‘The Santa Stakeout’ Review: On The Hunt For The Grinch

the santa stakeout review

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‘The Santa Stakeout’ premiered on Hallmark channels as part of the 2021 countdown to Christmas programming event on October 24 and will continue to play on different occasions during this holiday season. This move is in line with the over 30 titles expected to debut during the Christmas season, a process that kickstarted on October 22.

This feel-good feature stars Tamera Mowry-Housley, who has produced and starred in numerous movies for Hallmark. Other cast members include Paul Campbell, another regular for the channel, and Joe Pantoliano, among many others. ‘The Santa Stakeout’ is directed by Peter Benson from a script penned by Gregg Rossen in collaboration with Brian Sawyer.

The story follows an optimistic, highly organized detective who must team up with a veteran gumshoe to solve a thread of holiday heists and murders that have swept through the city, threatening the merry of Christmas. They are mistaken for newlyweds during their snooping around, and now they must act the part lest they blow their cover.

As they dig deeper in pursuit of the outcast committing these heinous atrocities, they realize that pretending to be together is a no-brainer as the magic of the holiday season takes over, making their usually tough assignment more enjoyable than they could have fathomed.

‘The Santa Stakeout’ Review: On The Hunt For The Grinch

The opening scene is great as it sets the mood and tone for the entire movie. Something pretty impressive is the pitting images on the screen of happy families celebrating the Christmas holidays against those of various crimes in the process of being committed. What makes it even hilariously jarring is the use of Christmas music during these scenes.

The whole movie is packed with numerous hilarious quips which will keep audiences cackling from the opening till the credits roll. The plot is well written, mashing a witty blend of charm and mystery that grabs and retains the viewer’s interest throughout the running time.

Tamera and Paul, as the two detectives Tanya and Ryan, or rather Tasha and Rupert, deliver masterful performances so excellently executed that one constantly bursts out in bouts of laughter. Their deliveries are swift and witty, coupled up with great jokes, and their microfacial expressions all nicely tied together result in a beautiful piece of the motion picture.

Usually, due to the tight turnaround period, Hallmark movies kind of feel like acting sometimes; however, the award-worthy performances in this title come out as genuine. The chemistry between the leads is great one can tell that the duo had a really great time while filming the movie. 

Campbell gives out vibes of his own person, kind of channeling funny man Ryan Reynolds from the 2009 rom-com ‘The Proposal.’ Tamera’s enduring, beautiful happy spirit injects a dose of mystery, joy, and happiness into this movie. 

The antagonism between Tanya and Ryan goes on reasonably deep in the narrative, yet it doesn’t melt away as quickly as witnessed in some other movies in this genre. The transitioning from nemesis to friendliness develops instead naturally than audiences have witnessed before in its predecessors.

These two characters kind of remind one of Jake and Amy from ‘Brooklyn 99’ as they share the same sort of dynamic. The banter between these two is fantastic. Their level of trying to outdo each other is nuts and admirable at the same time. Tanya is more like a type-A person who adores Christmas, while Ryan is the other guy who would probably have a week-old hamburger in his truck.

The production of ‘The Santa Stakeout’ is top-notch, and while the leads do their thing, the supporting cast is also excellent in keeping the audiences entertained. Joe Pantoliano is perfect as the Father Christmas suspect.

Staying in line with the referencing of the annual holiday, the production design team made sure that everything was relevant. For instance, they used a Christmas-themed suspect board when they were hunting for the criminal who was harassing people during this happy time of the year. And there is a whole lot of suspects.

The comedic moments in this feature are numerously balanced out by genuine heartfelt moments and performances. What’s really interesting is the fact that the script was crafted in such a way that these magically wonderful moments were always bookended by comedic moments that aligned with Tanya and Ryan’s respective personalities.

The music throughout the movie was excellently chosen regardless of the purpose it was intended for. It gelled excellently with every scene in which it was used. A perfect example of a memorable scene enhanced by music has got to be when the detectives dressed up as Santa Clause’s minions and strutted their stuff into the museum gala. The angsty rendition of Love To Sing’s iconic tune ‘Jingle Bells’ was a perfect case of hitting the nail on the head.

‘The Santa Stakeout’ might not be that appealing to the audiences who enjoy the romance and the intimate kissing as well as the cuddles witnessed in other romcoms on the channel. This one felt more like a buddy cop, kind of rather than a romcom. The perks of this, though, is that it’s an excellent movie for the whole family, no covering the eyes of the little ones or casting awkward, embarrassing glances around during smooching scenes. 

The ending of the movie is smartly done. There are no sudden declarations of undying love for each other, even though audiences have seen the spark grow bigger numerous times. It appears more natural than the feelings the leads have for each other have indeed taken their time to develop. Despite there not being the ending everyone expected the promise to maybe become something more than just colleagues is pretty much in the air.

‘The Santa Stakeout’ is an absolute Christmas caper. It has all the makings of an excellent Christmas movie. Joyful cast with fantastic chemistry, compelling visuals, spot-on dialogue, and the music is just right.


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It is the perfect movie for a feel-good season when families come together to celebrate. Sticking true to the principles of the Hallmark channels, this movie is squeaky clean when it comes to the language and visuals; hence it is suitable for the whole clan. It’s the perfect title for one’s family movie night.

SCORE: 6.5/10

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