In Search of Santa
Is Santa Clause real or make-believe? This question has been the premise of many children's holiday features, and In Search of Santa is no exception.
Set in the South Pole (that is a little out of the ordinary), proud royal penguin parents lay twin eggs. First to hatch is Princess Crystal (voiced by Hilary Duff), with blonde curls and a gentle heart. A short time later out pops Princess Lucinda (Haylie Duff -the real life sister of Hilary), with a spiky red doo that reflects her prickly personality. Knowing full well there can only be one heir to the kingdom, the younger sibling resents her big sis and her unfortunate birth order. (One can't help wondering if there isn't some truth to this casting. Although Haylie is older, she has certainly played second fiddle to her teen idol sister.)
But fate may be working in Lucinda's favor. With the sympathy of the Terribly Deep Thinkers (the three wisest penguins in the colony), the youngest princess sets out to discredit Crystal's claim to the throne. A stray metal jingle bell that falls from the sky appears to be all the evidence the hard-hearted girl needs to establish her older sister as soft in the head.
When Princess Crystal claims the shinny silver sleigh bell belongs to Santa, she finds herself on trial for both her faith in the jolly old elf and her right to rule. The lying Lucinda thinks she has eliminated the competition, until she discovers the Terribly Deep Thinkers have their own terribly deep dark motives.
Left with no other option to restore her reputation, Crystal sets out to prove there really is a Santa Clause. Disillusioned by her false friends, Lucinda reluctantly joins the quest even though she doesn't believe. Their perilous journey will require the sisters to face hungry wild animals, outwit some double-crossing pirates, circumvent the globe, and discover a love for each other.
Along the way, the computer-generated animation also pays homage to a variety of tinsel town classics. The court case is reminiscent of Miracle on 34th Street(1947 or 1994), Crystal's friend is an unappreciated genius much like The Absent-minded Professor, the Terribly Deep Thinkers have a superior intellect as does the villain in Star Trek: Wrath of Khan, mimicking Lassie the girls adopt a seal pup who helps save the day, and a pirate ship takes flight just as it does in Peter Pan.
Unfortunately, unlike those films, this one isn't destined to be a timeless treasure. Average in every way, the story includes the usual messages of working together to overcome obstacles, and finding the spirit of Christmas (which is defined as "love, kindness and helping others.") While young viewers are likely to be entertained by this production, parents may find themselves feeling a little more like the petite penguin princess who mutters whenever the slogging gets tough, "This can't be good."