Cinema Review: I Am Santa Claus | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, October 26th, 2020  

I Am Santa Claus

Studio: Virgil Films
Directed by Tommy Avallone

Nov 06, 2014 Web Exclusive
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If you really stop and think about it, Santa Claus is a strange guy. He loves to have children sit on his lap, breaks into millions of homes every Christmas, makes reindeer and little people his slaves and single-handedly keeps the spirit of Catholic guilt and consumerism alive.

While movies like Miracle on 34th Street try their best to paint the perfect catalog picture of the man we all are told to believe in, finally we get a movie like I Am Santa Claus that shows just how real Kris Kringle is, with human flaws all wrapped up behind the cracks in those rosy red cheeks.

Presented by Morgan Spurlock, the filmmaker most famous for the McDonalds exposé Super Size Me, this 90-minute documentary scored by The Bailey Hounds’ Ryan Petrillo follows the lives of for-hire mall Santas for an entire year as they whittle away time during the off season, make preparations for the main holiday drag and then face letdown come December 26.

Santa Russell Spice is the saddest Santa in the lot. Although he was born on St. Patrick’s Day, the former caterer has had no luck in finding work over the years, blaming the fall of the economy and the harshness of ageism for forcing him into his current line of work. He resides in his daughter’s basement in Michigan, lives off Social Security and is completely obsessed with receiving his upcoming Santa appointment in the mail. His somber introduction is relayed in classic Rankin/Bass-style stop motion for further effect.

The other characters don’t fare much better. Openly gay Santa Jim Stevensontalks about the being an “emotional part of people’s lives” and often breaks down himself, mostly when talking of his long-distance partner Alex. Santa Frank Pascuzzi is a heavy-tongued Long Islander with long hair and lots of tattoos looking for some semblance of acceptance. And although Santa Bob Gerardi from the OC seems to be the most jovial of the bunch with career work as a real estate agent and an upcoming Christmas CD, his organization, the Fraternal Order of Bearded Santas, brings the drama as concern arises over a new president. “Swinging Santa Rob” is also a staff member at Ron Jeremy’s sex club in Portland.

The appropriate image of Santa Claus is something often discussed throughout the movie, although no one seems to have a problem with Mick Foley trying the suit on for size. The WWE’s “king of the death match” (and the film’s producer) is also profiled as he bleaches his hair and gets fitted for a costume as he attempts to make a career change. Though he’s seen at horror conventions buddying up to people like Sid Haig, Foley says he has always been most keen on Christmas: He has a room devoted to the holiday in his house and jokingly tells his youngest son he was born so dad would have more chances to go to Santa’s Village.

The conversation (and a tender moment with Foley’s kids at the end) makes you question why the director Tommy Avallone didn’t delve more into each of the men’s own childhood pictorials and personal connections to Santa that seem so deeply engrained still in their psyche. “You spend all year looking forward to one day,” laments Russell as he sits hidden in an IHOP on Christmas Day.

Although at times there seems to be an unweighted balance focusing on the sob stories and sex lives of the bunch, Avallone does a great job at pulling down the beard and showing the true faces of the man everyone thinks they know. Just make sure to hide this one from the kids who still have a chance to believe he’s perfect.

Author rating: 7/10

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Average reader rating: 10/10


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