VOD film review: The Santa Clause
Matthew Turner | On 06, Dec 2015
Director: John Pasquin
Cast: Tim Allen, Judge Reinhold, Wendy Crewson, Eric Lloyd
Watch The Santa Clause online in the UK: Disney+ / TalkTalk TV / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
We unwrap a different Christmas film from Netflix’s dubious seasonal selection every day. For 12 days. It’s the 12 Days of Netflix.
When The Santa Clause was released in the US in November 1994, comedian Tim Allen was riding high on the success of Home Improvement, which was topping the TV ratings at the time. Looking back now, it seems likely that his popularity was a key factor in the film’s box office success, although it also received a decent critical response, which is more than can be said for its two sequels.
Allen (making his big screen debut) plays advertising executive Scott Calvin (note those initials), who’s sharing custody of his young son, Charlie (Eric Lloyd), with his ex-wife, Laura (Wendy Crewson), and her new husband, terrible-jumper-wearing psychiatrist Neil (Judge Reinhold). On Christmas Eve, Scott hears a noise on his roof and is startled to discover Santa Claus, who promptly tumbles off the roof and disappears, leaving only his suit behind.
Pressured by Charlie, Scott puts on the Santa suit and finishes delivering all the presents, whereupon the reindeer whisk them off to Santa’s Workshop in the North Pole, where officious head elf Bernard (a fresh-faced David Krumholz) informs Scott that by putting on the suit he has accepted the terms of “the Santa Clause” and will now be Santa on a permanent basis. Needless to say, when Scott tries to explain what happened to Laura and Neil, they start to think he’s crazy, which jeopardises his custody rights, something that only gets worse when Scott puts on a load of weight, grows a huge white beard, dresses in red and white and sits children on his knee in a local park.
Allen doesn’t deviate at all from his established comic persona (he’s basically a motor-mouthed smart-arse), which makes him an entertaining presence when he’s reacting with disbelief to everything that’s happening – there’s even a nice nod to his Home Improvement character when he tries on a tool belt at Santa’s Workshop.
However, the script fails to give him any meaningful character development beyond the acceptance of his new job, so the film lacks emotional impact – it ought to be about a cynical, self-centred character connecting with his son and having his heart thawed as a result of becoming Santa, but his relationship with Charlie is fixed the moment they board the sleigh, while Scott only becomes a nicer person because, well, because he’s Santa – although he does, admittedly, make a very charming Santa.
The rest of the script is all over the place, trying on various sub-plots (like Scott reacting against his company’s idea to put Santa in a tank) and then quickly discarding them, with no real plot ideas other than “Tim Allen is Santa”. That said, there are some nice touches, such as Santa’s heart beating to the tune of Jingle Bells, or the notion that Santa-accommodating fireplaces magically appear in homes without fireplaces. Jokes are aimed at both children and adults, while the flatulent reindeer gags (a hallmark of the trilogy) are thankfully kept to a minimum. The effects work is an equally mixed bag: the cartoonish elements (Santa popping out of a tiny chimney) are fun, but the primitive CGI looks horribly dated 20 years on. Thanks to Allen’s performance, though, this is never less than watchable.
The Santa Clause is available on Disney+ UK, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription or a £79.99 yearly subscription.