Santa Who? (2000)

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Santa Claus suffers a spell of amnesia after falling to earth from his sleigh. A small child is his only hope of regaining his memory and saving Christmas.

Santa Who? begins with little Peter Albright in an orphanage writing out his Christmas letter to Santa. All he wants for Christmas is to be with a family who loves him. He finds out that his father thinks it’ll be best for Peter to stay in the orphanage forever. The letter is thrown onto the fire and magical sparkles travel up the chimney.

Cut to twenty five years later and Peter (Steven Eckholdt) is walking around town interviewing people for channel 12 news. Everyone is going absolutely nuts over their Christmas shopping and ignoring the poor guy. He just can’t get a break.

He’s known in the news office as the ‘happy news guy’ and he wants to show Christmas from a new angle, maybe through the eyes of Santa? He gets into character and dresses up as Santa to fill in as a replacement at a department store where his love interest, Claire (Lively), works. Peter gets punched, peed on and experiences the obligatory beard pull, a prerequisite for Christmas movies.

Meanwhile, Santa Claus (Nielson) is complaining to his elves that the magic and spirit has gone from Christmas and it’s about time he hung up his fur lined suit for good. He goes for a little ride in his sleigh to clear his head in time for the big day. However, he encounters a freak storm, which startles the terrible CGI reindeer, which fly off in all directions, leaving Santa to fall out of the sky onto Peter’s car. Rather than taking the poor guy to hospital, they take him back to Claire’s house, where she lives with her young son Zack. The old fellow could be bleeding internally, but at no point is he even taken to their local GP for a quick once over.

They discover that Santa has lost his memory and doesn’t know where he’s from, or who his family is, so naturally they set him off to work in the department store as the new replacement Santa! Exploiting the elderly is what I call it.

Peter is rather self obsessed and doesn’t really like the festive season, but as a chance to get ahead in his broadcasting career, he decides to do a story on the news trying to identify who the mystery red suit clad gentleman is.

Whilst the real Santa is at work, the elves have sent out a search party to bring him back to the North Pole. Only children will find these elves fun and exciting. Adults will find them extremely irritating!

There are some genuinely heart-warming parts in this film that are essential in festive movies. In one scene, Santa has to relearn Christmas carols and Zack spends most of the film trying to get him to remember that he’s the real Santa Claus.

Lesley Nielson makes a great Santa, but he seems to have fallen from grace somewhat in the twilight of his career. With Canadian director William Dear at the helm, expectations weren’t set high at all, as he’s mainly in the TV movie making world. I think his biggest feature to date is Bigfoot and the Hendersons.

This is the usual family Christmas made-for-TV feature. Even with bad CGI, a low budget and generic storyline, it has a certain charm that makes me wish for Christmas in October. It’s great for kids, being colourful and fun, but may be a little boring for adults. It would be something to put on whilst channel surfing; to sit down with a mince pie and a drop of sherry, just to enjoy the fact that it’s Christmas.

Santa Who? is out on DVD 24th October 2011.

DIRECTOR: William Dear
WRITER: Debra Frank and Steve L. Hayes
STARS: Lesley Nielson, Steven Eckholdt, Max Morrow, Robyn Lively
RUNTIME: 92MINS
COUNTRY: USA

Film Rating: ★★½☆☆
DVD Rating: ★★½☆☆

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