Holiday Watch: Annie Claus is Coming to Town

Santa’s daughter heads south for a sabbatical in the gentle climes of Los Angeles. There, she is targeted by an actor hired by Santa’s chief of operations to get her to fall in love and decide to not return home. Obviously he won’t succeed in the end. The question is: will we care?

The concept of Santa’s daughter, Annie (Maria Thayer), going on a North Pole version of rumspringa is interesting. She must go off and experience the real world before getting to choose whether or not to return to the traditions of her family. She heads off and exudes Christmas cheer on everyone she meets. She also desperately wants to fall in love, just like her dad did on his rumspringa.

Unfortunately for Annie, and for us, Santa’s chief of operations, Chester, wants to rig the game so that Annie decides to stay in L.A.—which would mean that he would get to be Santa’s successor. To this end, Chester enlists the aid of Dean (Ryan Bittle), a sleazy e-list actor of dubious ability to woo the young Miss Claus. It is here that the movie falls apart. Dean is Annie’s antagonist by proxy. Chester is actually her foe, and we pretty much just see him on the phone exhorting Dean to not mess things up. There’s no actual, emotional conflict…just smarmy Dean.

On the other hand, Annie has an interesting mix of characters that help keep the “feel-good” quotient of the movie going. There are Lucy and her daughter Mia (Vivica A. Fox, Nay Nay Kirby), who quickly become friends of Annie. And then there is Ted (Sam Page), a failing toy store owner who has given up on hope, miracles, and maybe even love. But he has a good heart…and is the perfect catch in exactly the way that Dean isn’t.

By the end, Dean and Chester are found out, Annie and Ted get their chance, and Santa gets to make a down-the-chimney grand entrance. Unfortunately, there is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it denouement, which adds to any lingering dissatisfaction with the ride to get to the end.

Ultimately, the weakness of the movie comes down to the script not having a compelling antagonist. Yes, it’s clear who they are, but they don’t seem all that invested. I mean, Chester out-sources his scheme for Pete’s sake. Worse, Dean never actually falls for Annie, giving him a stake in the results. No, it’s just another acting gig for him. On the whole, the stakes are a little vague in any case. After all, Santa’s leaving his post doesn’t seem imminent.

Annie Claus is Coming to Town had the potential to be a very solid Christmas movie. Unfortunately, the smarm overwhelmed the entertainment value. My recommendation is to sit back and watch the film with your thumb on the FF button to skip over any and all signs of Dean. Then at least you have a serviceable piece of holiday charm.

2.5 of 5 

Photo: Copyright 2011 Crown Media Holdings, Inc./Photographer Alexx Henry

For more movies, go to the list at: Watching the Holiday Movies

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