Sure, the Santa thing is changing his life, but he's still the life of the party.
Good Christmas films are supposed to create a feeling of nostalgia for the viewers, to make them long for Christmases past. Or, if they're watching the film in January (as I am), they should make the viewer feel sad that they'll have to wait another 11 months for the holiday to return once more. Mr. St. Nick made me wish I was Jewish.
In this 2002 Hallmark TV production, Kelsey Grammer (TV's Frasier) plays Nick St. Nicholas, the latest heir to the Santa Claus throne, with one minor hitch—he doesn't want the job. He makes his residence in Miami, where he remains perfectly happy to party with blonde hotties like Heidi Gardelle (Elaine Hendrix, Inspector Gadget 2), a local TV weather girl who appears to be as smitten with Nick as he is with her. And despite being somewhat temperamental with his new Latina hottie cook, Lorena (Ana Ortiz), he's a kind and generous soul who treasures Christmas but doesn't feel like being shouldered with the burden of taking on the role of Santa.
As Christmas approaches, Nick and his business partner Hector (Luis Garcia) decide to build a new Web site charity, MrStNick.com, in which they'll use money from donations to buy presents for poor children who can't afford presents (but who can apparently afford a computer and Internet access). Little does Nick know, however, that Hector and Heidi are secretly scheming to siphon all the proceeds from the charity into their own bank account and escape to the Caymans! Can the family butler (Brian Bedford, Nixon) and Lorena persuade Nick to see through Hector and Heidi's evil plot and take his rightful place as Santa Claus? More importantly, can they make him dump the blonde hottie and realize that it's the Latino hottie who really loves him? Ho, ho, ho.
Okay, so it's not that bad, but it's not very good, either. It's as clichéd as they come. It's not particularly funny. It's got Kelsey Grammer playing a G-rated party animal (?). It's got at least one horribly inappropriate sexually tilted joke. It's got an unrecognizable Charles Durning as a Santa Claus with waning powers, and it's got the mom from Who's the Boss (Katherine Helmond) as his wife. It's got an inept INS agent for comic relief (played equally ineptly by Colin Cunningham, The 6th Day). It features abundant ethnic stereotyping. If all this sounds like your cup of tea, then, by all means, pick up Mr. St. Nick at your earliest convenience. All other discriminating viewers steer clear.
Artisan's DVD of Mr. St. Nick is essentially what you'd expect in the video department—a resoundingly average full-frame transfer of a TV movie. Grain is apparent throughout most of the film, but color saturation is decent, and the contrast is acceptable. There's no digital artifacting, and edge enhancement is occasionally present but never distracting. Audio is offered in both Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and 2.0 Stereo. The 5.1 track is adequate, with most of the activity focused on the front speakers (as you'd expect for a made-for-TV movie).
I guess someone who saw the film enjoyed it, because Artisan has somehow seen fit to include a few noticeable extras on the disc. The most prominent of these are Q&A interviews with three cast members (Grammer, Durning, and Helmond) and the film's producer, Robert Halmi, Sr. The actors spend most of their time rehashing the film's story and explaining how much fun it was to work with all the other cast members, and are sometimes forced to answer ridiculous questions like "Do you think you could fill Santa's shoes?" The disc is padded out with two versions of Jingle Bells karaoke—one normal, one "Latin-style," plus a few trailers for other Hallmark releases.
I can't really recommend Mr. St. Nick to anyone but the most ardent Kelsey Grammer fans (are there any?). Artisan's DVD of the film is better than you might expect for a low-budget TV production, but the quality of the movie makes you wonder whether or not it was worth it. Case dismissed.
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