Santa Who? Is a TV movie originally airing on The Wonderful World of Disney in 2000. It was written by Debra Frank and Steve Hayes based on an unpublished story by Chad Hoffman and Robert Schwartz. It was directed by William Dear (Harry and the Hendersons, The Rocketeer, Angels in the Outfield). The TV movie stars Leslie Nielsen, Steven Eckholdt, Robyn Lively, and Max Morrow.
We open the film with a boy, Peter Albright (Steven Eckholdt), writing a letter to Santa (Leslie Nielsen) from an orphanage and asking Santa for a loving family. To his horror, a woman in the orphanage throws the letter into the fire, thus becoming the day Peter stopped believing in Santa and Christmas. What he didn’t know, however, was that someone was nearby outside…
25 years later, Peter is the star reporter for his local news channel. He is not a fan of Christmas and doesn’t seem to like kids either. After injuring the mall Santa, he fills in for a couple of hours to help out his girlfriend, Claire (Robyn Lively). Meanwhile, at the North Pole, Santa is getting ready for a dry-run of Christmas Eve and mentions to the elves he might like to retire since kids today don’t even write thank-you letters.
We see Peter and Claire, along with Claire’s 9-year-old son, Zack (Max Morrow). Zack and Peter don’t really get along, mainly because every conversation tends to be about Peter. Peter really likes Claire but isn’t quite ready for an instant family. During the dry-run with the sled and reindeer, Santa gets caught in a storm and falls, losing the sleigh and the reindeer and drops right in front of Peter’s car. Peter tends to Santa but Santa can’t remember who is was or really anything at all, so Peter takes him to Claire’s apartment where Zack insists he is the real Santa but Peter is not convinced. Until Santa gets his memory back, Claire tries to get him a job as a mall Santa but he isn’t jolly enough. After Peter injures yet another mall Santa, Santa – known only as Nick – gets the gig.
Peter decides to do a story on Nick and try to reunite him with his real family by Christmas thinking it will be a great piece for his TV station and it might even get on the Network. After doing so, a couple thinks Nick is their grandfather and call the police to come to meet with Nick.
Peter and Nick spend some time together and Peter teaches him some Christmas carols, delighting Nick. When Peter tells Nick about his burned Santa letter, Nick tells him in some Scandinavian countries, they believe burning the letters get them to the North Pole faster. Meanwhile, the elves are on the case and locate Santa’s sleigh. Nick is sent home with the other couple, but on the way gets a phone call from Peter who says to meet him at the toy store. In the meantime of all of this happening, Peter and Claire officially break up because Peter won’t let her and Zack into his life. Both Claire, Peter, and Zack end up at the toy store and Zack climbs high into the sleigh mounted on a fake house in the store. The sleigh starts to break loose and Nick arrives and goes to rescue Zack. Just as it comes loose from its tethers, it is about to crash to the ground with Nick and Zack in it, then it floats in the air. Nick really IS Santa Clause. The elves arrive and Nick remembers who he is. Peter, Claire, and Zack reconcile and Peter gets his wish – a loving family, leaving Santa to finish his rounds,
This film makes the 2nd time Leslie Nielsen has played Santa, the first being All I Want for Christmas which I also reviewed here on Heartland Film Review. By far the breakout portrayals in the film belong to Leslie Nielsen as the amnesiac Santa, and young Max Morrow as Zack. Morrow’s character was skillfully portrayed by the young actor and was very endearing in all of the relationships in the film from that with his mom, Nick, and his animosity with Peter.
William Dear does an excellent job of capturing this magical tale with excellent direction and making the eye of the camera empathetic to the events going on around Peter. Peter isn’t necessarily a bad guy like we see in so many Christmas films, he has just lost his Christmas spirit. While the film does have some cliché set-up such as Peter being from a broken home, Claire being a single mom, and a cliché ending – families combining, it is clear to see why this made it to one of the most coveted places on TV in the 2000’s – the Wonderful World of Disney. It is a very fun movie and one I highly recommend.
You can currently find it for ale on Apple movies, or it is available on Amazon Prime for free with commercials.