I Am Santa Claus

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
I Am Santa Claus Movie Poster Image
Docu about holiday helpers has mature themes, profanity.
  • NR
  • 2014
  • 89 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

"Happiness is contagious." Great satisfaction comes from bringing joy to others. Setting positive goals and working toward those goals results in success. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Men from a variety of backgrounds, lifestyles, and economic circumstances have a common passion, and each pursues that passion with vitality and determination. Mick Foley, a well-known professional wrestler, shows a childlike, sweet side, which contradicts his ferocious wrestling persona. No ethnic diversity.

Violence

Some professional wrestling scenes show participants engaged in throws, hard falls, holds.

Sex

Considerable time is spent with a gay Santa Claus and focuses on his loving relationship with his long-distance partner. Scenes from an annual event -- the Texas Bear Round-Up (TBRU), a gay celebration -- show men of all shapes and sizes dancing, partying, and wearing everything from G-strings to S&M attire. Several scenes are devoted to a frank discussion about a prominent member of a Santa Claus association who is part of a "swinger" subculture and engages in unorthodox sexual practices, including management of a sex club. 

Language

One Santa Claus swears frequently: "f--k," "a--holes," "s--t," "banged up," "piece of ass," and "Jesus."

Consumerism

IHOP, Chef Boyardee.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some social drinking, cigar smoking. One Santa gets very drunk on his birthday.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that I Am Santa is a documentary that colorfully depicts one year in the lives of five Santa Clauses. The film examines the lifestyles, relationships, and preparation highlights that lead up to the one month between Thanksgiving and Christmas during which these Santas shine. The stories are either poignant, lighthearted, provocative, or a combination of the three; all tend to surprise. A struggling Santa Claus swears ("f--k," "s-t," "assholes"), gets very drunk in one scene, and is highly opinionated. A gay Santa deals with a difficult long-distance romance and attends an unorthodox, sexy celebration of scantily clad gay men. A wrestling star brings an innocent obsession with all things Santa Claus to his world. Their commonality is their Santa-ness: the heartwarming, shared experience of bringing joy to everyone during the holiday season. Definitely not meant for kids, with the exception of mature teens.

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What's the story?

I AM SANTA CLAUS follows five men for one year, culminating in their immersion into the role of Santa Claus at holiday time. Without narration, intercutting among them and focusing upon three, viewers meet Santas:  Russell, Jim, Mick, Frank (who has legally changed his name to Santa Claus), and Bob. They're from different parts of the country and different cultures, though their paths sometimes cross. After all, there are associations of Santa Clauses, agents for Santa Clauses, contracts and bookings and play dates for Santa Clauses. For Russell, his Santa time is an economic necessity, and he glories in the part. For the sensitive Jim, it's a highlight of a year that's otherwise fraught with emotional hurt and longing. For Mick, it's a dream come true -- the pinnacle of a life spent preparing for the moment when he can be the Santa Claus he knows he was always meant to be. For Frank, it's fun, fulfilling, and a welcome break from the back-breaking construction work that fills his days. As the backdrop for these men, Tommy Avallone gives his viewers a taste of the culture of Santa Claus that is active all year long: a look at Santa Claus gatherings, the business of being Santa, and, best of all, the reactions of the children whose lives are enriched and changed when they land in Santa's lap.

Is it any good?

You might not like every Santa you meet here, but they'll engage you, often surprise you, and never, ever bore you. Mick Foley's sincerity and artlessness is a delight; he makes parenting seem a gift that keeps on giving. Santa Jim, like some of the kids he greets, can't hold back his tears; in his 70s, he seems committed to life as a young man. Russell Spice's duality is astounding; his story has heartbreak around every corner. Tommy Avallone and producer Morgan Spurlock have done a terrific job of letting these men and their lives speak for themselves; no narration necessary. Caution: Although it's as an examination of a culture that's distinctly associated with children, I Am Santa Claus is for adults and mature teens only.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about three purposes of documentary films: to inform, to persuade, to entertain. Which category or categories does this movie fit into? Do you think the filmmakers accomplished their goals?

  • Which of the Santas was most surprising to you? Why?

  • How does Mick Foley the person contradict the stereotype that may be associated with professional wrestling? 

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love the holidays

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