7th December: The Santa Clause

Image: Disney

The Reel Time Christmas Movie Advent Calendar is exactly what it says on the tin: a classic festive countdown, except instead of chocolate behind the windows it’s my ramblings on a host of Christmas films. In true advent calendar style, films will not be announced in advance, but revealed at 6pm each day. Get involved by shouting abuse at me on Twitter and Facebook, or even just reading and sharing. I hope this can bring a little cheer at the end of a miserable year. Enjoy! 

Year: 1994

Director: John Pasquin

Writer: Leo Benvenuti, Steve Rudnick

Starring: Tim Allen, Eric Lloyd, Wendy Crewson, Judge Reinhold

May contain spoilers.

I’m sorry, but I don’t know what to say. For about eight years, anyone who has dared to come within a five mile radius of me has had their ear viciously chewed off as I go on and on and on about ‘film this’ and ‘director that’. Now, though, I am kind of stuck for things to say. Such is the level of ‘quite nice and fun but nothing special’ on display in The Santa Clause. Sorry folks, you’re in for a short read.

Oh, hang on. There is one thing I wanted to mention: what in Santa’s grotto is going on at the end of this film? The entire plot is predicated on the basis that the cute little kid’s mum won’t believe his dad (her ex-husband) when he says that he is Santa Claus (spoiler: he is). Fair enough, if you ask me. To everyone but the audience and his little boy Charlie, Scott Calvin is a grown man walking around with the belief that he is Santa Claus. Even he doesn’t really believe it for a while, but his son is convinced and to outsiders it looks like Scott is even altering his own appearance to look more like Santa by the day.

How’s he going to get out of this one, then? That’s the big mystery pulling us through the film: how on Earth will Scott convince his ex-wife that he actually is indeed Father Christmas? Well the answer, it seems, is to do nothing. In the closing scenes of the film, mother Laura just takes a look at her ex-hubby and son and says ‘oh my god, he really is Santa Claus’. What? Nothing has changed, he doesn’t levitate or go up/down a chimney to demonstrate his power (why he doesn’t just do this and be done with it I don’t know); she just decides, in a split second, having gone so far as to remove his visitation rights earlier in the film, to suddenly believe him based on no new information. Absolute madness.

Other than its bizarre resolution, The Santa Clause is a broadly enjoyable bit of holiday escapism. Tim Allen does well carrying the film as Scott, bringing good physicality and comedic timing to everything, and little Eric Lloyd as Charlie is so damn cute that I wanted to reach into the screen and put him on a keyring. Wendy Crewson and Judge Reinhold are impressive too, as Laura and her new partner Neal, with the latter striking the perfect balance between dickhead and misunderstood.

The film has the usual logical issues with Santa-based tales; for example, if Santa does exist in this world, but adults don’t believe in him, then where do they think all their children’s extra presents come from? This is a fun take on the Father Christmas story, though, gaining extra points for the tremendous title pun as well. I also liked The Santa Clause’s version of the elf myth, casting children to play the part of Santa’s little helpers, behaving somewhere between world-weary adults and wide-eyed kids. 

The central storyline about a dad reconnecting with his child is sappy and over-familiar, but it does the job and I appreciate that there was no question of Scott Calvin ‘winning back’ his ex-wife. They’re finished, she has a new partner and she’s happy. Everyone is fairly grown-up about this and the film’s focus is on the happiness and love towards their son, which I appreciated throughout. Like I said to start with, The Santa Clause is a pleasant diversion and fully-committed Christmas fare. Just don’t expect too much from it.

Where it Ranks

Okay, I feel a bit mean here. But I have genuinely got some enjoyment and found plenty of merit in every film so far. This includes The Santa Clause, but my gut feeling is that there is just less special moments, less individual charm and less that really stands out to recommend this film than pretty much all the others. So, sorry Santa, but you’ll have to go bottom of the pile.

  1. Arthur Christmas
  2. Elf
  3. Gremlins
  4. Home Alone
  5. Nativity!
  6. The Holiday
  7. The Santa Clause

Andrew Young