12 Days of Netflix: Saving Christmas (2017)
James R | On 17, Dec 2018
Director: Tom DeNucci
Cast: Edward Asner, Brooke Langton, Patrick Muldoon
Watch Saving Christmas online in the UK: Netflix UK
We unwrap a different Christmas film from Netflix’s dubious seasonal selection every day. For 12 days. It’s the 12 Days of Netflix.
Titles don’t come much more ambitious than Saving Christmas, a well-meaning, low-budget festive flick from 2017. But any evidence of that ambition is nowhere to be seen on the screen, with a muddled script and uninspired direction leaving its cast stranded at the proverbial North Pole with no hope of rescue.
Except the North Pole is more literal than proverbial in this bizarre story, which takes place in Norpole (get it?), the northernmost community in America. In the town lives Danny (Jack Brunault), a young boy who has recently lost his dad. When his sister, Jennifer (Lindsey Blanchard), declares she doesn’t believe in Santa anymore, he decides to go out and prove that Saint Nick does exist. Meanwhile, around the corner is a toy company that ships worldwide run by an old, fat man with a white beard (Edward Asner). It doesn’t take much brain power to do the maths.
But that’s precisely what Saving Christmas feels like: a laborious 90-minute stretch as inspiring and magical as doing homework. We watch as Danny and his friends, Matt and Jake, construct high-tech gizmos to trace Santa’s whereabouts and capture evidence of his existence. But if that sounds cool, there’s a dull reality check to come, as these gizmos don’t really do anything, and our heroes are left walking around asking people at the post office where their letters to Santa end up. Stranger Things, this ain’t.
The townspeople are either too secretive (or too bored) to give much information away, leading Danny to be bullied by a mean kid at school, who spends his time following these Santa hunters around. Is he trying to stop Danny proving Santa’s real? Steal the glory of proving it all for himself? Or just mock him for believing at all? It’s anybody’s guess; this isn’t a film where things like character or logic matter. And, given the bully’s weapon of choice is a paintball gun, it’s all a bit laughable anyway.
Meanwhile, Danny’s mother, Elizabeth (Brooke Langton), finds herself courted by Sammy (Patrick Muldoon), a new guy in town. Sammy works in marketing for – you guessed it – the Norpole Toy Company, and he’s hired specifically to help Santa get a makeover for modern consumers. Which leads the film to its poorly thought-out clash of ideas: is Santa’s existence meant to be a secret or not? If not, Danny’s quest is redundant. If so, the subplot (and burgeoning romance) of Sammy and Elizabeth is completely irrelevant. Either way, it’s clear that both of them have nothing to do with The Gingerbread Brawl, a pro-wrestling event that takes place in the town. Positioned as the story’s climactic event, the poorly filmed result feels more like people playing dress-up in a garden shed, which is a shame, given that wrestlers Tommy Dreamer and Matt Striker gamely make cameo appearances for the fight.
But that’s just one of countless badly conceived moments, from an unconvincing motivational speech about believing in what you can’t see to the fact that Santa apparently works undercover as a janitor in schools to keep on eye on whether the local kids are naughty or nice.
The result is a tonal mess, a laughter vacuum and an unflattering showcase for a cast that aren’t given a chance to conjure up any seasonal goodwill towards any of it. It may want to think big, but this unambitious misstep comes closer to ruining Christmas than saving it.
Saving Christmas is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.