I think I was four when I figured out that Santa and my mom had the same very distinctive handwriting. It didn't ruin Christmas for me. Honestly, it was a relief. I've always found the idea of Santa a little creepy. There's an old man at the North Pole who is watching me all year and then one night he breaks into my house and leaves me gifts that cryptically represent how good I've been all year? No thank you. I've been very happy celebrating Christmas without him.
My husband, on the other hand, still sort of believes in Santa Claus. He insists that we do stockings every year, claiming that Santa fills them overnight. When he gets a targeted ad for something he really wants but he knows I'll mock, he'll order it and claim that it's from Santa. (This year, it's a Christmas-themed Optimus Prime Transformer.) He's currently in our living room getting verklempt about the finale of The Santa Clauses. Someone recently said that he could play Santa, and his eyes lit up as bright as any tree-topping star. I'm no Grinch, but I often mind myself bemused with the force of his Christmas enthusiasm. So when I saw that there was a Netflix movie called I Believe in Santa about a grown man who believes in Santa Claus, I had no trouble whatsoever talking him into watching it with me.
It's 4th of July, and journalist Lisa (Christina Moore) needs an angle for her article about the holiday. She comes up with this groundbreaking premise: 4th of July is way better than Christmas. That weekend, she meets lawyer Tom (John Ducey) when he rescues her lost daughter at a local fair. They hit it off and start dating, montaging their way through Halloween and Thanksgiving. In early December, Lisa and her best friend/co-worker Sharon (Lateefah Holder) go to Tom's house for dinner. When they arrive, they find that Christmas has exploded all over Tom's house. It's quickly revealed that Tom has taken a whole weekend to set up his display, and he's spent tens of thousands of dollars on buying and storing his decorations. He also has a calendar of Christmas events for every day in December, including several that require him to take time off work or travel. But Lisa famously hates Christmas! Tom convinces Lisa that he can show her the magic of the season, and for a few days Lisa is grateful for the fun Tom is bringing to her family. Then Tom reveals that he doesn't just love Christmas: he, a single 40-something lawyer, passionately believes that Santa Claus is real.
The twist is revealed in the title, so when it happened I expected the movie to take a hard turn into the zaniness of an adult man who proudly proclaims that he believes in Santa Claus. Instead, this became a serious relationship drama about two people who care deeply for each other but have a fundamental conflict in their belief systems. It's weird enough when they imply that believing in Santa is the same as being a religious person, but it is much weirder when Tom's best friend/co-worker explicitly says that believing in Santa is the same as being a religious person. Tom is also determined to indoctrinate Lisa's daughter, which seems like overstepping given that they've only been dating for five months when the movie begins. Coupled with the terrifying hyper-fixated expression that Tom gets every time he talks about Christmas, I was rooting for Lisa to run for the hills. It would be possible to do two days of reshoots and turn this into a horror movie where Tom, driven mad by his hatred for a world that insists Santa isn't real, kidnaps Lisa and her daughter and forces them to endure a series of Christmas-themed tortures that slowly brainwash them into Santa-philes. Instead, they eventually have a touching moment where they accept each other's beliefs. At least, until Easter, when it's revealed that Tom spends all of April living as a bunny.
This is set in my hometown of Denver, Colorado, USA, but it was definitely filmed on a backlot in L.A. Probably the same backlot where they shot A Hollywood Christmas, because John Ducey wrote both movies. He is also married to his co-lead Christina Moore, who does have a lot of long-suffering-wife energy. They have also worked with a lot of the California Christmas crew, which leads me to believe that this little cadre of actor/writer/producers got some sort of deal to make a couple of these movies together. If they're listening, I say GO ZANIER. Like, wouldn't it have been funny if after Tom and Lisa have a fight, Tom has a heart-to-heart with a mall Santa? Or if Lisa finds a present under the tree addressed to her, from Santa, and it's just a framed picture of a moment where no one had a camera? Instead, it's kind of a bummer to watch Lisa decide that she's willing to be part of this man's insane holiday schedule for the rest of her life. My husband's review? He fell asleep about twenty minutes from the end, and was disappointed with the lack of Santa.
If you like a weird Christmas movie curio, then check this movie out, but the second half is weaker than the first. Or better yet, watch How to Build a Sex Room, also on Netflix, which is actually filmed in Denver, and has a lot of sweet couples reconnecting by prioritizing their time together. And a lot of sex toys. It's much more fun.
And thus ends my holiday movie marathon! If were to rank the movies I watched this year, I'd go:
I'm excited that my streaming services offered up so many options this year, but in my research (aka, googling "Best holiday movies 2022"), I'm seeing a bunch of very exciting movies on either Hallmark or Lifetime that I really want to watch. There's one with Mario Lopez, and several with Melissa Joan Hart. I don't really want to add another streaming service...or do I?
If I were to talk myself into a romance-heavy streaming service for next year, should I go with Lifetime or Hallmark? EMAIL ME with your thoughts!