more episodes? Time will tell.


Grade: C+


THE SANTA CLAUSES debuts its first two episodes on Wednesday, November 16th with subsequent episodes dropping weekly.