Running purely on charm with a hint of retro pastiche, ABC Family delivers a lighthearted antidote to holiday stress. A new, if not totally fresh, story for the holidays, “Snow” reworks several different seasonal plot points into a sweet tale awash in cheery primary colors and virtually devoid of controversy. It’s the perfect holiday treat. No calories. No guilt.
Tom Cavanagh stars as the heir-apparent to the family business — Christmas; as Nick Snowden, it’s his job to continue in the footsteps of his father, Santa Claus. But three days before his big debut as the man in the red suit, an errant reindeer takes him to San Ernesto, Calif. Turns out Buddy, the rookie on the new sleigh team, has landed in the local zoo.
Working undercover, Nick takes a room at a local boarding house, which is also home to zookeeper Sandy Brooks (Ashley Williams). As he tries to hatch a plan to spring Buddy from the zoo before the regular folks notice the reindeer’s burgeoning flying skills, Nick becomes embroiled in the various dramas among the other house residents.
Precocious Hector (Bobb’e J. Thompson) resents his mother’s long work hours and wreaks havoc in the neighborhood. Boarding-house owner Lorna dreams of Paris and a life not yet realized, while confirmed bachelor Chester longs for Lorna’s attention. Sandy can’t bring herself to embrace Christmas without the guidance of her parents, now deceased, and is fighting off the unwanted advances of the nefarious Buck, a no-good game hunter who trapped Buddy and brought him to the zoo. Sandy finds herself attracted to the goofy new tenant who’s taken an unusual interest in the newest reindeer.
Rich Burns’ script borrows bits of everything from “The Santa Clause” to “Prancer” while creating some Christmas mythology of his own. At a time when original holiday movies are as common as a corner Starbucks, at least Burns maintains the holiday sentiment without being overly sentimental.
Director Alex Zamm (“Inspector Gadget 2”) displays flair for working the sight gags as well as the special effects, but relies mostly on the his stars for the pic’s good-natured flavor. Cavanagh and Williams are as cute a couple as you’re going to find on TV without inducing nausea, and together they have enough twinkle and mirth to make plausible Clauses.
With his rapid-fire delivery and a cute step-step-leap routine, Cavanagh evokes the spirit of a young Danny Kaye. Similarly, Williams is so fresh-faced and appealing, one could easily see her and Cavanagh in a remake of “White Christmas.”
Thompson works the scene-stealing Hector role with just the right amount of sass and awe factor, and other secondary performances also buoy the infectious spirit of the movie. Tech credits and sound were rough.