Becoming Santa Jeff Meyers

Becoming Santa Jeff Meyers
Every year, as the so-called "festive season" infringes upon the rest of the calendar year, when families finish paying off their debt from the previous year in order to plan on getting into more debt the following one, and the supposed traditional elements begin to grapple with the forces of "Black Friday," it becomes Hollywood's job to remind us all of the true meaning of Christmas. Whether it's the revisiting of time-tested Charlie Brown or Rankin-Bass specials, George Bailey, Ralphie, Kevin McAllister or Gizmo, our seasonal sentiments are often manifested in flawed anti-heroes who bumble their way through the holidays, but usually wind up imparting a valuable lesson. Enter Jack Sanderson, a single, 44 year-old man who feels as though he's lost the Christmas spirit following the deaths of his father and mother. Jack is a generally genial man with a sharp wit who embarks upon a quest to "become" Santa Claus for one holiday season in order to give of himself to see if the elusive holiday spirit returns. Becoming Santa follows Jack on his quest as he attends Santa training and volunteers his services for a number of pre-holiday events, including leading a parade in Quincy, MA and numerous Q&A sessions with awestruck tykes. Sanderson makes for an exemplary St. Nick, earning praise wherever he goes due to his whole-hearted enthusiasm when he's required to be "on" and his natural ease in communicating with children. Sanderson makes Becoming Santa tick and he's a fascinating character, balancing the physically and mentally taxing aspects of his task with the genuine happiness it brings him and his natural aptitude for the job. Becoming Santa pads its runtime with interviews with various Santa aficionados, historians and an endless parade of slightly delusional men with great white beards, which certainly gives the film context, but in this case, are the leftovers of a lesser, more boring film. Becoming Santa is electrifying when following Santa Jack around and should have simply concentrated on its natural star, regardless of how constructed the whole thing may be (Sanderson is credited as the film's writer). Frankly, Becoming Santa embodies an idea that seems so sure-fire it's a wonder no one's ever thought of it before, and it's unfortunate that the film chooses to err on the side of conventionality rather than take a direct cinema approach and follow around its naturally engaging subject for the entire running time. The DVD package is sparse, including only a trailer as an extra. (Alliance)