I’m gonna admit, I had no idea what to expect from a film called Santa Girl. That being said, a straight to Netflix movie being named something as silly as Santa Girl is something I could’ve seen coming a mile away. Yet still, I don’t think I saw anything in this movie coming at all...I just rewrote this one paragraph seven times because I genuinely don’t know where to start. There is so much to unpack, but so many angles to take it from. Santa Girl is a roller coaster from start to finish, and I don’t know whether to throw up or not...but I know my legs are numb and that the person next to me passed out at some point.
Okay, I’m gonna wear my feelings on my sleeve here, so let’s start with the bad. This is a cheap movie. The seams of the elf ears are either in plain sight or hidden by strategic hair. There is one VFX artist credited and if there were any more, I would’ve been shocked. There are several moments of random jump cutting, that felt like they were just cutting out breaths, ums and ahs. The camera genuinely feels like it may have been dropped at a few points...but they still put the footage in the film. I don’t think I’ve ever cared about someone's hair more than I hated the romantic lead's hair. I could write a whole essay on why that hairstyle lived and died in one month, in 2003, but I don’t have enough room!
All that aside, the casting is very fun: Jennifer Stone is a quirky delight who feels once removed from a Disney channel lead, Joshua Cody feels fittingly once removed from a date rape warning advertisement, Barry Bostwick may be one of the best Santas I’ve ever seen, and that was before I even knew he is Brad from Rocky Horror Picture Show. The romantic lead played by some Breckin Meyer/Paul Rudd clone mix-up, is sardonically charismatic in a way that didn’t really fit the film, but that (kinda) mess makes the film even more fun. And then my personal favourite is McKayla Witt as Pep, the lead elf. Is she annoying? Yeah, kinda, but I don’t think anyone has been more perfectly cast as an elf this side of Will Ferrell.
Boy, does a lot happen in this film without a lot actually happening. It kind of reminds me of the Phantom Menace, as I don’t think anyone watched this Santa film expecting long talks about business mergers. And this isn’t some fuddy-duddy business daddy who doesn’t know the spirit of Christmas, this is Santa. Business Santa. With a goatee. And a fake tan. Christmas needs to have a business merger or it will stop making profits? What profits, exactly? How do these profits work? No need to discuss, because now it’s a merger with the tooth fairy! The tooth fairy needs money because kids want more money from teeth or something and I don’t understand how holiday economy works let alone our economy, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work like this.
Anyway, our titular Santa Girl is a Santa Girl, who was brought up in the North Pole with a personal elf slave and has never been to the real world. She also appears to have invented sarcasm, seeming elves don’t understand it, and she doesn’t understand it from real world characters. Santa Girl is next in line for the business, but has to marry into the Jack Frost family so they can…have…profits…I guess? But she’s been accepted into a real world, American college (that’s willing to produce a film about a Santa Girl! What luck!)
Now she’s in the real world and her arranged marriage runs into trouble when she meets two handsome love triangle boys. One is tall, rich, blonde, rich, smug, rich, insecure about men talking to Santa Girl and rich, whereas the other one is: one part Paul Rudd, one part Breckin Meyer, two parts financial aid, one part insecure about men talking to Santa Girl and just so many parts bad hair. Which one will she pick? Will it be the one who is jealous? Or the one who is jealous?
This is a Christmas movie. But really, this is a Christmas character in a romantic comedy.
Santa Girl, (who’s name is Cassandra but I will keep calling her Santa Girl), is a Santa Girl who’s not ready to be a business Santa Girl. She wants to take a gap year (by going to college?) to find herself, and I get that (except the college part). It’s a good message and finding who you are is important, before your family eventually ropes you into doing what they’ve been doing for years. And if Hunger Games has taught us anything, the only way to do that is to fall into a love triangle!
To give it some credit, she doesn’t want to marry Jack Frost because she’s still very young, and all the young characters realise this at the end, (even Jack Frost is relieved when he gets out of the marriage). They all have a real chance to find themselves, and that’s good. But there’s no real Christmas spirit in that. The Christmas spirit is all in Santa Girl, who gives and expects nothing in return, and that may make her seem a bit weird and annoying and may just ruin one barista’s day, but that’s the only real Christmasness in it.
Also, I just want to talk about the one scene where J.R. (tall, rich and richsome) gives Santa Girl some vodka, which she then spits all over another girl's face. Santa Girl sits outside, embarrassed, when Paukin Meyrudd runs into her and she tells him about the gross alcoholic beverage. The moment J.R. appears and tells him to leave, he throws back with, “She’s my friend, so probably don’t spike her drink. Society frowns upon it, brah”...I don’t know how to take that line, so I just wanted to share it with you.
I know I’ve not been the nicest to this film, but I really had a blast watching it. You can tell everyone is having a fun time on this set, and that bleeds through the screen. One of the main reasons for this appears to be the fact that this film was produced by the university they shot at. According the website for Shenandoah University, which has an entire page dedicated to Santa Girl, 62 students and alumni worked on the film. Not only is this a crazy great opportunity, but it kind of makes me love the technical problems all the more.
There are a lot of inconsistencies with the world. Santa tells Santa Girl never to let anyone see her use her Santa powers, and then immediately teleports out of there with one VERY surprised student nearby, dropping his drink. This one student sees her teleport several times, with many a drink's life lost. But then skinny business Santa says, “no cookie tastes better than healthy feels,” and I forgive it all. And then and then, at the very end, some random seductive woman feeds him cookies, which he greedily eats up now that he believes in love again!
What a movie!
I genuinely can't tell if it knows what it is or not, and I love that. It really does seem to be self aware with some jokes, and then, at other times, it does something so beautifully stupid with complete earnest. Look, it’s probably not good at any stretch of the imagination, but this is a fun one to watch with friends, or with the internet. I regret not live tweeting my first viewing because so much took me by surprise. I just wish I could’ve shared it with someone other than my wife, who fell asleep because she hated it.