The “hipness” of the film’s soundtrack is an excellent place to start when appraising modern Christmas movies. In “Deck the Halls,” Danny DeVito does some hip-hop DJing, Michael Keaton fronts a touring rock band in “Jack Frost” (his band is called ‘The Jack Frost Band’ in the film), and “This Christmas,” while a good holiday film, features the great Idris Elba playing passionate, bluesy saxaphone in a Jazz club like he’s starring in a Miles Davis biopic. “Santa Baby” is the vocal track that goes with it.
‘Becoming Santa’ Is A Christmas Doc Who Isn’t Having Fun
With a few of faux rock Christmas songs including “raging” guitar solos worthy of Peter Cetera, the new holiday documentary “Becoming Santa” follows this annual Tradition of Wrong. Things would be OK if the film’s sole flaw was a bad choice in music supervisors, but alas, it’s only one of many nasty choices (The Christmas wordplay ends here). ‘Becoming Santa’ follows Jack Sanderson, a typical guy who decides to grow out his beard, colour his hair, and work as Santa Claus for a season. Sanderson’s voice-over reveals that he is taking on the role of Santa in order to reconnect with the “Christmas spirit” following the death of his parents, his last living relatives. While Sanderson’s mission is admirable, it does not make for a fascinating film. Sanderson’s devotion to “becoming Santa” is, at best, half-hearted. He seemed to want to be in a movie, and why not this one? Morgan Spurlock and Michael Moore, for example, have been accused of attempting to thrust themselves into the spotlight, but Sanderson’s attempt to gain fifteen minutes of fame is so apparent that it makes you squirm.
Susan Mesco, the CEO of American Events, is the most fascinating character in the film. Sanderson attends her “Santa School,” which she runs. She’s strange and entertaining, and the documentary would have been better served by focusing on her. “Don’t utter the ‘K’ word [as in ‘kids,’],” Mesco adds at one point. “You say ‘children,'” I say. “Santa says ‘children,'” Mesco clarifies. Jack learns how to pronounce “Ho Ho Ho” (always in threes), how to cut out paper snowflakes, and how much make-up and glitter each Kris Kringle should wear at Santa School. “It’s really vital to experience the love from these youngsters and let them give it to you,” Mesco urges the Santas in a scary moment. Mesco starts crying at this point. When the Santas go to a toy store to keep up with the newest fads, Sanderson turns lovable for a little period. “You’ve got Batman, you’ve got Spider-Man, you’ve got Captain America,” a leader from American Events says as he leads a group of white-bearded men in civilian clothing through an aisle of action figures. Sanderson takes a moment to inform the other Santas about the upcoming Captain America film. Director Jeff Meyers moves to an interview with Sanderson at this moment, in which he explains, “I’m a geek.”
Mesco dresses up as a tiny kid, sits on each Santa’s lap, and tests how they cope with a “difficult child” in the final section of Santa School. When Mesco asks Santa to “murder Osama bin Laden,” the movie becomes dated. Sanderson explains that “Santa doesn’t kill people” after some persistence on her part. I have contacts in the United Nations, and I will assist them in locating him.” Sanderson appears to be conflicted over the majority of the events in the film. He is frequently caught on camera looking bored and uninterested. Sanderson comes across as particularly awkward when he meets with youngsters dressed in full Santa garb, which makes the audience squirm. Throughout his contacts with children, Jack’s characteristic gesture is to glance at a little boy or girl and request “one of your wonderful hugs.” His voice has the ability to send shivers down one’s spine. The rest of the movie goes over the many Santa positions Sanderson can get. In Philipsburg, NJ, he gets work on the Polar Express, where he must see 360 individuals in 90 minutes. Each day, he completes four of these rides. Jack completes one day of this work, fully complains about it, and then moves on to the next job.
‘Becoming Santa’ could have worked as a twenty- or thirty-minute documentary, but it’s virtually unpleasant at over ninety minutes. Worse, it’s so self-righteous that it transforms Buddy the Elf into the Grinch. There’s a whole segment that (really) digs into ‘Post Christmas Depression,’ in which Santas, like a bunch of First Graders who have to return to school, reflect on how unhappy they get when Christmas is done. As if that weren’t enough, the film includes three endings, all in the style of “The Return of the King.” There’s dramatic music, slow motion, and heartfelt meditations, followed by fifteen minutes of silence. “Like snowflakes, no two Ho Ho’s are precisely identical,” the statement concludes, followed by fifty people saying “Ho Ho Ho.” What’s more, guess what? They all sound awfully similar to me.
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