I believe in Santa Claus is a new Christmas movie on Netflix that will make you question your idea of Christmas, blur your perception of movie genres, and generally make you question reality. What did I just see? Am I really here typing my 39th holiday movie review? Or am I trapped in a reality where a 53-year-old man believes in Santa with a fervor most people reserve for real religions — and we’re kind of further along his Side?
The essentials: I… well, let’s see – uh, so Christina Moore plays Lisa, a single mom and columnist for the website Mile High E-Zine whose work seems to focus mostly on which holidays she likes (July 4th) and which ones not (Christmas). . While celebrating the Fourth of July at the county fair, she meets a lawyer named Tom (John Ducey). The two start dating and things are going well. They hit it off so well that when Christmas comes around they’re still together – and that’s when Lisa and her best friend Sharon (Lateefah Holder) make the mistake of wondering when this seemingly perfect relationship will go wrong . It turns out that Tom loves Christmas… and Lisa notoriously hates Christmas, quite often in print.
Lisa and Tom decide to work their way through this difficult situation, which results in Tom coming up with a cavalcade of daily Christmas activities designed to compel Lisa and her daughter Ella (Violet McGraw) to love the holidays because who doesn’t love christmas? Things are actually going well until Tom has to reveal something he was nervously telling Lisa about: he believes in Santa Claus.
Like, seriously. He firmly believes that there is a burly, immortal being that lives at the North Pole, presumably outside of time as we perceive it, and provides toys for every good child under the age of 10 – and yes, that belief extends to elves too.
If that sounds like the sort of setup for a silly holiday comedy, think again! After this revelation I believe in Santa Claus becomes a relationship drama and dual character study of two individuals with diametrically opposed beliefs and a meditation on – you guessed it – the power of belief! [airhorn]
Which movies will it remind you of?: I do not know – Eleven if Buddy hadn’t grown up at the North Pole and also been treated as a serious romantic lead and not a clueless jerk? or Miracles on 34th Street if instead it was about Doris Walker having a serious relationship with Kris Kringle? Frankly, John Ducey’s performance as the romantic lead-turned-lawyer offers the same mix of mania and menace that Jim Carrey served in The cable guy.
Notable performance: Moore and Ducey — who I’ve learned are married in real life — are doing really well some in this movie. I know they’re trying to play lovers, but their eyes convey more of a predator and prey vibe. The couple do their best work in a scene where Tom, a man who has been with Lisa for five months and believes in Santa Claus, chides Lisa for not raising her daughter as a believer: “I don’t think that it’s fair to say your lack of faith in Ella.” Reminder: that’s a line about Santa Claus that’s passed from one adult to another. Lisa punches him and later lets him go on a sleigh ride alone, which is that movie’s version of packing up the kids and going to her sister’s.
Memorable dialogue: “Have you guys ever been flocked?” “It’s not about logic. It’s about magic.” “Christmas: If you’re not on the bus, you’re under it.” “Faith is perhaps the last great universal concept that holds the whole world together.” Let me tell you that I’ve taken screenshots and shared so many lines of dialogue with the other Decider contributors that I should have created a separate Slack channel for them.
A holiday tradition: The list of daily activities that Tom wants Lisa to do – even on weekdaysit’s so gruesome you have to be over 35 to understand it — including decorating the flocked Christmas tree he puts in her house and seeing a local production of A Christmas song, attending a tree lighting ceremony hosted by an a cappella group, attending a Santa Trivia night where the only answers are puns, baking cookies, and the aforementioned most depressing sleigh ride ever. It’s too much even for me – a man reviewing his 39th Christmas Movie of the Year.
Two lovebirds: The impression my jaw made on my desk when I found out this movie has the same director and writer as this year’s A Hollywood Christmas. Oh – and that author is Tom himself, John Ducey.
Does the title make sense?: The title is the only thing that makes sense about this film.
Our opinion: I’m still processing what I just saw, which is a movie in which Tom’s friend Assan (Sachin Bhatt) compares his Muslim beliefs to Tom’s belief in Santa Claus. That seems to be the bigger message I believe in Santa Claus goes for if it makes a difficult After about 50 minutes, turn towards Ernst.
The film was already more enigmatic than the riddles you get for grandma every year. The film wants – no, it needs us to buy Tom as a serious catch for Lisa to justify her staying with him, even a millisecond after he says he believes in Santa Claus. Instead, Tom comes across as a bizarre male child, a 10-year-old in a 53-year-old body. The clothes only reinforce this mood. There’s Tom wearing a suit vest over a bright red Henley, or he’s wearing a sweater vest with a bright red tie. One is a look chosen by the child herself and the other is very “mommy made me wear a tie”.
Then there’s the last third of the film that really tries to make adults who believe in Santa Claus a persecuted minority? Or show us the importance of faith in a downhill cardboard sled race? Everything in the last third is so self-serious it really boggles the mind. Imagine a movie where an affair tears a couple apart, but instead of another woman, there’s Santa Claus. That’s the mood.
For all of Tom’s justifications for believing in Santa Claus, the film never takes into account the fact that, unlike other religions, the Santa Claus myth should leave tangible evidence under millions of trees every year. Parents around the world should flood Facebook with posts about surprise gifts. This drives me nuts in most movies where Santa turns out to be real, but especially one where an adult lawyer seriously tries to use logic to explain why Santa is real. I don’t know, y’all – I was screaming into my laptop for Lisa to just leave this man with the conviction of a Maury Povich 1996 spectators.
I really can’t see where I stand I believe in Santa Claus, because it really hovers on a magical combination of insane narrative ambition and bizarrely earnest sentimentality. There are times when the film hits The room Level of disorientation where the film is telling you one thing but inadvertently (?) is showing you something completely different. That’s a sentiment I personally chase this time of year when pop culture is flooded with Christmas movies. To me, real Christmas magic might just be a holiday columnist inexplicably falling in love with a grown man who believes in Santa and owns lots of vests — but your cardboard sled miles may vary.
Our appeal: SKIP IT because, oh wow is I believe in Santa Claus not at all the kind of film it needs to be to work. But if you’re like me and love being completely confused by the process of choosing a movie, then it’s going to be an emphatic STREAM IT.