Have you ever looked at guy and asked yourself, “Is that Urkel?” Like, a version of Urkel all grown up? Happens to me a lot and if you are doing it right now, looking at that picture, I can tell you that this is one of those cases where you are dead right. That IS Urkel, standing right next to Sabrina the Teenage Witch. A Lifetime Christmas movie starring Urkel and STW looking suspiciously at each other with their arms folded? Yes please!
But hold up. Wait a second. You did notice what the name of this film is, right? “The Santa Con?” Because the marketing too is somewhat of a con here. Sabrina is barely in it. Urkel even less so. But this is the picture I see pop up in my DVR menu and doing a Google image search gives me even more of them and very little of the actual main characters. Sex sells, I get it, but come on, Lifetime. You can’t tell us this is a Melissa Joan Hart and Jaleel White joint when really, it’s about two other drips I’ve never heard of.
Or can you? Because even though I got duped into watching this under false pretenses, I ended up liking it. The story itself actually follows a similar path of lying for the greater good. Our real main character is Nick, a lovable con man who gets released from prison and falls right into a job playing Santa Claus at what I think is a mall. You might guess that he used his conning skills to get this job because who the hell hires a guy straight out of prison to be Santa? But no, his sister works there too and just hooked him up somehow. He’d much rather be grifting though and doesn’t take the new job too seriously. This is exemplified when some kid comes to sit on his lap and asks Santa to get his parents back together for Christmas. Even though this wish does not exactly fall under Santa’s jurisdiction, Nick is barely paying attention and nonchalantly agrees to make it all happen.
After being harangued by his sister for promising something not even Dr. Phil could deliver , Nick has a dark night of the soul where he wanders into a church and meets Wendy Williams, who is the pastor there and convinces Nick that the right thing to do here is make this kid’s wish come true. But how?
Through more lies. Nick cons his way into getting a job building an addition onto the kid’s house so he can get closer to the mom and figure out how the hell to get her and her estranged husband get back together. Not to sound like a mom myself here but honesty might have actually been the best policy. If he had just come clean to this lady, Carol, about what her son wished for, he might have at least been able to talk to her about her husband and maybe intervene in some positive way. And if not, at least he gave it the ol’ college try. I think that would have been good enough for Wendy Williams.
Plus, it turns out this marriage might not be worth saving anyway. The husband is a drunk. And I don’t just mean a nice guy who missed a few soccer practice pickups because he was at a bar. I mean someone who has a real problem. A problem that is not going to be solved quickly or even through Christmas magic. Getting drunk is one thing, stumbling in to your son’s piano recital mumbling gibberish in a stolen suit, only to get arrested in front of the whole auditorium is a whole other level of demons.
The movie tries to connect the dots here, saying that it’s all because some jerk who works with Dad stole one of his dynamite ideas for an ad campaign and got a big promotion out of it. This incident alone is what drove him to drinking, which quickly got out of control, causing him to lose his job and descend even deeper into alcoholism. There are several problems with this though. For one, a guy steals your advertising slogan ideas and gets rewarded for them. Bummer. Really sucks but certainly not worth going on an Olympic-level bender for. Especially when they tell us that Dad’s really this brilliant guy with tons of great ideas. There will be other ad campaigns, other slogans, plenty of opportunities to shine again. Also, there is the aforementioned extent of Dad’s drunken behavior. People who are sad or mad about something and turn to the bottle don’t fly off the handle in such epic proportions. This is a sick person who needs real help. And sorry kid, this ain’t gonna get fixed by Christmas, which is only about a week away.
Then there’s another issue and this one is the strangest of them all. Carol says that she and Dad used to drink a ton in college, then their son was born, then Dad managed to quit the booze until just a couple months ago, after that dude stole his ideas. But later, Dad confesses to Nick that the whole reason why this other dude was able to steal those ideas was because they got drunk together and Dad just spilled the whole thing. So Dad was drinking BEFORE the big betrayal. In fact, Dad says he really fell off the wagon something like 14 months ago, which means it has nothing to do with any of these office shenanigans and Dad has been keeping a dirty secret for over a year now in classic, alky style. So here is the big question – why on Earth did the movie choose to include this little tidbit of information? Why couldn’t they just have stuck to the original narrative? I certainly wasn’t buying that one either but by going out of their way to tell us that problem is considerably worse than we originally thought or would have expected from one of these films, what do they gain?
I’ll tell you what they don’t gain. Any faith from me that Nick could or should get these two people back together. I even thought at some point that Carol and Nick were just going to fall in love instead, since Nick is our main man and we are led to believe that he is actually a pretty good guy, even though his default strategy is to lie to people. But while this notion is explored, the movie chooses to go the original route. In part, I suppose, to further demonstrate Nick’s redemption, as he starts to fall for Carol himself but realizes it makes him a better person if he can help get this family back together instead. And he does. In a much weirder fashion than I would have guessed.
So where the hell is Urkel in all this? Well, he plays another ex-con who gets out of prison after Nick and is friends with him so he seemingly moves into Melissa Joan Hart’s house as well and ends up taking over Nick’s job playing Santa at the mall so that Nick can focus full-time on pretending to be a contractor, trying to get that kid’s parents back together. You know what scenes I would really like to have been included in this movie though? The interviews for the job of Santa. They hire one guy fresh out of prison to work with children, who eventually bails on the job but says don’t worry, this friend of mine, also fresh from prison, will just take over for me. And it’s a black guy who looks like Urkel. I mean, I’m sure it didn’t go down just like that but the people in charge of hiring mall Santa had to ask some questions, right? Maybe they just knew it was Urkel and spent the entire time reminiscing fondly about Family Matters. Or they thought they recognized him but couldn’t be sure from where and just took guesses like, “Wait a minute, were you on ‘Who’s the Boss?”, which would then of course devolve into a big conversation about who WAS the boss on that show and how disappointed we all were that the answer to this core question was never revealed, nor even really addressed, in the series finale.
Come to think of it, in addition to wanting to see those scenes (and get a real answer as to who was the boss on Who’s the Boss), I would have also liked to see the ones where Urkel and Melissa Joan Hart get together romantically. The movie hinted that this was going to happen but never delivered. I guess it will have to just be left to our imagination then. Or a spin-off? Whatever it is, I’ll watch it because once again, I do feel like I was the one getting conned here and Lifetime owes us all some Urkel. But also like I’ve already said, I still enjoyed The Santa Con and appreciated the way they just kept flinging crazy ideas and characters at me. One thing I might knock it for is that it didn’t really feel like Christmas at all. I realize I’ve mentioned Santa several times in this review but just like Urkel and Sabrina, this gets quickly shoved into the background and seemingly forgotten about. Plus, sometimes you can just tell the actors either don’t believe it’s really Christmas. I don’t believe Carol and Dad are going to make it long-term, that’s for sure, but all I can do is say the pledge, hope for the best, and give this movie….