Holiday Film Review: I Believe In Santa Claus (dir by Christian Gion)

Santa Claus vs. Joseph Kony!

That’s one way to describe this rather odd French film from 1984.  It’s not entirely accurate, of course.  Though this film does feature an African warlord who appears to use child soldiers, it was made long before Joseph Kony came to prominence.  (Speaking of which, whatever happened to Kony?  Ten years ago, everyone was a Joseph Kony expert and now, he’s rarely mentioned by anyone.  It’s almost as if people moved on once they realized it wouldn’t be as easy to stop Kony as the YouTube video made them think it would be.)  Add to that, Joseph Kony was active in Uganda whereas this film features Santa and the Good Fairy heading to Senegal.

The scenes of Santa (played by Armand Meffre) and the Good Fairy (Karen Cheryl) getting chased by an alligator and being held hostage by the Konyesque warlord actually were filmed in Senegal.  Of course, as befits as film about Santa, the movie takes place all over the world.  

It begins in France, where young Simon (Emeric Chapius) is upset because his parents, who are in the diplomatic corps, went to Senegal and promptly vanished.  He’s even more upset when he learns that they’ve been taken hostage and they probably won’t be home for Christmas.  Simon is obviously not having a good holiday but no one at his school seems to care.  The maintenance man (Dominique Hulin) throws paste at him and Simon’s teacher (played by Karen Cheryl) won’t stop singing songs about stopping all the crying.  Even though the film was made in France and most of the dialogue is badly dubbed, the songs are sung in English because the film itself was expected to be a big hit in America.

During a field strip, Simon and his friend, Elodie (Alexia Haudot) board a plane for Finland because, as everyone knows, Santa lives in Finland.  Simon’s hope is that he can convince Santa to bring his family home for Christmas.  Amazingly, upon landing in Finland, Simon and Elodie simply walk out of the airport and stumble through some snow until Santa shows up with his sleigh.  Santa takes them back to his workshop, where the children meets the Good Fairy and also listen to a bunch of non-union elves bitch about how hard they have to work all year.

(Boo hoo!  Get those toys made, Winky!)

Santa and the Good Fairy decide to head to Senegal so that they can rescue Simon’s parents.  Fortunately, the Good Fairy has a wand that she can use to transport anyone to anywhere instantly.  Unfortunately, she loses the wand in Senegal and, unless she can get it back, Santa’s not going to be able to make his Christmas deliveries.  Santa also ends up getting chased by an alligator at one point because apparently, alligators don’t celebrate the holidays.

While this is going on, Simon and Elodie are abducted by the Ogre (played by Dominique Hulin) who lives in the woods near Santa’s workshop.  The Ogre makes plans to eat them and Santa’s puppy….

This is a sincerely messed up Christmas film.

That said, messed up or not, it’ll make you laugh.  It may not make you laugh in the way that the filmmakers intended but seriously, how can you not smile at a alligator trying to eat Santa?  There are just so many weird tonal shifts in this film that it becomes rather fascinating to keep track of them all.  It starts out as a typical children’s Christmas fantasy and suddenly, with just one wave of a wand, Santa and the Good Fairy are dealing with civil war and child soldiers.  It’s hard to know who this film was made for.  Children who still believe in Santa will be totally traumatized by the Ogre threatening to eat the children.  Adults will wonder why no one in France appears to be concerned that two unaccompanied children have snuck off to Finland in the middle of winter.  It’s a very strange film and, as a result, it’s also far more entertaining than it has any right to be.

You can find it on Tubi.

One response to “Holiday Film Review: I Believe In Santa Claus (dir by Christian Gion)

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 12/19/22 — 12/25/22 | Through the Shattered Lens

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