After Santa suffers a heart attack when one of the delinquent children spooks him, Tuttle (Dabney Coleman), the CEO of the North Pole, and angel Natalie Fairlie (Deanna Milligan) agree the time has come for this Santa to pick his replacement before he chokes and the spirit of Christmas dies with him. Unfortunately whilst Santa picks an accountant with a good heart he accidentally passes on the spirit of Santa to Floyd Court (Arnold Pinnock) a shirtless criminal who accidentally knocks Santa out of his wheelchair after stealing a teddy from a shop's display. Whilst Natalie takes a shine to Floyd and thinks they should give him a go Tuttle thinks otherwise and after Natalie arranges things for Floyd to bring his daughter Heather (Keenan Macwilliam) to the North Pole things get very messy as the spirit of Christmas becomes in danger of being destroyed once and for all.
Why is it that movie fans frequently bemoan the lack of original ideas when it comes to movies yet when something original comes along they moan about it. It is sadly the case when it comes to "Must Be Santa" as whilst the premise has that touch of familiarity with the Santa suit being passed on to a new Santa what goes on is certainly different but unfortunately not in a good way. It is at times very curious at others simply weird and how the story evolves, well it almost feels like it has been written on the fly.
Now before anyone clears off because they think I am being grouchy, which would be ironic as the first Santa is a grouchy one who calls a child a delinquent no less, let me explain and it starts with Santa kicking the bucket. Now putting the death of Santa in a Christmas movie is not too shocking as Tim Allen already killed Santa in "The Santa Clause" when the jolly fella fell off his roof but having Santa have a heart attack after a child makes him jump, that to me is misguided. There are more curious elements as well such as the North Pole being home to not only homeless children but also an angel who wait for it, falls in love with the new Santa, yes it's a bit of fun romance but messes with your melon and I can envision little children asking their parents is Mrs. Claus an angel!
Anyway get beyond this curious side and then you have a narrative which frankly feels like it has been made up as they have gone alone, starting at point A and gets to B via all the other letters in the alphabet as it flies all over the place as we learn that Floyd is in fact a criminal on the run having read an upsetting letter from his daughter whilst in prison for torching his own business in an insurance scam, yes another curious element for parents to explain to little children. In fairness when we discover this it also explains certain things such as why when we meet Floyd for the first time he looks like a flasher as he is shirtless under a rain coat, and yes a woman calls him a flasher so that is another thing to explain to little children.
In truth I could go on as there are times when "Must Be Santa" is clever and good with some original ideas and in truth some enjoyable characters, especially Deanna Milligan who is sweet as Natalie. But in the blink of an eye it does something which made me cringe because I could envision the questions which a young child would ask after seeing it such as "Mummy why did that man put a candle on a toy train and send it around a track to where a rag is hanging from a gasoline can?"
What this all boils down to is that part of me applauds "Must Be Santa" for trying to be original and one thing I didn't mention is that with Floyd we have an African-American Santa. But at the same time I find myself frustrated by the cleverness as it does things which are maybe too out of the box for a young audience making it for me an opportunity lost to be both different and good rather than entertainingly misguided.