New World Pictures

From the dustbins of Obscure Christmas Movies Past comes the French holiday fantasy flick J’ai rencontre’ le P’ere Noel. Released in 1984, and known in English reissues as either Here Comes Santa Claus and I Believe In Santa Claus, the version I was tortured with is titled I Believe In Santa Claus, and thus the heading I’m going with for this review.

So, here we have a youngster named Simon, who’s bullied constantly by not only his fellow students, but also the janitor. Also, just as an extra kick in the chestnuts, Simon’s parents were kidnapped by an African warlord while on a trip there to provide aide. What part of Africa, you ask? Shhhhh, no need to worry about such trivial details, silly billy. So, wanting to get his wish to Santa–the safe return of his parents–he and an unwitting school chum hop a plane to the North Pole Lapland to visit Santa’s home. There, Santa and his Fairy Princess magically travel to Africa (just Africa) and manage to save Simon’s parents with the help of gun-toting children. Meanwhile, the kids are kidnapped by an ogre, who is planning on eating them, but not until they clean his house first. Fortunately, Santa and the Fairy Princess arrive back in time to save the two from the ogre, and the kids are rushed back to their homes just in time for Christmas Mass, where no one seems all that surprised that they’ve been gone for so long and then reappears. The end.

I Believe In Santa Claus was…bizarre. First off, this was French, so there’s not really a lot of a surprise there. In an attempt to add a bit of whimsy to the mix, this stars one Karen Cheryl, who, I’m told, was a French pop star at the time. She played both Simon’s schoolteacher, and the Fairy Princess. That song that she sings during the introduction to Santa’s workshop is something like audio herpes; long after the end credits rolled, it was that particular song that was stuck in my head for days. I can’t for the life of me tell you what that song title was, as they all seem to be all titled in French on the IMDB page. Also, I don’t care.

As Christmas movies go, I can honestly say that I’ve seen worse. I Believe In Santa Claus may be a bit more avant gard than most would expect from a Santa Claus movie, which in a way kind of makes me watch this every year now as my go-to Yuletide tradition. It’s no The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t, But Then Was and lacks any Christmas Hobgoblins, but obscure Europop singers and a completely bonkers premise is a good trade-off. Worth a look-see, especially the Rifftrax edition.