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A few holiday tugs at the heartstrings

TELEVISION REVIEW

December 13, 2008|ROBERT LLOYD | TELEVISION CRITIC

It's that special holiday time, that holiday special time. Every Christmas adds at least a few new films or cartoons to the canon, most of which, like Santa's own reindeer and sleigh, will fly off the radar. Many are not worth seeing anyway, and of those that are, few will ever be called timeless (though given all the many hours of cable there are to fill, most will be back). But here are two worth at least a look.

Rankin/Bass redux

"A Miser Brothers' Christmas" (ABC Family, 8 tonight) features the breakout stars of the 1974 Rankin/Bass puppet-animation special "The Year Without a Santa Claus," whose classic status is undisputed among people who were small then. The story -- Santa laid up with a bad back, brothers Heat Miser and Snow Miser enlisted to replace him, an attempted coup by the North Wind -- offers nothing as memorable as an Island of Misfit Toys, and the new songs do not beg to be remembered, but it's more or less in the Rankin/Bass style. (Not everything they touched turned to gold anyway.)

Canadian stop-motion specialists Cuppa Coffee, working with or for Warner Bros. Animation, have done an estimable job evoking the look and feel of the original, if not quite its particular ragtag magic. Mickey Rooney, 88, manfully reprises his Santa Claus, though the return of George S. Irving (the narrator of "Underdog") as Heat Miser is equally exciting.

Santa on the job

The likable, good-looking "Snow 2: Brain Freeze" (ABC Family, 8 p.m. Sunday) belongs to the Home Life of the Kringles genre, in which Santa and Co. are seen to have problems and kitchens much like yours. A delayed follow-up to the 2004 "Snow" (which will be rebroadcast immediately before its sequel), it offers Tom Cavanagh ("Ed") as Nick Snowden, who has followed his late father into the family business: supernatural worldwide toy delivery. Being Santa has not required Nick to grow fat, white-haired and bearded, like Tim Allen in "The Santa Clause," however; he gets to stay rangy Tom Cavanagh, doing his usual winsome Tom Cavanagh thing. Although there are Yuletide tropes throughout, this is essentially a romantic comedy, with Nick losing his memory and still-newlywed wife Sandy (Ashley Williams) off to find him. A streetwise child (Alexander Conti), a Christmas-faithful old black man (Hal Williams) and a former rival (Patrick Fabian) come into the picture, as such characters do, but there are no elves, which means a lower overhead not only for Santa but for the people making this movie about him.

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robert.lloyd@latimes.com

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