The holiday season isn’t here just yet, but more than a few Christmas movies that are great for the whole family are premiering already. A title that Disney+ subscribers can take in this year is Dashing Through the Snow, a fantastical film starring Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and Lil Rel Howery. The project has been in development for years now and, in 2016, it was reported that Kevin Hart would star in it as Santa Claus. Ultimately, the comedian dropped out, and the role of the jolly old soul went to Howery. Now, one of the producers has explained to CinemaBlend just why Hart passed on the production.
On the surface, Dashing Through the Snow feels like a solid fit for the famed stand-up comedian. Not only would it have been a prime opportunity for him to flex his comedic muscles in a big way, but it also would’ve reunited with frequent collaborator Will Packer. The pair have joined forces on more than a few films over the years, including Think Like a Man, Ride Along and Night School. So why didn’t the two work together on this yuletide romp? Well, when I spoke to Packer ahead of the holiday flick’s release, he explained that his friend and colleague didn’t have the bandwidth for it:
You know, it was Kevin's schedule. He's as busy as I am. He's even busier. And so he wasn't able to be a part of it because of schedule. But you know, [he] came to me and said, ‘Listen, let's find you somebody else great, because I don't want to hold you up.’ And that's very much how Kevin is. And Disney wanted to move forward. I wanted to move forward. And at that time, I had [director] Tim Story on board, my frequent collaborator, so I knew we could get somebody great. I always had Ludacris in mind. He's somebody that’s a good buddy of mine. We hadn't worked together on a movie, but we talked about it. And so the stars finally aligned, and then we just needed our great Santa.
Few would probably deny the notion that Kevin Hart is one of the busiest actors in all of Hollywood. He lines up more than his fair share of acting gigs in movies and TV shows and also keeps busy with enterprises, such as his production company and alcohol label. His next movie will be the comedic crime caper Lift, which debuts in January as part of the 2024 movie schedule. While Hart couldn’t commit to the project, it’s cool to hear that he remained supportive of Will Packer and his colleagues’ vision. Though his departure meant they still had to find someone else to play Kris Kringle. Later in our interview, Packer recalled casting Lil Rel Howery and explained why he was the perfect fit:
Lil Rel was next up, and he was absolutely the right choice. He brings a charm to a role like this. He's gregarious, you know, he's bold, he's unapologetic, and in your face. But unapologetic in his love for Christmas, and all things Christmas-related, to the point where it can get nauseating to somebody like a Ludacris, whose character is an absolute curmudgeon – the total opposite, wants nothing to do with Christmas. But of course, that combination leaves for some fun moments in our movie.
More on Christmas Movies
That description of the veteran comic’s performance is definitely accurate. In the movie, the Vacation Friends star plays a man in a red suit, claiming to be St. Nick, who has a chance encounter with Christmas-loathing social worker Eddie (Ludacris). They – along with Eddie’s young daughter, Charlotte – proceed to have a magical and madcap night during which they’re pursued by a shady politician’s goons. The Rel creator brings vibrant energy as well as a bit of swag to his iteration of Mr. Claus, which is genuinely refreshing. He now joins a long line of actors who've played the iconic role on film, and he certainly succeeded in bringing his own unique sensibilities to it.
It’s still interesting to think about what Kevin Hart might’ve done with the role, but it sounds like Will Packer is more than pleased with Lil Rel Howery’s work. And fans may also want to consider that there’s always the possibility that Hart and Packer will team up for another feature film sometime in the future. Let’s just hope both of their busy schedules match up so that can happen.
Dashing Through the Snow is now streaming on Disney+. You can check out the schedule of 2023 new movie releases for information on titles that are headed your way. And if you’re so inclined, stream Kevin Hart’s best movies wherever they’re available to stream.