Friday, December 9, 2016


Welcome to a new installment of FAMILY MOVIE NIGHT, where we give our recommendation on a family-friendly movie to enjoy.  This week we look at a new entry into the Christmas family movie fare, 2016's A DOGGONE CHRISTMAS.
Yes, I’m keeping my Family Movie Night review in the Christmas theme we have going on here at Merc With A Movie Blog. Even though this movie is about Christmas and how magical things can happen around that time of year, it also has the values that go into it for all year long. Your first inkling that this is a movie for kids of all ages - from one to ninety-two as the song goes - is when you see that the big-name star of the movie is a dog. 

Not just any dog though, but Jesse the Jack Russell Terrier of Youtube fame. The movie, written by Josh Holt, J. Brad Willke and Jim Wynorski, builds its story around the talented little dog who tries his best to steal the movie away from all the humans in it. Jim Wynorski also does double duty as the director of A Doggone Christmas.
The premise of A Doggone Christmas is simple and straightforward enough for a young child to follow along and get caught up in, yet with enough subtle humor thrown in to make the older children and adults chuckle. Jesse The Jack Russell Terrier plays Murphy, a dog with a special ability to communicate with humans by using telepathy. Murphy’s ‘thought voice’ is provided with just the right amount of hopeful innocence and world weary sarcasm by actor Steve Altman. 
The FBI has Murphy in their custody on a train bound for a lab where Murphy will be forced to become a covert secret weapon. Accompanying him is the lovely lady scientist, Dr. Langley (Dominique Swain) and FBI Agents, Shepard (Jaret Sacrecy), Don (Troy Fromin) and Mike (Freddy James). While Murphy is on his way to a terrible fate for such a cute little dog, two brothers Jamie (Walker Mintz) and Hugo (Jayden Hedder) have found out that their Dad, a toy maker, has lost his job a week before Christmas.

When Murphy gets his chance to escape from the agents and the train, he goes for it. It’s no surprise that Murphy eventually meets up with the brothers and their friends, a group of wholesome, cute kids.  Meanwhile the FBI Agents under the command of Gen. Cutler (Paul Logan) are scouring the countryside looking for their secret government weapon. When they fail, Cutler sends in his best Agent; a smug, cat-suited and exotic looking woman named Camilla Sharp (Lauren Parkinson) who delights in taking extreme measures to get Murphy back.

A Doggone Christmas is a fun movie for the whole family with just the right amount of holiday sentimentality to make everyone feel the cheer. The cast is very good in their basic roles, though it’s the child actors that make this movie work and sells the premise. The chemistry between Mintz and Hedder as Jamie and Hugo helps their brother bond come to life.  Rob Hillis and Amy Holt as parents Bob and Jenny Gernsback infuse the couple with just the right amount of angst over the family situation and affection for their children. 

In A Doggone Christmas, Paul Logan steps away from his usual turn as a hard-hitting action star to make a place for himself in this gentle family oriented movie. As Cutler, Logan is a commanding figure and gives his lines with the kind of growl-like intimidation worthy of any Rottweiler.  Jaret Sacrecy as Shepard gives a strong performance as the Agent most concerned about Murphy and sees him not as a weapon, but as just an innocent little dog. 
Out of all the characters, Agent Camilla Sharp is the most clich├ęd and the closest to being the movie’s real villain. Yet at the hands of the writers, director and the actress Lauren Parkinson, the character of Agent Sharp rises above what could have been a dreary addition to the movie and made her fun to watch. 
A Doggone Christmas is a good ‘stocking stuffer’ gift for the whole family, so I say put it on your ‘Christmas movies to watch’ list.

Marla’s Score: 7/10 

A Doggone Christmas is available at Wal-Mart.

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