Introducing a new variety of Santa Claus, the reluctant conscript. The two-hour CBC movie Must Be Santa tells the story of Floyd Court, an average guy who is down on his luck until, by a quirky mishap, he is enlisted to replace the real St. Nick, who has passed on to the great North Pole in the sky. Problem is, Court (Canadian Arnold Pinnock of the CTV series The City) has strained relations with his daughter and financial woes to sort out before donning the red suit.
Like most yuletide movies, Must Be Santa is a story of redemption. By em-
bracing the spirit of Christmas, Court mends broken relationships and finds happiness. The best of this genre—A Christmas Carol, Miracle on 34th Street—succeed because they portray the solitary remorse of central characters who yearn for a second chance. Viewers are gratified once the troubled protagonist discovers the healing power of love.
Must Be Santa throws in a new twist. Santa is a young black man. The North Pole has become a high-tech amusement park run by a martinet named Tuttle (Dabney Coleman). Santa has a love interest, Natalie Fairlie (Deanna Milligan), who charms him with her pie-eyed optimism and blond locks. Must Be Santa works best when it focuses on characters
and relationships. Vancouver-based director Brad Turner does a nice job of pacing what could be a very meandering story. Pinnock makes for an endearing hero, and his icy relationship with Tunde crackles. But the movie is hampered by an array of superfluous special effects used to evoke the North Pole park and a snowstorm. There is nothing wrong with these computer-generated pyrotechnics; ifs just that Christmas is about feelings, not flashes.
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