Feel good movies will reign freely for the next 6 weeks, and its one of the top reasons why the holiday season is the best time of the year (summer excluded, of course). Skilled writing and top notch acting and plots take a distant backseat to joyous merriment, predictable but fun stories, and illogical though always acceptable concepts.
“Dear Santa” is one such gem, and it kicks off our annual Holiday Movie tour. Released in 2011, the Lifetime movie, directed by Jason Priestley of ‘90210’ fame, takes all the needed ingredients for a Christmas movie (cute single women, a decorated New York City, a fairy tale plot) and mixes them like a fruitcake. We don’t have dynamic on screen performances. We don’t have deeply written or intricate story. We don’t have dragons. What we do have is likable characters, and a great start to the holiday season.
“By the size of the last credit card bill I assumed you were dressing the entire Upper East Side.” The narration comes via webcam, and is delivered in scolding fashion at Crystal Carruthers (Amy Acker), the spoiled daughter of wealthy parents who have purchased her an enviable apartment to reside in, and provide her with a weekly allowance to spend on frivolous items.
Crystal has just turned 30, and is in danger of being financially cut off from her absentee parents. She doesn’t work. She’s not married. She has seemingly no purpose. “Do something with yourself!” Her mother advises before providing a deadline of Christmas Eve to either get a job or find a man, or find herself cut off from the financial pipeline.
Amy Acker is so cute you’ll find yourself wishing for mistletoe as you watch. While shes a privileged young woman for sure, she’s a character you can sympathize with as she struggles to meet men and find her own way in the world. A chance encounter with a child’s letter to Santa Claus brings her to a soup kitchen in the city, and the blueprint for true love.
“Dear Santa” employs the often common theme of singles meeting, though this time the roles are reversed. Its Derek as a single father (of course the wife died before the events of the story), and David Haydn-Jones does a solid portrayal in the role. He runs a soup kitchen for the homeless and takes a vested interest in their welfare while trying to raise seven-year-old daughter, Olivia.
Crystal befriends Olivia and acts as a surrogate mother, defending her from over-the-top bullies and provided the feminine influence she sorely lacks. One comical scene depicts Crystal taking Olivia clothes shopping while Derek is so out of place you’d think he’s never been in a store before.
Laughs are abound on all fronts, from Crystal trying helplessly to blend in at the soup kitchen (dressed in heels and clubbing gown) or an openly gay chef she befriends played by Patrick Creery, who sports a pink kitchen coat, giant diamond earring, and in one scene is openly admiring women’s lingerie (is he gay or trans gender?)
The antagonist comes in the form of the equally beautiful though totally icy Jillian (Gina Holden) as Derek’s current girlfriend, a woman who obviously hates Christmas and doesn’t seem fond of Derek’s daughter either.
Where “Dear Santa” works best is the on screen relationships of the characters. We get a real feeling of closeness between Derek and his daughter, and when Crystal and Olivia are together, the big-sister element comes off real as well. Derek is seemingly perfect as he works his tail off to make sure the homeless have hot food and a roof over their heads.
Enjoy 6 weeks of a good mood, not minding the annoying realities of other people, and the optimism of having someone like Crystal magically come into your life (she won’t, but we can still pretend).
I know its not even Thanksgiving, but the season is here, and “Dear Santa” is fun, predictable, and a perfect choice to watch and relax with.
by – Matt DeCristo