Recap: My Santa (2013)

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Santa as a super hero. That’s probably the pitch that ION, forever in the shadow of Hallmark and Lifetime, couldn’t resist. Unfortunately they have no clue what do with that intriguing idea and it ends up that Santa’s real super power is to gaslight women.

Super hero Santa has potential. Think about it, how can he get all those presents around the world? Super powers. What does Santa do when it’s not December? Have a regular identity just like all the super heroes. It’s odd then that ‘My Santa’ brings up these idea’s but never puts them into full effect. Santa’s main super power in the movie is kitchen related and the plot steals from the equally terrible ‘Santa Clause 2’ in that Santa needs a wife, and the far superior ‘Jingle All the Way’ in that there’s an unattainable toy.

Jen Robbins, an absolutely wooden and terrible Samaire Armstong, is your generic single mom feeding her generic son Eric the generic cereal ‘Super Flakes’ in their generic McMansion. 1The cereal box has an ad for the generic super hero Mike Maxim Action Man. Eric of course wants a Mike Maxim Action Man for Christmas.2

Meanwhile a red pickup truck with the license plate “SANTA2” pulls into town. Out steps Chris (Matthew Lawrence) and the loveable Garry, Larry, Terry, Jerry (Jim O’Heir) from Parks and Recreation! In the movie his name is actually Jack but in the spirit of P&R I’ll just call him Jerry since his name was always mistaken anyways. They immediately launch into how many women Chris has plowed through in the big cities looking for ‘the one’. Jerry thinks there’s better odds in big cities due to more women but Chris has a good feeling about Podunk USA (not clear if this is the actual name of the town). Oh and of course Chris is the son of Santa. Surprisingly Jerry is not playing Santa despite having the jolly demeanor. I guess he’s an elf…? or love consultant for hire? Anyways they chat with a mall owner who tells them they had to cancel the mall Santa this year. He’s shocked to hear Jerry and Chris’ pitch where they state they actually pay the mall to work there. The mall owner is still hesitant that there will be a catch but then Chris uses his Santa powers, which have the same film effect as Vertigo, to convince the guy that they’re just spreading Christmas cheer. The mall owner goes from stern to as happy as child on Christmas morning and states “I don’t know why, but welcome aboard!”. So Santa has the power to fuck with people’s minds? I guess that could be used for good…

We find out in the next scene that Jen works for the local paper with the old school Gertrude (Channing Chase), who runs the social page, and even older school Martin, the head editor. Those two professionally flirt with invitations to a working lunch and a business conference that night. Jen asks why they keep hiding that they’re clearly dating as if it isn’t obvious that it’s a huge conflict of interest and unequivocally a ‘no no’ in almost every workplace. The real reason, according to Martin, is that it’s unprofessional which means he knows it’s wrong but can’t help himself from falling into Gertrude’s menthol stenched sheets. Gertrude on the other hand is harder to read. Throughout the movie she’s seen manipulating Martin into increasing the visibility of her articles. The equally terrible acting of Channing Chase makes it harder to read if she’s actually faking it for the job perks or actually in love.

Enter Sam Franklin, the handsome new crime beat reporter played by Ben Gavin. He and Jen immediately connect because of their good looks and their mutual disdain for buttoning up their shirts.

43He douche-ly says phrases like ‘I need fuel’ and ‘gotta feed the beast’. Over coffee he, and the members of audience who haven’t already changed the channel, learn Jen writes human interest pieces and has writers block on a mandated heartwarming Christmas story.

Jen returns home to the first of many scenes that begin in complete silence. You see, this is the type of movie where everyone is just waiting around silently until the main character enters the room. Her best friend and neighbour Suzie is watching her son Eric who has brought out all the Christmas decorations and asks if they can decorate. Jen tells him she’s tired even though she obviously did nothing but make googly eyes at Sam all day. Eric also wants a real Christmas tree but Jen tells him “that’s a waste of money”. It’s here that I begin to hate Jen even more; real Christmas trees are the best! She also learns all the Mike Maxim Action Man action figures are sold out and she frustrated-ly complains about the commercialization of Christmas. Why is Jen so against Christmas? It turns out, as she seems to have to constantly remind Suzie, her ex walked out on her on Christmas when Eric was 1 year old. Suzie does convince her to bring Eric to see Santa at the mall, which I’ll consider a victory.

At the mall, which is outdoors because this movie is set somewhere southern since they didn’t have the budget for fake CGI snow, Eric begins questioning the validity of mall Santa’s when Suzie comes up with the explanation that he has super powers and that’s how he does all this Christmas stuff. Also, any outdoor scene has odd sound issues throughout which marries well with the other bad production values.

Chris is of course a great Santa, he knows all the kids names and montages through a bunch of photos with them (including this kid, which is important later) before finally getting to Eric.

5Eric shows Santa his Christmas list but Chris doesn’t need it, he knows Eric’s name and that he wants a Mike Maxim Action Man action figure. Eric, now believing Chris is the real Santa, tells him he also wants a real Christmas tree and that his mom doesn’t believe in Christmas.

Eric returns to his mom and Suzie and tells them that Santa knew what he wanted and promised to get him a Mike Maxim Action Man. Jen is furious, if you can call acting a little huffy furious. She barges in on Santa to tear him a new one for promising her son an impossible to find toy. Jerry shuffles them off to the side to not fight in front of the kids where Chris removes his fake beard. Eric of course see’s this but manages to understand himself that superhero’s have secret identities, no thanks to Suzie.

Jen yells a little about how it’s difficult being the good and bad cop and doesn’t want to disappoint her son. Chris apologizes and tells her to embrace the Christmas spirit despite the bad memories it has for her. Wait how did he know that…oh, just lucky guess…and he jokes he’s Santa. Jen is placated for some reason and this is just the start of Santa gaslighting her into questioning her own reality. After Jen leaves, Jerry rightfully calls her ‘humbug mommy’ but then notices the way Chris is looking at her. He doesn’t agree with this infatuation and warns Chris that he only has until midnight Christmas Eve to find a Mrs. Clause. Why? It’s never explained other than having wife gives him extra mojo and that Chris’s dad can’t keep doing this forever. And why Christmas Eve? Does Chris have to deliver the presents this year? None of these are answered; they’re just there to put a ticking clock on the movie. That ticking clock isn’t even relevant though as later on when things go temporarily south, Jerry casually says “there’s always next year”. Also, shouldn’t Chris be looking for a wife all year long rather than just at Christmas? Doesn’t the real Santa need his help back at the North Pole if he’s that frail?

Moving on from that rant, Jen proceeds to use the well-known ‘Gooble’ internet search engine.

6She discovers that Mike Maxim Action Man figures are going for $400! This scene could’ve just been put in somewhere else and also could’ve been put somewhere else in this review but I couldn’t pass up ‘Gooble’.

Back at work Sam asks Jen if she has any plans tonight. She responds that she’ll have a cozy evening with Eric who she then has to explain is not her boyfriend but rather her son. She agrees to a few drinks with Sam since they have so much in common, both journalists, both good looking, both still don’t believe in buttons, etc

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At drinks, Sam brags about how he traced payments to a Senators account and the guys serving 3-5 years for tax evasion. But journalism is dying so Sam’s paper folded despite that hard hitting story. He also thinks that he and Jen are connecting and puts his hand in her lap. Jens reaction is awkward to say the least and I can’t tell if it’s just bad acting or if she’s actually never been touched by another human before.

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When Jen returns home, Eric makes some good points about getting a real tree in that they smell like Christmas and the mess isn’t so bad when you consider that the needles are falling off their old fake tree anyways. These are the same points my wife and I argue over every Christmas as well, except I’m a grown man so if I want to buy one I will! Jen tells Eric that she’ll think about it.

Back at work Gertrude is using her influence over Martin to update the Social section of the newspaper. She proposes spreading the engagement announcements across different pages. She believes this will pull the readers through the section. Yes, her Social section of the paper already has more than 1 page dedicated to it. I disagree with her idea, this will piss off your readers now that the information is not in one easy to find place. Martin agrees as he’s totally blinded by Gertrude’s wrinkly cleavage. Martin also tells Jen he has a lead for her. He tells her about the Johnson family who’s down on their luck but still has plenty of Christmas cheer. He tells her she’s having dinner with them tomorrow.

This somehow convinces Jen that she should get a real Christmas tree. Chris is of course there because he’s Santa by day, Christmas tree salesman by night. He says he’s been waiting for them and has already picked out the perfect tree for them; it literally has Eric’s name on it in the form of an ornament. Jen again questions how he knew they’d be coming since she only decided to an hour ago. Chris is a crafty liar though and convinces her that a tree was on Eric’s wish list when he visited Santa. Chris is not even subtle about his lies though as his eyes shoot back and forth like someone watching a particularly intense tennis match. Jen of course doesn’t notice and blindly accepts this reason. Chris tells her he can also deliver the tree but when Jen tries to decline he uses his Santa mind powers, again with Vertigo effect, to convince her to say yes. Why is it so hard for Chris to find a wife when he could just use his powers to lobotomize someone into marrying him? Jen then asks if he needs a pen to write down their address but he says there’s no need…*awkward stares*…because he can just memorize it! Good cover there Chris; If this isn’t setting bells off in your head it should be. Shouldn’t Santa be a moral compass? Instead he’s off using his powers to convince women to like him. He later brags about this to Jerry, that he could feel she was going to be here tonight.

A little bit later, Chris stops by the house to deliver the tree and Jen is literally up to her elbows in dough.

10I’m pretty sure even the most inexperienced baker would not be able to get this messy. Chris tells her to get back to her cookies; he and Eric will put up the tree. Jen doesn’t flinch letting this stranger, who has had strange behaviour as previously shown, into her house and leaving her son alone with him. Jen gets what look like regular circular chocolate chip cookies into the oven just in time for Eric and Chris to call her over and show all the Christmas decorations they put up. Just then the cookies start burning but Chris insists he will get them. He appears about 5 minutes later, again to a silent room awaiting his presence, with new cookies that are shaped in various Christmas shapes. Jen doesn’t even bat an eye at this as Chris tells her it was nothing. Yes, one of Santa’s super powers is being able to bake cookies really really fast. He even calls Jerry immediately to brag about this and tells him to believe.

Chris’s gaslighting continues once Eric goes to bed. He bluntly asks Jen “So, you were married 8 years ago?”. First off, I know you live with elves all year round Chris, but that’s not how you start a conversation. Secondly, this is probably why you haven’t found a wife yet, and why Jerry is the worst love consultant yet! Maybe you can Photoshop your life with better decisions Jerry! Jen’s reaction to this question is to again ask how he knew and then to again let it slide once Chris tells her he did the math that Eric is 7 and she got dumped when he was young. Chris then basically invites himself to the Johnson family dinner Jen has to go with the only stipulation being it’s two professionals doing their jobs. Yes, I’m sure the poor down on their luck Johnson family won’t mind having their kids reminded that while Santa is currently in their house he won’t be there on Christmas Eve. Plus having another mouth to feed won’t be an issue even though they’re not making any money at the moment.

The next day Jen complains to Suzie that she’s lonely and she’s done with bone-heads and wants a nice man. Jen does not catch on that she’s talking to her spinster friend Suzie who’s basically in the same man-less situation. Suzie rightly points out that Jen has two men to choose from. Jen tells her she isn’t feeling it with handsome Sam and her son thinks Chris is Santa so if it goes bad Eric would get hurt. Just then Sam shows up for their lunch date, which Jen had totally forgotten about…likely because Chris fucked with her mind to keep her away from other men.

After an uneventful lunch that had no flirting or riveting conversation (seriously, Sam complained there was no crime in town, Jen said she was slowly getting into the Christmas spirit), Sam tries to coast on his good looks and kisses Jen. She pulls back awkwardly though and just goes inside her house.

Back at the mall Chris is again bragging to Jerry about how his powers are revving up. He even shows them off by predicting that this kid is on the naughty list right before he knocks another child’s ice cream to the ground.

11But wait where have we seen this kid before? Oh that’s right, on Santa’s lap in the montage at the start! I guess Chris’ powers weren’t good enough to detect the evilness back then or the movie couldn’t be bothered to hire more than 4 child actors. He’s even wearing the exact same shirt.

Chris and Jen arrive at the Johnsons family house, though it’s a wonder how they found it considering the house number changes from 612 to 16126 depending on the establishing shots.

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13It’s also at this point in the movie that, as Jen is falling for Chris rather than Sam, her belief in buttons starts to return. She’s practically demure here, which is a necessary quality for a Mrs. Clause.

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Chris’ cavalier attitude to gaslighting Jen doesn’t change even though they’re with company. Upon entering he promptly has a “lucky guess” that the father lost his job and proceeds to know both kids names even though Jen distinctly remembers not telling him the kid’s names. His response “I’m pretty sure you did”. Jen again lets it slide because she’s lived in this crimeless town for too long that she’s forgotten what a crazy person looks like.

The Johnson family explains they may be down on their luck and unable to afford Christmas presents this year, but at Christmas everything feels right. Chris, using his kitchen related superhero spidey sense, enters the kitchen to find that Mrs. Johnson has burnt the turkey and that dinner is ruined.

15He offers to help and tells her to go hang out with the family which she does and it’s again utterly silent. A little while later Chris pokes his head into the dining room, which is still silent (seriously this family and Jen have nothing to talk about!? Ask some questions for your article!), and asks for her to return. The turkey is magically perfect because, again, Santa’s main superpower consists of being able to reverse cook things. So lame.

After dinner Chris goes to help Mr. Johnson dry dishes and offers him a job at the tree lot. Now that’s a nice gesture, but the movie then throws any remaining shreds of logic and believability out the window as Chris tells Mr. Johnson that the tree lot is:

  1. Open all year round (why?)
  2. They need more than two people to manage it (WHY?)
  3. It pays really well, and (What?)
  4. It has full benefits! (WHAT!!!???)

Take note millennials, your complaints about jobs not being available are over! The Christmas tree business is where it’s at!

Mr. Johnson of course accepts and will start tomorrow. On the way out of the house, Jen notices that presents have appeared under the Christmas tree and Chris promptly shushes her until they’re outside. Jen is again suspicious because another kitchen miracle was performed and now presents have appeared. Chris just shrugs and said the family needed a break. He’s basically not even denying it anymore because he’s altered Jen’s reality to the point where she now thinks this is normal. He then peers into her memory and we get the best scene of the movie.

It’s a flashback to when Jen’s ex left her at Christmas. For some reason it’s awash in blue hues and the camera angles are always canted. The acting is the worst it’s been all movie. Her ex, Paul, is Cockney or something and accuses her of tricking him into having a baby with her (this isn’t a stretch, Jen’s pretty irredeemable). Paul tells her he married her because of that and that he’s done enough.

16Jen thinks he’s over reacting but Paul tells her they’re done and then accidentally breaks an ornament while picking up his coat. Jen does something that resembles crying but again this is soooo poorly acted that I can’t even be sure that’s what she was going for; she almost looks …happy?

17She exclaims “how could you!” (clearly it was an accident), and “you know how much that meant to me!” (because it was the last gift her mother gave her before dying). Paul tells her the ornament was ugly anyways and leaves. This is supposed to be the dramatic scene of the movie that ties things together but holy moly is it laughable. It makes you want to actively root against Jen and see Paul’s side of the story. Alas we’re not so lucky and instead Chris and Jen have a moment where he tells her “You can never stop opening yourself up to the chance of magic coming into your life”. That’s just creepy enough and on point for his character to work in this context. They agree to see each other again on Christmas Eve.

Jen’s writers block is now finally gone and that night she powers through an article about wanting to regain the Christmas spirit she had as a child. We see a brief snippit and it’s just about how Chris mind fucked her into the Christmas Spirit.

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Meanwhile Chris is again bragging to Jerry about his kitchen super powers. Jerry is impressed but he still thinks ‘humbug mommy’ is a waste of time. Chris then tells him that he generated presents and Jerry flips his shit! Only the real Santa, Chris’ dad, can do that! Seriously, how is fixing kitchen mistakes a stepping stone to the ultimate power of creating presents?

Now to tie up some other loose ends, Jen’s office is having their Christmas party. Martin tells Jen he loved her article. It was optimistic and hopeful, not at all like her. Jen has no reaction to this backhanded insult, likely fearing for her job since she was already a week late with a simple article. Martin stops everything to make an announcement. He explains that a year and a half ago he lost his wife and was depressed last Christmas. He decided to make changes to ensure this Christmas would be better. It was at that point that he saw Gertrude in a new light, to which she quips “what, the overhead fluorescents?”. Everyone laughs because they fear Gertrude and are aware of her plan to get to the top OR this office is made up of morons. Martin then asks Gertrude to marry him and she says yes because that’s clearly her ticket to the top.

It’s now Christmas Eve and Jen is putting Eric to bed. She manages to reduce his expectations about getting a Mike Maxim Action Man action figure and he understands he’d get something else. He also asks for Chris to tuck him in which Jen of course happily obliges because, as we’ve previously seen, she’s prone to leaving strange men alone with her child. Eric then proceeds to basically tell Chris that he wants her to bang his mom. Eric wants her to be happy, he thinks she’s lonely, wants her to fall in love with the right guy, *wink wink*. Chris says he’ll do his best 😉

For their last date before Chris has to (or doesn’t have to since it’s really not important) take over for his father, Chris takes Jen to the Ice-o-Plex, which is a skating rink. Jen gushes that she hasn’t been there in years and her favourite thing as a girl was to come here on Christmas Eve…and wait how did Chris know? He says it was a lucky guess. Again Jen, just goes along with it because she can’t be forced to do any critical thinking. It should also be noted that Jen’s buttons are now done all the way up and she’s basically a nun. This is a reverse of most of the shitty Christmas movies where more cleavage is usually shown as the movie goes on in order to keep the viewers’ attention.

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Inside to Ice-o-Plex they skate and kiss before eventually sitting down at a table. Chris can’t help but show off his powers and tells Jen that the guy over there is going to ask his girl to marry him. Jen asks if he’s a mind reader and he finally tells her he’s actually the Son of Sam Santa. Jen initially laughs it off and says she loves his sense of humour but Chris is insistent and tells her he wants her and Eric to come live at the North Pole with him, his dad, the elves and reindeer (he forgets about Jerry). Jen finally catches on that this man is unstable and potentially dangerous and asks to leave. She tells him he’s crazy but Chris keeps insisting it’s the truth.

Jen returns home but then calls Sam to meet up and talk. Even though it’s Christmas Eve, Sam is still able to show up, likely expecting a booty call. Jen explains to him that she’s a single mom and she needs someone committed. Sam tells her he’s not looking to settle down, he’s not that guy. Did you even need to confirm this Jen? It was pretty obvious he was only in it for your looks. Jen thanks him for his honesty and leaves.

Jen returns home and explains to Suzie, who I guess also didn’t have anything better to do on Christmas Eve, that Chris is crazy as a coconut. She thinks she’s a complete failure since she doesn’t have a man and doesn’t even have a Mike Maxim Action Man.

Back at the mall, Jerry and Chris are packing up their operation. Chris says he really thought he had it this year and Jerry tells him there’s always next year. Or hey, maybe a miracle will happen. Chris clearly has an idea for one last Hail Mary.

Jen goes to check on Eric but finds him missing from his bedroom and I seriously suspected Chris had kidnapped him because that’s how messed up this movie is. Instead, Eric is just out in the living room chilling. Jen explains to him that Chris isn’t Santa, he just pretends to be to make people happy. Just then Eric sees a present under the tree tucked in the back. He’s allowed to open it and it’s of course a Mike Maxim Action Man. But wait, there’s another present and this one’s for Jen. She opens it to find a new version of the ugly ornament her ex broke in that bizarre flashback! She suddenly changes her mind about Chris and says they need to go now to see Santa and live in the North Pole! They barely pack anything though and just head out the door. I guess there’ll be time to come back and get your stuff, tell work and Eric’s school you’re leaving for good, etc.

Jen and Eric then have an oddly long running montage through the outdoor mall to the Santa stand, only to find that Chris is gone…they were too late. Oh wait, he’s right there in the parking lot. Jen runs over and tells him she believes in the Christmas spirit and in him. Chris tells her he found his strength in her and they kiss. Just then it starts snowing.

THE END

So what can really be said that hasn’t been already? Santa is basically the villain of this movie as he uses his ‘super powers’ to gaslight and manipulate Jen throughout the movie to break her brain so that she believes in Santa. But since he’s doing this to be able to deliver presents to millions of children do the ends justify the means? That question isn’t even brought up since the movie see’s Santa as not doing anything wrong. That ignorance coupled with the poor acting make ‘My Santa’ a laughable lump of coal.

2 Rating

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