I Am Santa Claus

I recently watched a documentary that chronicles a year in the life of four professional Santa Clauses. It provides an inside look at what these men go through in an entire year. January through September are lean, boring, lonely months. From October onward, Santa Claus suddenly comes in demand. These men make a lot of money for just two months’ work leading up to the big day.

The four Santas are very different. There is Lonely Santa, Gay Santa, New Jersey Santa, and Swinger Santa. Each has a vastly different lifestyle. What we see is that these are regular guys with the same problems as everyone else. The movie also includes WWE wrestler Mick Foley, who has been obsessed with Christmas since an early age, and documents his first attempt at playing Santa.

Some of the Santas get more screentime than others. Lonely Santa probably gets the most, as he’s got the most sympathetic story. He’s just a single guy, no family or friends to speak of, who toils away in his basement apartment, clinging to the hope that he’ll get hired on for another Christmas. Living paycheck to paycheck is hard on him, and you certainly feel he sadness.

Gay Santa probably gets the next most amount of screentime. He’s a regular guy from Texas who happens to be gay, and in a long-term, long-distance relationship. The film shows just how difficult it can be to have a long-distance relationship. And because he plays Santa, he doesn’t get to see his boyfriend on Christmas.

New Jersey Santa and Swinger Santa aren’t all that interesting. New Jersey Santa talks about how his personality changes drastically from an angry guy to a warm and loving guy when he puts on the big red suit. He knows Mick Foley, and their stories intersect in an unexpected way. Swinger Santa becomes president of the National Bearded Santa Claus Association (or whatever it was called), and some people disapprove of the fact that he’s a swinger. Other than that, his story goes nowhere. He could have been cut from the film to spend more time on the other guys.

Mick Foley has the most interesting storyline. He loves Christmas, that much is obvious, in fact, he has a room in his house dedicated to Christmas all year round. He decides to play Santa, and through him, we see how one would become Santa Claus. He buys the suit, bleaches his beard, practices his laugh, and gears up for the big holiday. He is great with the kids, and he turns in a wonderful performance as Santa.

The part that hits the hardest is Christmas Day. None of these guys can go out in public, lest they ruin a child’s belief in Santa. If they don’t have family to spend the day with, like Lonely Santa or Gay Santa, they spend the day alone. Lonely Santa, eating breakfast at IHOP on Christmas Day was a very depressing scene.

The biggest takeaway from this film was the fact that all of these guys love being Santa Claus. They love working with children, and they try to make the experience memorable for all the kids, even if it only lasts a minute. If you didn’t like children, you could never play Santa, there is way too much work involved for that.

Unfortunately, this documentary isn’t perfect. One of the guys could have been removed completely, and I would have liked to see a little more time spent on Mick Foley’s transformation, after all, it was his first time playing Santa. There are some pacing issues, especially in the summer months as the Santas are just living normal lives and not doing a whole lot. At times, one wonders if there is a point to this film. It doesn’t seem to have much to say, it doesn’t try to make a point about the injustices of society (like Blackfish) or tell us a thrilling, unknown tale (like The King of Kong). But it isn’t a bad movie by any stretch. The point is to show us that these are regular guys who just happen to love Christmas a whole lot more than the average person.

Overall, this was an interesting film. It’s not going to win any documentary awards, but it works extremely well as a curiosity. If you are a big fan of Christmas, then you will definitely want to check it out. There are many versions of Santa Claus out there, they all love Christmas, and they are regular people, too.

Verdict: Average


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December 2014


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