Director: Misty Talley
Writer: Jake Kiernan
Producer: Ken Badish, Daniel Lewis
Stars: Reid Miller, Courtney Lauren Cummings, Carrie Lazar, Jim Klock, Hawn Tran, Haviland Stillwell, Miles Doleac, Arthur Marroquin, Scott Allen Perry, Ritchie Montgomery
A small town family bands together with friends to battle a killer Christmas shark when it comes to life from a comic book.
Now that it takes two hands to count every entry in the “Sharknado” series, we’re at a point where made-for-cable mega-monster movies rarely get more creative than pairing an adjective with an animal, specifically a shark, to concoct a setup around whatever loose concept those terms bring to mind. Alternatively, producers come up with a play on words and comfortably coast on the guffaw that title generates. Anything ancillary, like a script, remains an afterthought.
Which is how we arrive at “Santa Jaws,” clearly the result of a brief brainstorming session where someone realized how St. Nick’s surname rhymes with cinema’s most celebrated seaborne serial killer and someone else saw a shot to kill the birds of shark thriller and Christmas horror with one simple stone.
What exactly does anyone think they’re going to get with a Syfy original titled “Santa Jaws?” For that matter, what does anyone expect a review of “Santa Jaws” to reveal that s/he doesn’t already suspect? I can answer virtually any question about the film’s fundamentals with a counter-question of my own.
“Is it any good?” Well, what kind of criteria should be used for grading this type of thing? “Santa Jaws” features predictably poor CGI as well as 2D characters fallen from an average assembly line. Isn’t that par for the course in this subgenre swamp? “Santa Jaws” arguably shoots for birdie by cheekily never intending to take its goofy premise seriously.
“Is it at least funny?” Does the image of a shark swimming with a Santa hat on its dorsal fin inspire a grimace or a grin? If the latter, know that not only does Santa Jaws, who is female, wear a Santa hat, but she’s wrapped in a string of colored lights and her eyes glow red like Rudolph’s nose too. When her candy cane horn comes into play later, you’ll understand how no empty space exists in the movie’s mouth, what with its tongue filling every inch between its cheeks.
“What is it even about?” Now that’s a question that can actually be objectively answered.
Reid Miller, the reincarnation of T2-era Edward Furlong in looks, voice, and onscreen attitude, plays teenage good guy and aspiring artist Cody. With his best buddy Steve writing, Cody recently finished drawing “Santa Jaws,” their homemade comic book about a supernatural shark whose strengths and weaknesses stem from anything related to Christmas. Cody also just received an antique pen with an ominous German inscription from his grandfather Papa Joe. When a Christmas Eve grounding by mom compels Cody to make a bah humbug wish while inking the shark with this pen, holiday magic brings Santa Jaws to life. Unfortunately, the yuletide beast wants to murder Cody’s family.
“Santa Jaws” employs a number of expected clichés to fill out its features as fast as possible. Characters include a new neighborhood girl Cody has a crush on, parents who just don’t understand, a snarky comic shop owner, and a few lesser pieces of fodder. “Santa Jaws” also includes a number of novelty gags that make its pap more palatable, like explosive ornaments, gunpowder-stuffed turkeys, even a Russian bride conjured by the mysterious pen’s magic. These notes alone say a lot about the gamut run by the film’s style and scope.
A family fantasy tone makes the film feel like a Hallmark holiday movie with a dash of Syfy creature feature cream spilled in its campy coffee. Plentiful yet not-too-graphic kills aside, “Santa Jaws” is unexpectedly about as kid-friendly and morally grounded in good values as a killer shark movie can possibly be.
For instance, Cody’s Uncle Mike is introduced in a routine scene where he fast-talks some business bluster over a cellphone while his new Instagram model wife adorns his other arm. A rolling eye thinks it sees where this guy is going, yet the closest Uncle Mike gets to doing anything sleazy is sneaking a cigarette on the porch. After that, he offers some reassurance to his despondent nephew before joining the rest of the family in putting together a charity dinner for the community.
In this regard, “Santa Jaws” can be surprisingly sweet, even schmaltzy. One scene tacks on an out-of-nowhere exchange between Cody’s brother and Cody’s best friend to resolve animosity the audience never knew existed. Other sequences center on heart-to-hearts between Cody and his parents so Cody can learn the importance of togetherness during the holidays. And following the first death, you’ll see the “happily ever after” ending coming from one hundred miles away.
For its jagged edge faults of silly sentimentality and iffy acting, “Santa Jaws” at least moves swiftly by grouping people in various packs and cutting between their concurrent pathways through the plot. Whimsical music additionally lightens the air, offering regular reminders to forgivingly appreciate the well-meaning charm in the movie’s ample cheese.
Considering how all over the place it is in nearly every aspect, “Santa Jaws” really can’t be given any fairer of a score than a perfect split down the middle. In the true holiday spirit of giving, I’ll even bump up the rating to 60/100 for the film having its heart in the right place. After all, the movie is precisely what it sets out to be, and that movie is pretty much what should be expected from something titled “Santa Jaws.”
Review Score: 60