Recap: Small Town Santa (2014)

small-town-santa

Or the story of a really desperate town that inexplicably loves Dean Cain because well…he’s Dean Cain.

Sounds like the perfect movie for this site, right? It does check off some boxes: Dean Cain, a creepy Santa, zany characters, but overall the movie has nothing to say. It tries to be a treatise on the healing power of faith but can’t decide what you need faith in. Religion? Family? Yourself? Community? Santa? All are “explored” (that’s being generous) but with a distinct lack of focus and a conclusion that tosses them all out in favour of just plain magic and bizarre character choices rather than any life lessons learned resulting in personal growth.

The movie is also clearly made on the cheap. There’s about five locations in total that get re-used over and over: The police station, Dean Cain’s house, his friend Tom’s house, the town church, and a diner. The production company is called “Be your own Hollywood Production,” which just screams Z-list. The poster puts the police dog front and centre even though he’s in two scenes. The Santa at the bottom of the poster isn’t even the guy who plays Santa in the movie. The movie has two titles, ‘Small Town Santa’ and ‘Holiday Miracle’. Even worse, the font in the opening title is the easily recognizable, and most importantly, free for everyone to use: Arial. It’s almost as if they spent the entire budget on one Hollywood star…

Dean Cain is Rick Langston, Sherriff of Rockford, Michigan. Points for using a real town rather than some fictional Christmas town; negative points because their shoulder patches says Wexford County and Rockford is part of Kent County.

wexford

I looked this up in 30 seconds, something apparently no one else in the movie could bother doing. Rick’s desk features a plaque stating “real heroes don’t wear capes” because every Dean Cain movie has to remind you he once played Superman. Rick’s recently divorced and a father to preteen Kara who calls him relentlessly at work to complain that her mom is driving her insane and that she wants to spend Christmas with him, but her mom has custody this Christmas. Rick accepts his share of the blame in the breakup of his marriage which is the best compliment I can pay him. We’re supposed to sympathize with him but overall it’s clear he was a dick then and is still a dick now. Throughout the movie, he’s a very unredeemable character and would have more in common with Scrooge and the Grinch if it weren’t for the innate likability of Dean Cain.

To kick off the plot ,Kara wakes up in her dream version of the North Pole, which is clearly a toy shop and has cars in the parking lot.

northpole

There, she explains to a grown man dressed as an elf that she doesn’t believe in Santa Claus but then she ends up on Santa’s lap whispering a wish into his ear, because hey it’s a dream, why not. As with every other Christmas movie, Santa claims it’s a tall order but he’ll see what he can do. It’s never clear if this is actually a dream because next thing you know Santa’s breaking and entering, getting the town all riled up about Christmas, and trying and failing to make Dean Cain less angry. What did Kara wish for? We don’t ever even find out in the end. There isn’t even a wink from Santa when the most common denominator wish of her spending Christmas with Dean is achieved.

You see, Rick has accepted a new job in ‘the big city,’ which is never given a name because no one would consider moving to Detroit a promotion. His deputy and friend, Tom, is set to take over but is clearly not ready for the job as he wears sunglasses indoors to look imposing and grills two teens, Evan and Sean, about throwing eggs at houses. Tom wants to lock them up for 30 days on account of littering and vandalism because Rockford is so boring, he has nothing better to do. Evan complains that he can’t go to the slammer; his paper route is the only money his family has coming in after his dad lost his job! This town is pathetic, no wonder Rick is leaving and why they’re so desperate to hold onto him by the very ends of his coat tails.  The two teens get let off with a chore of shovelling Mr. Harold’s driveway all winter.

Who’s Mr. Harold? Why, just another stock Christmas movie character. He’s old, lost his wife, is religious, and his son isn’t coming to visit for Christmas. He dishes out tidbits of …something…it’s supposed to be wisdom but the filmmakers mistake using Morgan Freeman’s speech patterns and the fact that he’s old as a way to get this across.

Oh, look here comes another stock character: the town drunk, Raynor. He’s stolen the baby Jesus from the church’s nativity scene because he’s a criminal mastermind, the likes of which this town has never seen! Not even Superman himself could stop him! Except he’s turning himself in and actually he’s just a drunk that wants a warm bed and place to stay because he’s also potentially homeless. He’s actually a funny enough character though often tossing one-liners from his off-screen prison cell and forcing the church to use a monkey stuffed animal swaddled with paper as the baby Jesus.

baby-jesus

Rick gets a call from Diane, his ex-wife who tells him he can shove it up his ass if he thinks he’ll see Kara this year because she has custody this Christmas! Why? Probably because Rick is an unfit parent and an asshole. His response to this is “Whatever.” He hates Christmas anyway and turns down an invite from Shirley to come to the church pageant and an invite from Tom to come to his party. Raynor deadpans that he’ll go the party and I secretly wish he was the main character. We also get expendable plots for Shirley and Tom. Shirley’s toy drive only reached half its goal; Tom can’t find a Commando Dutch action figure for his son because he’s an idiot and didn’t start shopping until Christmas Eve. This is somehow the most popular toy.

commando-dutch

When Tom gets home, his mother-in-law bitches him out for not getting shot while serving in the line of duty, refuses to be called Grandma, and chastises her daughter (who also openly admits to not liking her) for not marrying some dentist. She’s never not seen drinking wine and dressing like she never matured beyond the time she was an extra in a White Snake music video.

mil

Anyways, because it’s Christmas Eve and Rockford has literally no crime, Rick clocks out early without giving Raynor any food and tells him he has to wait until morning for breakfast. It’s never clear what time it is in this movie because it was daylight when Raynor came in and a lot happens on this night. I suspect Rick is just being his normal dickish self and probably ate Raynor’s meal while watching old home videos of Kara knocking over the Christmas tree.

On his way home in his police cruiser, he commiserates with Max, the police dog, about who would want a white Christmas, it’s just cold. Some carollers throw snowballs at his cruiser because Fuck da Police, this is Michigan! Rick, in what would be a huge overreaction for anyone else but is completely normal for his level of assholery, turns on the sirens and yells at the kids to knock it off or he’ll throw them in the clink. The residents are obviously in a state of Stockholm Syndrome with Sheriff Rick because they’re all smiles while being told off.

Back at Rick’s house, we see Santa lurking in the background, along with piles of empty bottles, while Rick listens to a message informing him the job he’s moving to the big city for is no longer available. Apparently, the police chief renewed his term for three more years, because that’s a thing that can happen. We next get introduced to the pushiest Christmas-loving neighbour ever, who was also in Kara’s dream as the man-elf. Did the movie not have enough money to hire different actors or are we supposed to believe that this man is really an elf? Is he distracting Rick so Santa can snoop around the house? Why does Rick know him as a neighbour then? Want answers? Fuck you, you get nothing!

Anyways, ‘Neighbour Guy’ as he will be referred to because even IMDb doesn’t have a character name for him, comments that Rick hasn’t decorated his house for Christmas and doesn’t have Christmas lights. Rick won’t take any of this shit though and threatens to put Neighbour Guy in jail right in front of Neighbour Guy’s daughter. Further frustrating Rick is that Neighbour Guy, just like all the other townsfolk, takes Rick’s constant threatening and berating in happy stride and fails to acknowledge that Rick is upset. This further infuriates Rick who slams the door and yells at Neighbour Guy to enjoy paying his electric bill!

He then pulls a gun on Santa because he’s got a jerk quota to fill tonight! Santa also fails to play to Rick’s angry level and the severity of the situation and asks if he can put the mayonnaise away before it goes bad. Rick calls Tom to come help with the break and enter and he shows up to tire screeching sound effects despite the police car pulling gingerly into the driveway. Neighbour Guy also comments that the police lights are very festive and Rick tells him to get off his porch!

neighbour-guy

Rick ends up taking Santa to the police station after Santa commented on both Rick and Tom’s children. In the jail cell, Santa gives Raynor a sandwich he made, hence the previous desire to return the mayo to the fridge. While incarcerated, he becomes Dr. Santa and literally tells Rick he was a shit husband, a lousy father, a Christmas-hating miser, and he’s miserable because he misses his daughter. He even comments that Rick’s ex-wife is now with Frederico (who we’ll meet later on and is my favourite) a loving man who loves Christmas. Rick, who’s probably getting ready to use lethal force at this point, is interrupted by Lucy, a blonde divorcee with one preteen girl, Alana, who just moved to town. Santa explains to Raynor that both Lucy and Rick want love for Christmas and Alana wants a friend. Rick and Lucy of course flirt really poorly and Rick invites them to Tom’s party, which he’s now attending because there’s a chance of getting booty, and also tells them to go see the church pageant if they’re looking for something to do beforehand.

Rick ends up at a diner ordering beer and hot dogs only to have his quietness rudely interrupted by Mr. Harold who changes Rick’s order to salad and coffee. Ready for another Rick outburst?! Well it’s not going to happen apparently because Mr. Harold just blathers about the differences in religion and how it makes people happy and how they need to get Rick’s smile back. It’s at this point that I’m not sure I’ve been tricked into watching one of those Christian Christmas movies…This ‘inspirational’ poster at the church doesn’t help my suspicion.

jesus-poster

Back at home, Rick is again rudely interrupted by Neighbour Guy who’s put Christmas lights up on Rick’s house but plugged them into his own so Rick doesn’t have to pay for the electricity. What a thoughtful guy that Rick clearly wants to murder! To defuse the situation, Neighbour Guy  says it was all that guy’s idea and points to Santa who is again raiding Rick’s fridge. Yes, clearly Santa is magic but he he’ll have a hard time now that Rick has handcuffed him to the fridge.  

santa-fridge

How is he not on Santa’s naughty list yet, other than Santa seems to be like all the other townsfolk and enjoys bringing out the anger in Rick. Is Santa a Sith lord? Would that make Jesus a Jedi in this movie since they both seem to be fighting for Rick’s angry soul?

Rick locks Santa back up and receives a call that Kara has gone missing so now he has to go search for her. Santa tells him to go to church to look for his daughter. Yes, because a rebellious preteen that just broke out of the house is immediately going to go church! As if…

Ugh, never mind, there she is running into Alana in the church basement as Alana and Lucy have arrived at the church pageant. They montage into friends over ping pong and recreations of Say Anything.

ping-pongsay-anything

They also ruin/make the pageant better by dressing as a two person…cow? Is that a cow?

cow

A pastor chews them out for this stunt and confirms it is indeed supposed to be a cow. Either way the churchgoers loved this sacrilege and I’m firmly certain this is not a secretly Christian movie.

Rick also shows up in time to see the end of their stunt and decides with Lucy that the kids shouldn’t be punished because it was funny. Great parenting. Meanwhile, Mr. Howard comes in and shows Rick a flyer that Santa is handing out that announces that Rick is staying  on as the sheriff. Rick is obviously sent into a murderous rage and leaves Lucy with Mr. Howard who brags about his eggnog-making prowess (dirty) and then propositions Lucy to use herself to cheer up Rick. Okay, Mr.Howard…you went from wise old man, to religious nut, to pimp who probably had too much eggnog. Make up your mind movie, there’s too many mixed messages!

Rick gets a little ways down the block in his police cruiser before he realizes Kara and Lucy are in the back. He promptly kicks them on the street in the freezing cold and when they complain, he drives off and yells at them that they should’ve thought of that before becoming a cow! It’s no wonder Rick lost custody to Diane.

Speaking of Diane, she’s quick to call Rick to find out if he found Kara. He’s proud to announce he did, but he left her on the street with a new kid because he HAS TO KILL SANTA! We finally meet the best character in the movie, Frederico, who overhears Rick’s death threat and says ‘That’s not in the spirit of the season’ all whilst sounding positive and having a great accent.

Rick, back to his violent tendencies, tackles a man in a Santa suit and of course it’s Neighbour Guy! But again, he says it was the real Santa’s idea for him to pass out the flyer announcing Rick is staying. And we finally have another picture of angry Dean Cain!

angry-dean

Back at the police station, Raynor confides in Santa that he used to sell real estate but it got tough and he started drinking more and all he wants is another chance but he only owns one suit. Meanwhile, Rick falls asleep at the desk and has a terrifying nightmare where a bunch of Santas accusingly question him and tell him they’ll make him believe again.

creepy-santa-dreamcreepy-santa-dream2

Just then Lucy wakes him up to yell at him for leaving the girls out on the side of the road in the cold. Rick doesn’t really give an explanation but just says he’ll make it up to her at Tom’s party. Seriously, what time is it in this movie? It’s Christmas Eve, does Tom’s party start at 11 p.m. or something!? Meanwhile, Diane and Frederico show up to collect Kara and Frederico again steals my heart by asking why Rick has locked Santa up on Christmas Eve!? Santa even gives Frederico an envelope which he tries to refuse because he already received this beautiful sweater.

frederico

And now it’s a big get-together at the police station as Mr. Howard, Evan and Evan’s jobless father show up to announce that Mr. Howard’s hired Evan’s dad to run one of his hardware stores. Yes, storesssss, plural. Mr. Howard is also a home improvement magnate apparently. In even more plot we didn’t need, Evan’s dad announces that now that he has a job again; he’s going to ask Sean’s mom to marry him. Why do I need to know this!? It plays no importance other than showing this town is only full of divorcees with kids!

Rick then gets a call from Tom who’s heard about Rick losing the big city job and the conversation goes like this:

Tom: I love you
Rick: …I’ll talk to you later man (hangs up)
Santa: (whispering) He meant it

Terrible and creepy! Santa then gets to the crux of the movie: if Rick doesn’t change his ways, the town will eventually snap out of their Stockholm Syndrome and tire of him not being happy; he’ll lose his daughter and the love that’s right under his nose. Rick admits he wants to change but it’s not like we ever saw any consequences for him acting like a dickhole, what’s the impetus for this change? The movie doesn’t seem to know so let’s just bring in a bunch of characters to toast to Rick staying with Mr. Howard’s “best eggnog,” which clearly comes from a store bought carton.  

nog

Rick even gives some nog to the prisoners and Santa magics the alcohol out of Raynor’s mug because apparently he has useless powers like that. Even Neighbour Guy shows up to announce they decorated Rick’s whole house with Christmas decorations whether he likes it or not! Mr. Howard tells everyone now that Rick is staying (to continue his reign of terror) and it’s the best Christmas this town has ever known and that the big city can eat a bag of stale popcorn!…Just…no…come on, movie. I suspect Mr. Howard had too much eggnog or is senile…actually, that would explain a lot of his behaviour.

I guess after that short pep talk, Rick officially believes this break and enter suspect is the real Santa and lets him go because Santa has lots of work to do tonight. It literally has to be 1 a.m. at this point, he’s probably already missed giving presents to half the east coast! Even worse, Santa forget his bag and disappears before Rick can catch him. Inside is a Commando Dutch action figure and a suit and business card for Raynor. Rick tells Raynor to put it on because they’re going to Tom’s party…because Rick is an enabler (think about it, he hadn’t overhead any of this heart to heart Santa and Raynor had about his alcoholism)

Before they can leave though Diane, Frederico, and Kara show up again. Diane says she knows it late but she’s going to allow Kara to stay with Rick for Christmas. Because he’s a changed man now and she’s seen the good in him right? Right? NOPE! Santa gave Frederico tickets to Spain so Diane now needs to pawn her daughter off on her ex-husband so she can enjoy a free vacation with her boytoy without having to worry about a babysitter! Oh Frederico, why are you with this bitch, you could’ve had so much better.

They finally get to the party which is somehow still in full swing despite how much has happened tonight. I seriously went through the movie scene by scene looking for a clock and only found one and it was too obscured to tell what time it was. Nobody wears a watch and all the computers are always on screen saver. Tom barely recognizes Raynor who then gets hit on by Tom’s mother-in-law and they go to dance, rather than drink. So let’s wrap up the rest of these side plots that aren’t important

  1. Tom’s son gets his Commando Dutch action figure…he’s not really excited about it at all
  2. Shirley gets an anonymous donation to her toy drive to hit her goal
  3. Mr. Howard leaves because he got a call from his son, who got a call from Santa, and he’s coming to visit for Christmas (again, what is going on with the clocks in this town! There isn’t time!)
  4. Alana and Kara get cell phones for Christmas
  5. Evan and Sean put dibs on Alana and Kara because their horny teen boys and their divorcee parents haven’t taught them how to treat women
  6. Evan’s dad proposes to Sean’s mom at the party who accepts and the first thing she says is she’ll have to sell her house (because that’s a logical reaction)
  7. Raynor is all over that shit and hands her his business card

And finally, Rick and Lucy kiss having somehow fallen in love over the course of what…six hours? 12 hours max? And maybe four scenes together. It wasn’t earned, you garbage movie!

THE END

1 Rating

A feisty and angry Dean Cain threatening a town of people who won’t stoop to his level of unhappiness can’t even save this movie. It’s message of becoming a better person is lost in a jumble of conflicting ideas about how to improve yourself that in the end is resolved by Santa’s magic.

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