“Becoming Santa” Lifetime Movie Review

By Ruth on December 19, 2015 in Christmas, Holidays, movie, review, television
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[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaWmmEWegQE[/embedyt]

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Holly has never introduced her toy designer boyfriend Connor to her family and has only revealed that they live “up north.” As their relationship intensifies, Holly knows she can’t wait any longer and decides to bring Conner to meet her parents for Christmas. Connor is in for a shock when he discovers he’s actually headed to the North Pole and Holly’s parents are none other than Santa and Mrs. Claus! Connor embraces his time there despite running into Holly’s ex, Jack Frost. Will Conner be ready to take their relationship to the next level – especially when it means he would be next in line to be Santa?

The new Lifetime movie "Becoming Santa" premieres Saturday.

Before I begin this review, I feel it necessary to say one thing concerning prevailing trends I intermittently see from other reviewers. While I know that every film could be enhanced in some way, I believe all too often that reviewers sense the urgency to compare smaller network television movies to considerably larger box office standards. This is definitely like comparing the proverbial apples to oranges, and I find it an unfair and disturbing practice. Furthermore, some reviewers still feel the compulsion to personally attack the actors and actresses involved in the film. While I believe in giving my honest opinion, there is always a better way to phrase criticism. In each and every review, I do my utmost to never censure an actor personally. I may not care for a particular character, or I may even not expressly care for the performance. But there is no reason to make negativity the focus of a review, and that is something I vow to never do on this blog. If I feel I cannot find something positive about a film, I will refuse to review it.

Thankfully, Becoming Santa was so exquisite and phenomenal in every aspect that I have no real criticism. In fact, this has become an instant classic for me, and I can hardly wait to own this film as I plan to make it a part of my traditional holiday viewing each year.

Emily Delahunty

Emily Delahunty

I knew when I saw the elf who was tailoring Santa’s suit that I had seen this young actress before, and once I saw Cookie Cutter Christmas on her resume, I instantly remembered Emily’s character from that film. And in this film, she makes another memorable impression in spite of the brevity of her role.  She is darling as this conscientious elf who cannot just can’t seem to get Santa to stand still for his fitting. I would venture to say we have not seen the last of this delightful, young actress.

Gabe Khouth as Mario

Gabe Khouth as Mario

While I noticed the character of Mario straightaway, it was my mother who commented about how much she adored this character.  And it is Gabe, who has brought this character to life with all the humor and sincerity one could muster. From his first line to his last, Gabe is impeccable as Holly’s eccentric uncle.  As I glanced over his varied resume, it made perfect sense to me why he fits this character so soundly. After all, he is a well-respected voice actor who has lent his voice to a wide variety of projects. I don’t recall seeing him in anything previously, but I may have (or maybe I heard his voice).

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Though a relatively meager role, Gabe makes Mario possibly the most singular of the elves at the North Pole.  I must also give a nod to the writer, Barbara Kymlicka, as I found this character’s development and dialogue to be written in such a marvelous fashion that it added that special magic to the film. But as I always maintain, it takes a talented actor to deliver well-written lines, and the casting of Gabe in this role was absolutely ideal. He infuses Barbara’s lines with unimpeachable vigor.  gabe khouth 3Furthermore, it would appear that he and Jesse think highly of each other, and because of my tremendous regard for Jesse as an actor and human being, this works in Gabe’s favor.  Thanks to Jesse’s raucously entertaining tweets concerning Gabe, I already decided I was favorably disposed towards him before I even saw him in this role. And indeed, he lived up to all that Jesse said about him and more.

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Tony Cavalero as Jack Frost

Of course, every story like this has to have a villain. After all, can we really expect the principal couple to have a stress-free romance? And it is Tony, who provides this essential character in the person of Jack Frost. Interestingly enough, no matter when or where Jack Frost typically appears, he is always an evil fiend attempting to destroy all that is good. And, of course, Holly (as played by Laura Bell Bundy whom I will review shortly) knows there is something dubious about Jack which is one of the reasons why she chose to leave the North Pole (and her devoted boyfriend).  So when his true colors are revealed, it’s not like it is a spoiler; we as the savvy audience expect that from this diabolical character.

jack frost bs

Tony’s dominating portrayal is effortless and oftentimes sugary sweet. How on earth could Jack Frost truly be in love with the daughter of Santa, and why do Santa and Mrs. Claus even trust his character? Well, he is suave and unquestionably a pathological liar. The viewers can imagine that Jack probably swept Holly off of her feet because his performance almost seems genuine. And that is why I know Tony is a master. No matter what his appearances attempted to prove, Jack Frost’s genuine character was never in question as far as I was concerned.tony cavalero again

Tony plays such a polished but toxic hypocrite that his character is able to pull the wool over practically everyone in the family. He has the rugged good looks that one might expect of a slick-talking, free-wheeling con artist. But even Jack Frost has his breaking point, as you will see. His character is an excellent reminder that honesty is always the best policy.

Meredith Baxter (Mrs. Claus), Michael Gross (Santa Claus)

Meredith Baxter (Mrs. Claus), Michael Gross (Santa Claus)

Now, if you’re like me (and grew up in the 1980’s), you may remember the long-running and dynamic show called Family Ties. It was the show that introduced me to Michael J. Fox, and I was a loyal viewer even as the focus of the show began to shift. While I didn’t readily recognize this couple, the moment I researched it, I got so ecstatic! To see Meredith and Michael paired again is a delectable treat!  Both are so compelling in their respective roles, and in many ways, these two haven’t changed all that much. Though a bit older, they are still overflowing with plenteous fortitude and charisma.

 

michael-gross-becoming-santa-lifetimeAs the man of the hour, Michael is a faultless fit for this role. And I believe that his character from Family Ties (Michael Keaton) would approve of the way in which Santa is living his life.  He only ever desires for his daughter to be utterly happy no matter the cost, and we are persuaded that he would move heaven and earth if he could to grant her heart’s desire. While Santa adores Jack, he has been hoodwinked, too.

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As Mrs. Claus, Meredith has immersed herself wholly in this role while still maintaining her sassiness and penchant for telling the truth no matter what. It is clear that Holly is more concerned about her mom’s response to her inevitable marriage to Conner, but even so, we know that Mrs. Claus only wants what’s best for her only daughter, too. I appreciate the stalwart and affirmative way in which Meredith plays Mrs. Claus because there is no denying who is really in charge in this marriage. And it does appear that they have learned to accept and appreciate the way in which they relate to each other.

5_28As far as the chemistry between Michael and Meredith, what can I say? They relate and interact very similarly to their roles so long ago in Family Ties. Everything I admired about their chemistry then is alive and well as this Claus couple. They are comfortable, but definitely still in love after who knows how many years.  As a side note, I have to commend Lifetime for reuniting the old-time actors like this as this is the second time I have seen a familiar couple from a successful 80’s sitcom this December, and I can only hope Lifetime continues to do this to appeal to those like me who fondly remember those shows.

Jesse Hutch (Conner), Laura Bell Bundy (Holly)

Jesse Hutch (Conner), Laura Bell Bundy (Holly)

Of course, at the heart of the story is this couple–Conner and Holly–played brilliantly by Jesse and Laura.  While I have been a long-time supporter of Jesse’s, this marks the first time I have seen Laura in a show/movie.  Ever since her music splashed onto the country scene, it has resonated with me.  Together, these two are a sweet but formidable couple that are committed to making this unusual relationship work, no matter what. While Conner misplaces the faith a bit, it doesn’t take long before Holly is able to aid in reeling him back. In fact, she is always there to pick up the pieces.  I cherish the fact that the chemistry between these two is never overdone nor steamy. They are able to keep everything between them untainted, romantic, and believable. After all, Jesse seems to have discovered the secret of giving just enough chemistry on-screen that it is believable without being excessive and/or what I call “sucking face.” And thankfully, Laura takes Jesse’s lead, and the chemistry between them is just superb.  And as a parent, I thank them both for this treasured restraint.

Holly-in-Becoming-Santa-Lifetime

As Holly Claus, Laura Bell Bundy defies any paltry words I may be able to use to describe her. She is such an accomplished and precious lass with a gift of unwarranted versatility. When she appeared on the country scene a few years back, I was completely enthralled with her “Giddy On Up,” and when I found out she was playing opposite one of my favorite actors, I was intrigued. And Laura did not disappoint. In fact, Laura is one of those people who just makes everything that she does appear effortless and genuine. No doubt, she has labored arduously to make it look easy, but she is remarkably gifted. I was so glad that she got to sing, and it is appealing to hear a traditional carol (she got to sing with Tony, who also can sing well). becomingsanta_30_spot_HD_768x432-16x9I realize that playing a role like Holly may appear to be simple, but I beg to differ. To play a character who is bigger than life and is somewhat magical requires a certain knack. It would be very easy to overplay this role to the point of ridiculousness, but Laura never does that. She characterizes Holly in such a way that she is artful, sweet, and authentic.  She is able to entice the viewers into believings that the character of Holly could actually exist, and we are able to identify with her as a woman who is on a mission to find herself and break with what may be expected of her. It is time for a new generation of Clauses, and with Holly (and eventually Conner), she is able to start a new chapter in the saga of the North Pole.

Jesse Hutch as Conner

Jesse Hutch as Conner

As far as our lead, Jesse is astonishingly impeccable. I have been a staunch supporter of Jesse’s since his Cedar Cove days, and I am unequivocally captivated with the bucket load of talent this man possesses. I have never seen any work in which I did not like his character and his portrayal, and as Conner, Jesse has more than dazzled me yet again. It would be so easy to play the character of Conner with little credibility–possibly play him in a farcical manner, as a matter of fact. However, Jesse cannot do that, and I am so relieved he doesn’t. Jesse has unreservedly immersed himself in this young man who is struggling to find his niche in this world. Furthermore, he is met with every obstacle under the sun, and it seems like his self-confidence is thoroughly lacking. In fact, that is what gives this character the essential plausibility. After all, who has not experienced times of self-doubt when it feels like one just can’t do anything right? And that is the element upon which Jesse capitalizes. Conner is on a journey to find out how he can succeed in this world of obstacles, and although we are assured that there must be a happy ending, the excursion on which Jesse takes us compels us to become enamored with as well as identify with his character.

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I never doubted the exuberance Jesse infused into his character, and it is clear that he thoroughly relishes his role. When an actor devours his role, the audience cannot help but savor the experience right along with him. No matter what emotions Conner experiences, Jesse is able to give a performance that causes the audience to vicariously experience that emotion right along with him. We only want the best for him and Holly, and even though I had no uncertainty about the ultimate conclusion, I found myself sympathizing with poor Conner because of Jesse’s dexterous characterization. I honestly cannot understand why anyone would choose to malign the sincerity of Jesse’s interpretation of this character, and I can only hope that Lifetime will realize a sequel to this film is a necessity.

In conclusion, don’t miss this new holiday classic if you get the chance to view it. It is family-friendly, cute, and well-acted. You and your family will be positively enchanted–I practically guarantee it. For more information:

For more information:

http://www.mylifetime.com/movies/becoming-santa

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5171176/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZryvt0avxw[/embedyt]

 

 

 

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About the Author

RuthView all posts by Ruth

43-year-old single mother of an active 14-year-old girl
Born in Tacoma, WA; lives in Yelm, WA
Entertainment Writer
Available For Interviews and Reviews
Substitute Teacher

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