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Miramax Pictures presents
In Search of Santa (2004)

"Hmm. A funny-looking bearded man in a furry suit."
- Crystal (Hilary Duff)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: December 01, 2004

Stars: Hilary Duff, Haylie Duff
Director: William R. Kowalchuk

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:19m:53s
Release Date: November 23, 2004
UPC: 786936267280
Genre: holiday

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

I guess you can't watch It's a Wonderful Life or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer every night of the holiday season, and if you produce a successful, beloved holiday special, it can be the gift that keeps on giving, an annuity of sorts. It's not difficult to see why this animated special was produced, and there's nothing egregiously wrong with it; but it's pretty ordinary stuff, and while it sure beats a stocking full of coal, it's unlikely to become anybody's favorite Christmas movie.

Curiously enough, this Yuletide special doesn't begin at the North Pole, but at the South; we're in a world not of St. Nicholas and elves and reindeer, but of penguins. The king and queen have hatched a pair of heirs—out of the shell first, and therefore first in line to the crown, is Lucinda (voiced by Hilary Duff), followed seconds later by her sister Crystal (voiced by Hilary's sister, Haylie). You can tell them apart by their hairdos: Lucinda has blond ringlets that make her look like she's got a head full of Cheetos, whereas Lucinda wears what looks like a spiky red fright wig. Anyway, Crystal is the sweet but awkward one; Lucinda is the devious one, looking to leapfrog over her sister and be next in line to the throne. (That is, assuming penguins can leapfrog.) She is aided in her quest by the Terribly Deep Thinkers, the penguin elders who are a Machiavellian trio; Crystal doesn't help her own cause by stumbling upon and telling everybody about a book she's found, which tells the story of Santa Claus. (Having contact with anything human is verboten in this world of anthropomorphized cartoon penguins.)

So to prove the rightness of her cause and the worthiness of her future reign, Crystal sets out on the errand of the film's title. She and her sis bury the hatchet pretty quickly, and hijinks ensue. The computer animation style is a little wooden; whoever did this has a thing for swoosh pans and dolly shots, as you'll find one of each in almost every scene. The filmmakers aren't much for the Aristotelian unities, either, as a lot of the film is a random collection of action sequences and occasional musical numbers. None of it is offensive or inappropriate; it's just not very good or entertaining, as I learned when I tried to convince my son to hang in and watch it with me. Perhaps hardcore fans of the sisters Duff will not be able to pass up the opportunity to hear Hilary and Haylie voice a couple of penguins, but the rest of you have been duly warned. God bless us, every one.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The bright, sassy colors of the animation here can be headache-inducing; at times, I wanted to put on my sunglasses. But the transfer has been done with few problems and little visual interference.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: It sounds a little tinny, but the soundtrack is nicely dispersed in the 5.1 mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Incredibles, Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas, Eloise at Christmastime, Power Rangers: Dino Thunder, Paul McCartney: The Music and Animation Collection, The Animal Train Featurette (15m or less): Y
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The only extra to speak of is a featurette (03m:00s) with a self-explanatory title: In the Recording Studio with Hilary and Haylie Duff, just a few minutes of the girls goofing.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

If you're really, really into the Duff sisters, or have a thing for animated penguins, or simply cannot bear another viewing of Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, you might want to check this out. Otherwise, press the PLAY button for the Hilary Duff fan in your home and see about taking care of some of those holiday errands you've been avoiding.


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