Synopsis: Superstar comedian and Golden Globe® winner Tim Allen shines bright in Disney’s magical, larger-than-life hit comedy that People Magazine dubbed “the most playfully amusing, inventive cinematic…fable in several decades!”
The Santa Clause 7.25
eyelights: its core conceit. the caliber of the kid actors. Santa’s workshop.
eyesores: its CGI. its goofy animatronic reindeer.
“Look, I am lactose intolerant! And I’m just about this close to taking all those presents back up the chimney.”
There are Christmas classics and there are favourites. ‘Miracle on 34th Street‘ falls in the previous category, while ‘A Christmas Story‘ falls in the latter. The key distinction between them is their overall quality.
For instance, ‘Miracle’ has stellar performances, a thought-provoking, affecting script, as well as a great production and direction. ‘A Christmas Story’ is super fun, but it can hardly be considered grand cinema.
A classic can transcend generations. A favourite shows its age.
‘The Santa Clause’ also falls in this second category. The 1994 motion picture was a huge box office hit in North America, making a minor star out of TV comedian Tim Allen. It eventually spawned two sequels.
But it’s not grand cinema.
I have a friend who says a movie is “cute” when she’s trying to be polite about how much she liked it. ‘The Santa Clause’ is cute. Sure, it has its share of fun moments, but it’s full of clichés and contrivances.
Its conceit is simple: a self-absorbed single father inadvertently causes Santa to fall off his roof on Christmas Eve, and is forced to take up the mantle – despite himself, but to the wonderment of his son Charlie.
This conjures up all sorts of droll situations as he tries to get a handle on his new responsibilities.
It also leads to some unexpected drama. For instance, Charlie won’t stop telling everyone that Scott’s Santa – so Scott’s ex and her spouse are worried about his well-being, and they try to get full custody.
Scott also has problems at work: not only does he inexplicably grow a beard every morning and pack on the pounds, he acts out of character – which affects his ability to conduct business at the toy company.
So he ends up down and out, without a job, without visiting rights. And then, when he returns the following Christmas, to do Santa’s work, he’s arrested by the police. Scott gets knocked about time and time again.
In a way, it’s good that the filmmakers decided to strike a balance because there’s no way that Tim Allen could have carried a movie that was pure goofball; his style needed to be grounded in reality to some extent.
It’s just too bad that the script served up staleness.
Allen gets through it nicely, though, employing a vaguely similar persona as his popular Tim Taylor from “Home Improvement”; he certainly deserves credit for making the picture work where others couldn’t.
The child actors are also surprisingly good, something most American comedies can’t boast. Paige Tamada is especially good as Judy the Elf, who advises Scott in a moment of need; she offered realism and maturity.
It’s the package that takes away from the film’s charm. Aside for its triteness, Allen doesn’t look one bit like Santa Claus (despite decent enough make-up), the CGI is crap and the animatronic reindeers look goofy.
Still, it’s a nice production (it is Disney, after all!) and the North Pole is rather impressive: Santa’s workshop and lodgings are extravagant and elaborate, enough to wow most audience – especially smaller children.
But, again, aside for its core conceit, ‘The Santa Clause’ doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. Much of it will feel reheated, leftovers from previous movies. It’s hardly the feast one might want at Christmas.
But it is cute.
Date of viewing: November 18, 2017