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Stream It or Skip It: Should You Watch “Santa Bootcamp” on Lifetime, Starring Rita Moreno as a Merry Drill Instructor?

This year, thanks to Santa Bootcamp on Lifetime, we get to see Rita Moreno—a famous, larger-than-life figure—on our television screens. 
Emily Kinney and Justin Gaston are just two of the many aspiring Santas in the group. 
But will you be standing at attention for this holiday movie, or do you think it should be brought before military tribunal?

Santa Bootcamp Stream It or Skip It?

Emily Strauss, played by The Walking Dead’s Emily Kinney, is a newly-hired event designer who lands the job of a lifetime working on Ed Mancini of Mancini Malls’ annual Christmas extravaganza. To discover the best Santa in Los Angeles, she visits Santa Bootcamp, a place that prepares people to work as Santa Clauses in department stores and other such merry characters for hire.

Emily is hoping that the program’s administrator, the mysterious but lovable Belle (EGOT and GOAT Rita Moreno), will recommend a Santa for the party. Despite this, Belle has a different plan: she enrolls Emily in the boot camp and partners her with a future Santa Claus, a dashing chef called Aiden (Justin Gaston). Uh, but what about the main thing?

READ MORE: Development of the American Christmas: How to Celebrate Christmas in the United States?

Ed Mancini is all glitz and no merriment, so he won’t buy into the holiday cheer being peddled by Belle and her cheerful, bearded husband (John Schuck) in their Pasadena rental mansion. Is Emily going to be able to pull off the event of her fledgling career, or will Belle’s Bootcamp completely derail her?


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In terms of previous film adaptations, Santa Bootcamp recalls those released a decade or two ago, before the formula was set in stone and there was still a sense of literal magic in these stories. A Santa Bootcamp theme would be appropriate for films like The Mistle-Tones, Holiday in Handcuffs, 12 Dates of Christmas, and that one with Tom Cavanagh as Santa Claus. That’s to be expected, seeing as Santa Bootcamp was directed by Melissa Joan Hart, a well-known actor of the era.

Stream It or Skip It Twitter

Take a look at the Stream It or Skip It Twitter account.

Performance Worth Watching

John Schuck as Chris, Rita Moreno’s husband, was a wonderful surprise. I will always associate him with his role as Gil Kessler on Golden Girls, but he appeared in a wide variety of television shows during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. During his time on The Munsters Today, he played the role of Herman Munster. He appeared in Mary Tyler Moore and M*A*S*H episodes. He and Rita Moreno made a great on-screen romance.

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Memorable Dialogue

Check out Belle warning one Christmas cadet: Have you ever considered what it would be like to spend 8 hours encased in a polyester, airless candy cane suit? It’s about to become clear to you.

A Holiday Tradition

Each year, Ed Mancini undoubtedly hosts a Christmas party that outdoes the last. His ego, after all, demands nothing less. Is this a franchise, Lifetime, considering that Belle and Chris appear to organize a Santa Bootcamp every year?


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Two Turtle Doves

When a snowstorm cancels a company holiday party, the event planner in UPtv’s Christmas on the Rocks (Dec. 4) has their work cut out for them. I’m going out on a limb here, but I promise you won’t find anything quite like Santa Bootcamp this holiday season.

Does the Title Make Any Sense

Honestly, I’m at a loss for what else to call this movie. Spot on! Put down the pen!

READ MORE: Christmas Release Movies on Netflix 2022!

Our Take

To be honest, when you hear “Santa Bootcamp,” your expectations aren’t exactly high. It’s catchy, but it’s also not punny, and it’s a straightforward title. We don’t see any magic, what gives? Don’t be fooled by the name; this year’s Santa Bootcamp is truly extraordinary. Not something I expected to type first thing in the morning, but here we are.

At first, Santa Bootcamp follows the standard formula for a Christmas romantic comedy. Emily is a hardworking Type A event planner who will stop at nothing to achieve her professional goals. She ends up working with a very attractive chef, whom she accidentally insulted during their first meeting. After thirty minutes, you may have a good idea of where the film is headed, but it gradually departs from the norm and goes in a new and interesting direction.


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There’s no risk of turning into a Full Metal Jacket or anything. Movies like this one can only be found on the Lifetime channel. The film diverges from the formula we’re all familiar with to concentrate on Emily’s character development. Why does she want to know what he wants for Christmas, a job, and his life? Neither Emily nor Aiden nor even drill sergeant Belle, are the real antagonists; Emily is.

Santa Bootcamp is a movie that takes place almost entirely in one McMansion and features a workout video called “Eat Like an Elf, Fly Like a Reindeer” prominently displayed in Belle’s gift area. A stop-motion puppet could easily stand in for any of the human characters in this film because of how ridiculous it is.


The material is perfectly pleasant, but in the hands of less seasoned performers, it could veer into the grating. However, the movie’s spectacular ensemble elevates the material. Kinney’s awkwardness and sweetness make him endearing. To sum up Marissa Jaret Winokur’s performance as the ever-resilient Patti: she is unbeatable.

In addition, Rita Moreno does more than just make an appearance for Lifetime to use in promotional materials; she has a substantial role. She is integral to the film from the very first scene to the very last, and she is just… well, she is Rita Moreno. I believe she is a legendary Christmas expert who garners adoration and adulation wherever she goes.

Santa Bootcamp isn’t the best Christmas film ever made, but it’s funny, touching, and magical enough to be worth watching at least once.

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