Dear Santa

Review by
Jennifer Monroe Franson

Director: Jason Priestley
Writer: Barbara Kymlicka

  • Amy Acker — Crystal Carruthers
  • David Haydn-Jones — Derek Gowen
  • Emma Duke — Olivia Gowen
  • Patrick Creery — Pete Kennedy
  • Gina Holden — Jillian
  • Brooklynn Proulx — Sharla

Nomadic Pictures: 2011

90 minutes January 2013


Dear Santa is a pleasant but decidedly flimsy addition to the Christmas-movie genre. Although it’s a good-hearted film, that’s about as far as it goes; those looking for emotional depth or a sparkling plot will probably be disappointed.

Unfortunately, the movie’s characters and situations are just not very convincing, even by the standards of a genre geared toward holiday magic rather than gritty realism. The movie begins with a letter to Santa Claus from a little girl who asks for a stepmother — in itself a bit of a stretch. When the letter goes astray and is found by rich-but-aimless Crystal, the latter immediately embarks on an obsessive search for the child. When she succeeds, Crystal then decides to insert herself into the family’s life by volunteering at the soup kitchen run by the little girl’s good-looking widowed father. Crystal’s motivation for all of this uncharacteristic exertion is not very well explained, leading us to sympathize with her friend Sharla, who wonders if Crystal is turning into a stalker.

Nor are these the only points at which characterization and credibility are stretched thin. At an impromptu food-prep session, Crystal and Jillian, her rival for the widower’s affections, end up attacking each other with the brunch ingredients. While Jillian is presented as a thoroughly nasty sort, her chief sin seems to be the fact that she wears faux designer clothing — unlike our well-heeled heroine, who can and does buy the real thing. The soup kitchen’s homeless habitues are a little too clean and quaint to be believable. Crystal’s absentee parents, too, stretch believability a point when they decide, out of the blue, to cut off her allowance unless she finds a husband or a job before Christmas.

The movie does have its bright spots, of course. Notable among them is Pete, the gay chef who presides over the soup kitchen and dishes out ample helpings of encouragement and good advice to the hapless Crystal; in fact, he comes across as more attractive and more interesting than the hero. Emma Duke, who plays little Olivia, is not only one of the stronger actors in the piece, but she also manages to be adorable without being Shirley Temple-ish. (Oddly, Emma Duke bears an uncanny resemblance to Bailee Madison of Just Go With It, a much stronger – though not holiday-themed — romantic comedy.) And the rapport between Crystal and Olivia, unlike some other aspects of the movie, is both convincing and heartwarming.

Viewers with a boundless appetite for Christmas movies and enough free time to indulge that appetite should certainly consider adding Dear Santa to the holiday viewing list. Those who can fit only one or two movies into the pre-Christmas schedule, however, will probably do well to choose elsewhere.


© 2013 Jennifer Monroe Franson

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