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Chris Hicks: Locally made Christmas-themed movies are on DVD

More Christmas films have landed on DVD, including a pair made in Utah.

“The Christmas Project” (Covenant, 2016, trailers). When they aren’t pranking each other, the four young Buckley brothers are bullied at school by the nasty Hagbart kids. So, when their mother decides they will be “Elving” an impoverished neighbor (think “Secret Santa”), guess which family is chosen? This locally filmed, very broad comedy is set in the 1980s and strives mightily to be an update of “A Christmas Story” (complete with heavy-handed voiceover narration). It is likely to appeal primarily to children.

“Christmas Dress” (Covenant, 2016, trailers). This short faith film (27 minutes) is set in 1927 Idaho. It is a sentimental tale about a family of six struggling to make ends meet. At the end of their rope, they are holding onto the promise of a relief package on its way by mail. But when it arrives at the post office late on Christmas Eve, a raging storm and a grumpy postmaster threaten to prevent its delivery. This is a well-intentioned, low-budget effort based on a true story.

“Stick Man” (PBS, 2016, featurette). This is a charming British animated short (27 minutes) set against Christmas about an anthropomorphic twig, Stick Man, who is taken farther and farther from his home as a dog runs off with him, and as children use him for a bat, a boomerang, etc. The voice cast includes narrator Jennifer Saunders, with Martin Freeman as the title character, Hugh Bonneville as Santa, and Sally Hawkins and Rob Brydon as various characters.

“Snowtime!” (Shout! Kids, 2016, PG, featurettes, trailers). This Canadian animated feature has kids in a small village engaging in a prolonged snowball fight to seize an elaborate snow fort. But, over time, what began as a lark turns into fierce competition. Lessons will obviously need to be learned. Sandra Oh is among the voice cast, with songs by Celine Dion and Simple Plan, among others.

“A Dogwalker’s Christmas Tale” (Marvista, 2015, not rated/probable PG). After a spoiled Texas college student (Lexi Giovagnoli) maxes out her charge card, she reluctantly takes a dog-walking job for neighbor Missy (Dina Meyer), whose husband is planning to raze the local dog park for an upscale spa. Several upset dog owners — including the veterinarian-in-training she’s trying not to have feelings for — try to convince her to intervene. It is an utterly predictable romantic comedy, but not without charm.

“Christmas Ranch” (Virgil, 2016, not rated/probable PG, featurette, trailer). A troubled teen (Taylor Lyons) is sent to live in rural Maryland with her grandmother (Francine Locke), where she falls in love with a pony and discovers the ranch is about to fall into foreclosure. So, she contrives a plan to save the ranch just in time for Christmas.

“The Spirit of Christmas” (Marvista, 2015, not rated/probable PG). Two weeks before Christmas, a lawyer (Jen Lilley) is sent from Boston to Vermont to broker the sale of a Victorian mansion, which turns out to be haunted by the former owner (Thomas Beaudoin), who was killed in 1920. She falls in love with his ghost and tries to help him solve the murder mystery so his curse will be released. It is another by-the-numbers holiday charmer that owes something to “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.”

Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." He also writes at and can be contacted at