Since its initial release, I've been dubbing it the 'Die Hard' movie for those who believe 'Die Hard' not to be a "Christmas Movie," as it's essentially a similar concept altogether. The thing is, here, the John McClane character is actually Santa Claus. Once again, I want to clarify that I still think 'Die Hard' as a "Christmas Movie" is a simple matter of personal opinion. But it almost feels like this movie came along in an attempt to put that entire argument to rest simply based on how things play out. The main difference is that this is more comedy-based.
First, we meet this movie's Santa (David Harbour) at a bar, having a few drinks before heading out on his gift-giving run on Christmas Eve, stating that this may be his last year. As he delivers presents, he copes with a constant stream of greedy children's wishes, often simply asking for money, among other expensive material items, and losing the Christmas spirit. He goes from house to house until he arrives at Gertrude Lightstone's (Beverly D'Angelo) fancy mansion. There, she hosts a dysfunctional family Christmas gathering while Santa finds a massage chair and has a little nap.
Among said family includes the film's supporting lead, Jason Lightstone (Alex Hassell) and his estranged wife, Linda (Alexis Louder) and daughter, Trudy (Leah Brady). Having to think on his feet for a last-minute gift for Trudy while at the mansion, Jason gives her a walkie-talkie and tells her it's a direct line to Santa, who will be able to hear everything she says but may not answer as he may be busy, especially on Christmas Eve. She uses it, and as these things go, she wishes for Mom and Dad to get back together, so there's a bit of tension there with that situation the whole time, but fret not, for it takes a total back seat to everything else.
Things build when the mansion is stormed by a man calling himself "Scrooge" (John Leguizamo) and his team - some of them posing as caterers for the Christmas party to get on the inside. They kill the guards and take the whole family hostage, there to get their hands on a fortune locked away somewhere in a vault. The thing is, Santa's there too and can communicate via walkie-talkie with Trudy. At the same time, he sneaks around the mansion as best he can, kicking ass and crossing names off his "Naughty List," all to protect young Trudy, who remains on his "Nice List," along with the rest of her family.
While the whole concept may sound pretty ridiculous, I can safely say that this is something that fully embraces its ridiculousness. The idea is, "What if Santa Claus was an action hero like John McClane, but talking to a kid instead of a police officer via walkie?" And I have to admit, the whole concept ultimately pays off with quite a bit of surprisingly hardcore violence balanced with quite a few solid laughs. It's a movie for adults, but somehow, it manages to squeeze in that Christmas magic we miss from our childhoods AND make it work!
Nine times out of ten with a movie like this, I would say that "it doesn't know what it wants to be" between its magic and child-like innocence and its gory violence and foul language. But for some reason, it manages to all come together here, complete with a blood-mist-loaded kill that actually uses Christmas magic for it to happen, and it's sincerely one of the most creative kills I've seen in a movie outside of the horror genre. But for as much as I'm trying to sell the violence here, I can also sell the heart behind it, as the bond between Santa and Trudy gets very sweet and might hit one in the feels.
I think just about every year, I find at least one Christmas movie that has the potential to become an annual tradition for me, and this is most definitely the one I pulled from 2022. It's kind of incredible the way this one works out to be a near-perfect balance of violence, innocence, foul language and Christmas charm. I do think there will be some people out there who don't entirely "get it." But if you're looking for something new that is a Christmas movie that follows the action-packed premise of 'Die Hard' and don't mind a little gore, this one is most definitely for you!