This was a very cute movie starring the talented Alicia Witt playing a down on her luck single mom who is “magicked” into being the store Santa Claus by an angel disguised as a visiting corporate bigwig. Nicki is perfect for the role even though no one knows she is a woman in her Santa suit and stuffing. The kids and parents love her because she seems to know exactly what they need for Christmas as well as being just a warm nurturing person. Store sales boom. She attracts the attention of a department manager who thinks she is just a regular store employee. They are attracted to each other right away, but Nicki is reluctant to tell him she is his Store Santa Claus. The lie becomes a source of tension and suspense.
Wallace Shawn is simply wonderful as the Angel who guides Nicki and thwarts Fiona, who plays the jealous villainess, at every turn. Gabrielle Miller is funny as always playing officious humorless snob. She suspects something is strange about the new store Santa and isn’t too fond of Nicki either. She is determined to get her fired and away from the guy she has been flirting with and starts investigating the too good to be true Santa. When she starts to make the connection we know she will stop at nothing even though the store owner is thrilled with Santa and his popularity. We never really fear for Nicki, because, after all, God is on her side. So we just sit back and enjoy Fiona’s machinations knowing her comeuppance is on the way.
The only fly in the ointment is Gabriel Hogan who plays the love interest. I found him bland and uninteresting without a noticeable spark with the inimitable Ms Witt. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie starring her that I did not like.
Even Vanessa, Nana, and a Cute dog Couldn’t save this One
Other than the charming Vanessa Lachey and a cute doggie, this entry in the Hallmark sweepstakes has nothing much else to recommend it. Big City girl comes home to her small town for Christmas with her beloved pooch that she kind of co-owned with her hunky ex-boyfriend. The boyfriend is the local vet, who also owns a mountain top property which is also a rescue facility. He is also wealthy due to his invention of a revolutionary wheelchair for dogs. My God, this guy is fictionally perfect. Christopher Russell plays the boyfriend and he is so handsome he looks like he stepped out of the pages of a Vanity Fair Men’s Cologne ad. Unfortunately his mesmerizing looks are not matched by his acting talent. His expression never changes. The only thing I see behind his eyes is bemusement. “Where am I? What am I doing?” At least in this effort. I’ve seen him really shine.
The story is boring and repetitive as the dog leads the two to place after place that were milestones in their courtship in an effort to reunite them. Also cheering for the happy reunion is the vet’s annoying mother (let’s follow them!) and Vanessa’s Nana. Nana is the only other bright spot in this effort. I love the actress who plays her. She never fails impress.
I don’t like Santa Claus movies in general, but this one was a winner. Hilarie Burton was particularly appealing and sympathetic as the feisty no nonsense Annie who is eventually won over by the shy, fish-out-of- water stable-master, John. Jayne Eastwood as Mrs. Claus, was a hoot. Clearly the brains of the operation, She was the ruthless mob boss, willing to send her minions to steal a little girl’s pet reindeer so millions of little children aren’t disappointed on Christmas morning. Yes kids, sometimes the end does justify the means. Lots of laughs, a poor single mother trying to save her farm from evil big business, a sweet little romance. and some charming fantasy. Overlook the forced conflict between the two lovebirds, and the questionable ethical issues, and you’ll have a good time with this one. **9 out of 10 stars**