J’ai rencontré le Père Noël (1984)

Simon isn’t going to have a good Christmas. He’s bullied by his fellow classmates and the janitor, who throws spackle at his face. Oh yeah — his parents have also been kidnapped in Africa and the French government isn’t going to negotiate with the people who did the deed. Yep, it’s enough to make you take your friend Élodie and sneak onto a flight to Rovaniemi, where of course Santa Claus lives in Lapland. If you’re ready to drink in all that you’ve read above, you are ready for the kind of Christmas film that caused my wife to say, “Well, it looks like you’ve finally found your movie to post on Christmas day.”

The kids find Santa the only way they know how: deliriously wandering through the snow until they pass out. Then, they meet the fairy that works with Santa, who looks a lot like the teacher who forgot them at the airport and never acknowledged that they were missing. Basically, as soon as they are safe, Élodie takes Santa’s puppy and goes to see a child eating ogre. It’s kind of like Adam and Eve by way of Adam and Eve vs. the Cannibals.

When the kids finally escape thanks to Santa and go to Christmas Mass, no one even realizes they were missing. Oh yeah — Santa was also in Africa trying to free Simon’s parents. Seriously. Also, this might be a French movie, but everything is shot with English words in the classrooms and in the songs.

This whole movie feels like a vehicle for Karen Cheryl, who plays both the schoolteacher and fairy. Her songs sound like a maniacal melange of 1980’s pop, kind of like “99 Luftballoons” played at Chipmunk speed. Ironically, the first edition of this film’s soundtrack was quickly taken out of stores because Cheryl didn’t ask for permission from her producer if she could appear in the film or sing on the soundtrack. Soon, the album was re-recorded with singer Tilda Rejwan.

This is probably the only Santa Claus movie I’ve ever seen where he’s almost eaten by an alligator. So I guess it has that going for it. It’s also the kind of mind-altering movie that people say, “I was watching this movie that I couldn’t deal with and didn’t finish, but it felt like the kind of thing you’d put on and make me watch.”

You can watch the Rifftrax version on Amazon Prime.

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