2003's Secret Santa, starring Jennie Garth is a breath of fresh air. Ok, the story isn't terribly original and it lacks the usually present SHE/HE shenanigans but I still really liked it.
The story is: Rebecca Chandler is a big city (Indianapolis) reporter who is tired of the fluff pieces given to her by her editor. He wants her to go to Hamden, IN to cover a story about a local Secret Santa who provides a big-ticket item to someone in need every year. Instead of sharing in the joy Rebecca wants to uncover the truth and unmask this secret do-gooder.
It's only semi-worth noting that she has a cute boyfriend who is supposed to propose but instead sleeps with someone he just met. He stands Rebecca up for dinner, showing hours late only to dump her. Nice. I think a trip to middle of nowhere, Indiana is just what she needs.
Unfortunately for Rebecca, there's no room at the inn run by Mrs. Landingham (or Mrs. McClusky if you're a Housewives fan). What do they do with the inn's overflow? Well they get to stay in one of the empty rooms at the local old folks home. It's there that Rebecca meets Mac Robinson from Night Court and June Cleaver (of course to me she'll always be Nanny from Muppet Babies). She befriends both along with most of the rest of the town.
While researching her article on the Secret Santa she meets last year's recipient, a boy with a sister, no parents, and a new wheelchair thanks to Secret Santa. Rebecca's main lead is the local rich guy who travels a lot but must be Santa because he's the only one in town with oodles of cash. There's a misunderstanding and Rebecca soon learns that the rich guy (played by the other dude from It's Like, You Know...) is actually the cute guy who splashed mud all over her.
There's a lot more too it but I wanna get to what I really liked about it. There are sparks between her and the town's rich guy but he's headed off to some third-world country to do some more do-gooding. They leave it with some potential for the future but there's no engagement or marriage a year later. She gives up her job at the big city paper in order to be the editor of Hamden's little paper. But what about unveiling Secret Santa? She does indeed find out who the Secret Santa is and it totally makes sense. I will tell you it's not the rich dude but I won't tell you who it is. When she learns the person's identity and asks how they're able to afford such big, life-changing presents the explanation makes total sense. It's not an out of left-field thing. Does she reveal their identity? No. She learns that it's more important to protect their identity and to really appreciate true gift giving without the need for anything in return including an expectation of thanks. These people would forever feel strange around Secret Santa and he/she doesn't want that.
It had a few moments of cheese and over-sweetness but mostly it was downright normal. That's so rare with these movies and so refreshing when it's done well.