When I look at the Hollywood thought process behind a Christmas movie, rarely is the theme of the season the actual motivator. Instead the goal is to be added to the list of classics that network television will air in syndication for years and years to come. Add the DVD sales of the new pressing each year and suddenly you see that making a Christmas movie is actually a gift that keeps on giving… to the studios… financially. To put it simply, if you get a hit Christmas movie, it’s steady flow of revenue for years and years to come. Santa’s Little Helper is the WWE’s attempt at entering into this market and they’re smart to try. What wrestling fans wouldn’t want a WWE film to watch with their family? It’s a decent attempt and it may even win a few homes, but it’s a far cry from a Christmas classic. If anything, it just shows that the WWE can actually do a PG movie.
The story is about Dax, played by The Miz. He has some kind of job with a bank… it’s really unclear. He starts off the film by telling a youth center that they’re screwed and that they’ll be bulldozing the center on the 15th of December. He goes to work and gets fired for being a jerk. No seriously, he’s good at his job but his competition says he’ll do both jobs and since no one likes him they fire him.
Santa, the real Santa that is, takes an interest in him and decides that he wants to give him the position of “Ho, Ho, Ho” aka “Santa’s Little Helper” aka the guy in charge of the magic and keeping things on schedule. Why? Well that’s asked several times in the movie, but never really answered because there’s a swerve at the end. Santa sends Billie, played by Annalynne, to test Dax and see if he has what it takes to be the Ho, Ho, Ho. He’s given really simple and kind of dumb tasks to do that wouldn’t really prove anything to anyone. Most of them involve not losing your temper which he doesn’t really succeed at.
Paige plays the rival elf Eleanor. She’s the daughter of the elf that had the Ho, Ho, Ho position before and she acts as a backup obstacle to the film when Dax makes it through his challenges.
One of the problems with the film is the budget. It was obviously low budget and as hard as it tried it never really felt like it was set during Christmas or even trying to deliver a Christmas message. The opening tells you it is, but then the rest just happens in what’s likely L.A…. or summer. We hardly see any snow and some of it is CG. Dax’s house has a lack of decorations which is explained by his backstory, but then the rest of the world does as well. There’s a trip to the old folk’s home and there are zero decorations. It looks like half of a set from something else. They’re also watching Total Diva’s in the middle of the day so I guess it was a repeat or something. The point is a Christmas movie should feel like Christmas and this one doesn’t. It tries to tell you it is, but seeing is believing.
The other big problem is the pacing. There’s a lot of just excess to every scene. There’s an entire subplot about the elf that runs the teleporter wearing other people’s clothes and they go to this joke twice. It was completely worthless and never once was it funny. Mostly because the actor came across as creepy rather than funny. Stalkers and killers wear other people’s clothes and pretend to be them… not elves. Whoever edited the film was clearly inexperienced and took what could have been a cute and forgivably dull film and made it long and boring.
The acting is actually decent. It’s not bad, it’s not great and clearly they were working with what they had. Santa is good, Billie is better. Annalynne actually cares the movie for the most part. She has cute moments, she has serious moments and while the movie doesn’t offer much of a range for her, it’s clear that she actually has one.
The Miz is actually pretty comfortable in the role. His turnaround from jerk to saint is way too quick which isn’t his fault since that’s the way the story goes, but at least he does well in both. If anything, he got a film to share with his kids and I’m sure that’s pretty cool for him. Sadly, I think if the story was better he could have done better. Paige is okay. She’s good at the snarky elf role. They make her lay it on way too thick and she ends up sounding like a broken record, but she’s good. They do un-empower her as quickly as the empower her in the story, but hey I’m not going to go all 2015 on a movie that’s only Christmas message is “don’t be a jerk.”
This film is really only going to appeal to two types of people: wrestling fans and people who really enjoy feel good films. It’s not enough of a Christmas movie to win over that audience more than once out of curiosity so I have a hard time saying it’s for them. It’s not a terrible movie, but it’s unfortunately not a very good one either. Again, the sad part is that it really was close to making its goal of being an instant classic, but the loose editing, the average direction and the dull script didn’t do it any favors.
Santa’s Little Helper Director: Gil Junger Writers: James Robert Johnston, Bennett Yellin Studios: Fox/WWE Films