If you want to watch one Christmassy Disney movie directed by 'The Shape" from Halloween then 'Twas The Night is the film for you. I'm not going to make a case for it being any kind of forgotten classic, but it will hit just the right nostalgia buttons for many, being tucked away alongside many other turn-of-the-century Disney TV movies on Disney+.
Written by Jim Lincoln, Dan Studney, and Jenny Tripp, a trio who spent a decade or so working on various Disney projects, this is supposed to be all about a young boy named Danny Wrigley (Josh Zuckerman), but viewers nowadays will have more fun watching his irresponsible uncle, Nick (played by Bryan Cranston). Idolised by his nephew, Nick is actually a small-time scammer who visits his family while he hides away from people who want to hurt him, wring money back out of him, or both. When they accidentally knock out Santa (Jefferson Mappin), Nick convinces Danny that they can use the special Santa gadgets to ensure everyone still gets their Christmas presents. It soon becomes clear, however, that Nick wants to rob a number of homes to give himself a bumper payday. But will Danny see the truth in time to stop Christmas from being ruined.
This is exactly what you think it is going to be, a fairly low-budget TV movie with a mix of amusing misbehaviour, some very mild peril, and occasional use of special effects to convey some magical "Santa powers". It's not one to seek out, nor is it overflowing with the Christmas atmosphere, but it's mildly entertaining stuff, and clocks in at a nice, short runtime of approximately 84 minutes. Zuckerman is the typical smartass-but-not-bad kid at the heart of it all, but most of the fun comes from watching Cranston's character trying to capitalise on an unbelievable stroke of good luck. Whether that is how the film was intended, or whether it just plays that way now with Cranston being such a familiar face, is beside the point. The fact is that Cranston helps to make this more fun than it otherwise might be.
Nobody else really stands out from the cast. Brenda Grate and Rhys Williams play Kaitlin and Peter, Nick's siblings, while Barclay Hope and Torri Higginson are the parents who have a couple of scenes trying to lay down some ground rules when Nick arrives, only to then disappear for the majority of the movie (because that is what the plot requires). Sandy Robson, and Jeff Geddis are the people looking to be reimbursed, and they have Jung-Yul Kim with them, acting as their "muscle". And let's not forget Mappin, in the role of Santa. In fact, let's actually just forget him, because he's quite forgettable in the role, and has to spend a lot of the movie powerless.
The direction is competent enough, the script is simple and fun, and this will please younger viewers who fall into the right age bracket for it. (I'm going to say between about 7-10, but please bear in mind that it's been a long time since I have curated any viewing choices for children . . . not including my own inner child). Everyone else should find it decidedly average, but also pleasingly painless.
If you have enjoyed this, or any other, review on the blog then do consider the following ways to show your appreciation. A subscription/follow costs nothing.
It also costs nothing to like/subscribe to the YouTube channel attached to the podcast I am part of - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCErkxBO0xds5qd_rhjFgDmA
Or you may have a couple of quid to throw at me, in Ko-fi form - https://ko-fi.com/kevinmatthews