Starring: Caitlin Carmichael, Benjamin Stockham, Abraham Benrubi, Kevin Pollak, Joey Lauren Adams, William Shockley, Illeana Douglas, Mikey Post,
Running Time: 87 minutes
It is truly the season to be jolly now and I’m tired of holding in so much Christmas cheer. Adorned in my Christmas socks, slippers, lounge pants, t-shirt etc. It was time to set about getting into the spirit with one of three holiday related films from Metrodome. First up is THE GREAT SANTA RESCUE (or A COUNTRY CHRISTMAS as it is also known). In THE GREAT SANTA RESCUE, we are introduced to a world where Santa and politicians just don’t mix as the aptly named Max Schmucker (Pollak);guess what he acts like, decides to outlaw belief in Santa. Siblings Miley (Carmichel) and Zach (Stockham) discover the real Santa after he crash lands in their barn because of a lack of belief in him. It’s then a race against time to set the world straight.
The story may be as generic as they come, but it’s also as inoffensive as they come. Focusing on family and belief, this is a film that aims to keep itself very Middle American. Breakfasts are eaten at the table as a family, and the parents are always understanding and patient with their kids. Although there’s nothing wrong with such safe and wholesome messages, the film also delves into a the realms of cancer and terminal illness. This plot device is brought in a little late, and the conclusion is one where it tries to avoid the problem. The best family films are the ones that offer a brave take on real issues, without frightening or threatening the children. THE GREAT SANTA RESCUE goes for some easy resolutions that may have some parents wiping their brow with relief at another difficult conversation averted.
All this is secondary though to the great feeling that primates throughout. There’s nothing unsavoury about the film and it takes its subject matter very seriously. Hiring the likes of Kevin Pollak as the film’s antagonist adds weight to proceedings as his performance wouldn’t be amiss in more serious projects. The child actors are also pleasant and likable, as well as showing off some particularly strong comedic skills. Although in terms of characterisation, I’m not sure having Miley ignore an important class debate on slavery as she draws a picture of Santa is the best way to enamour us to her. Benrubi is a fitting Santa, but the wig and beard leave a lot to be desired at times.
It’s worth bearing in mind the film’s original title of A COUNTRY CHRISTMAS and also that this is a made for TV movie. There isn’t a huge budget and the Arizona setting doesn’t feel particularly Christmassy at times, but despite such drawbacks it does manage to pull at the heartstrings in the film’s climax. Even though you’ve probably heard similar speeches before they’re written surprisingly well and delivered with conviction. A decent enough start to the Holiday season which only a Grinch could completely dismiss.