PLOT: After an affluent young woman is threatened to be cut off by her family unless she changes her free spending ways, she discovers a young girl’s Christmas wish and decides that this is what she needs to do to change her life.
This would probably occur if I watched 25 consecutive movies in any genre, but these movies all seem to borrow from each other, especially those written in the last decade. It definitely feels like they found a formula that allowed for a good Nielsen rating and decided that every movie on the channel needed to be cut from the same cloth. It’s understandable, but doesn’t help to distinguish one movie from the next. The most popular Christmas movies are those that have a distinct difference between them and every other movie released in the same genre.
Think about It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf, Christmas Vacation, and Christmas Story, if I said the title and you had seen it, you would immediately remember every major plot point, or at least, the most memorable moments from the movie. Now, consider the average Lifetime or Hallmark Channel Christmas movie, outside of the ones that have self-explanatory titles, would you be able to tell me anything that happen in them? My assumption would be you’d start blending plots together and would need more hints to answer my question. That is the problem with inoffensive, safe, formulaic movies, if you don’t have an amazing performance, there’s nothing to remember it.
Dear Santa is another in a long line of Lifetime movies that introduces the thinnest plot imaginable and hopes that the setting engages the audience. I was quite surprised that Amy Acker (Angel, Person of Interest) was not really good as the affluent, Crystal. She played her a little too much like Paris Hilton for the plot to make any sense. Over the course of the movie, Crystal’s meant to become less spoiled but she only changes because she falls in love. It is a really lazy plot device to have a character change into something they’ve never been because of love. All they needed to do was show a little depth to Crystal and I would have bought the change.
The one interesting aspect of the movie that I enjoyed was that they used the “magic of Christmas” trope, minus an appearance by Santa or an elf. The letter that Crystal finds is her impetus to do something different, but it still felt superficial and too convenient. The use of a letter to Santa as a part of a movie’s plot was best used in Wish Upon a Christmas, which didn’t revel the letter until the end. Even though that felt forced, it was still better conceived than wind blowing a letter to a character.
Maybe some of my boredom with the movie had to do with David Haydn-Jones stiff performance as Derek. I’ve mentioned multiple times throughout this series that chemistry is the number one thing needed in love story that is told in a 90-minute movie. If there’s no feeling that these character could be real people falling in love, then you have no story. The audience needs to believe it through the performances and not just with dialogue. This is what really hurt the film and made it very forgettable.
Despite being generic, the good old this person is much better for you than your current significant other is a very effective relationship arc. The reason I didn’t enjoy this one — their lack of chemistry notwithstanding — was because Acker’s character seemed too perfect for Hayden-Jones’. I am a fan of leaving a little doubt that this could not work out, but in the end, everyone learns an important lesson. A predictable finish is safe, but boring and doesn’t allow for 3D characters.
There was just enough Christmas in the movie to make sure you knew what time of year this took place, but not enough to make it feel overwhelmingly Christmas-y. The inclusion of an ice skating scene was a good change of pace and something that hadn’t been used since 12 Dates of Christmas.
Christmas-ness Score: 2.5 out of 5
In a long line of mediocre movies in this genre, Dear Santa is one of the more ‘meh’ entries I’ve seen. There’s no real emotional connection between the audience and the characters, which is surprising for a movie featuring Amy Acker. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the story of the movie, except that it played it way too safe and had no memorable moments — good or bad. Also, whoever edited this needs a geography lesson. I will slightly forgive them because it was a Canadian studio, but don’t set your film in New York and show the very recognizable Philadelphia version of the Love Statue. As a native Philadelphian, I’ve seen my city shot as other cities, such as Paris, and what they showed is something that would only be recognizable to the most aware Philadelphia, not an iconic sculpture that appears on every sporting broadcast.