Top positive review
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A Charming Curiosity
on December 13, 2004
The year is 1978, and Benji is on top of his game! But wasn't he really a she, or was that just an urban legend? Anyway, Benji and "his" onscreen family, Cindy Smith and Patsy Garret, have been invited to a lovely Swiss mountain village to be grand marshals in their holiday parade. On their way to the event, however, they are sidetracked by their driver, Kris Kringle, the parade's Santa Claus. You see, Kris is the REAL Santa Claus, and since his elves will be too busy to enjoy this year's parade and see the movie stars themselves, he is bringing the stars to them. Suddenly, the human and canine actors find themselves on a walking tour of Santa's own little village, as he explains to them why his elves are busier than usual. It seems that Kris has broken his leg, and the elves will have to make his annual rounds in his place this year. The elves are beside themselves trying to learn the tricks of the trade and barely have time to chat, but Kris manages to introduce a few to the group along the way, including Needles and Pins, the official tailors. While in the wardrobe department, we get a firsthand explanation of how Kris must change costumes for every country he visits, since every country has their own view of Santa. In fact, much of the tour involves little explanations of the facts and complications of being Santa Claus, such as getting around the world in one night and keeping reindeer from flying away (by keeping them in a giant birdcage). The tour culminates in the letter department, where elves from the various countries of the world sort and respond to the letters children have written to Santa. Here, Kris Kringle is inspired to break into a catchy song and dance about his own "multiplicity." It's to his own undoing, however, when during his rigorous dancing, Kris's cast breaks apart and his ruse is exposed. He wasn't injured at all, he simply wanted to enjoy Christmas at home for a change, like everybody else. In the meantime, however, the elves are distracted by their chance to meet and pet Benji, and the lovable dog's ability to feel at home anywhere he is loved teaches Kris a valuable lesson and restores his eagerness to make his annual flight. So, with all things put right again, Kris Kringle returns with the little group to the parade route, and a wonderful Christmas is had by all!
"Benji's Very Own Christmas Story" is a charming little tale, though it carries a subtle touch of 70's nostalgia as well for all those who are aware of it. Benji, himself (or herself), is a 70's icon to begin with, and the lovely miss Cindy Smith comes off as sort of a poor man's Linda Blair (circa Exorcist 2, yowza). Plus, there's that whole "I'd like to teach the world to sing..." feel to the story. As a previous reviewer pointed out, Benji isn't given much to do in this one. Mainly, he's just carried around by Cindy Smith and gets petted by the elves at the end. Smith and Ron Moody, who plays Kris Kringle, are pretty much the stars of the whole program. More than anything, it's a "get to know Santa" kind of film, with a strong focus on his many international incarnations. Moody is center stage the whole time, as the Oscar nominated actor (Fagin in "Oliver!") handles most of the dialogue and displays his song and dance talents beautifully. Only a few gripes, like the fact that Santa has relocated to Switzerland because the North Pole was too cold, and the elves prosthetic noses are none too convincing in close-up shots, but otherwise, this is a very charming holiday special at a fantastic price! Nominated for an Emmy as "Outstanding Children's Program," you can't go wrong with this combination of the cutest dog of all time and the most wondereful time of the year! Oh, and be sure to watch for a cameo by Rudolph!