First look review: The Santa Clauses
Ivan | On 20, Nov 2022
New episodes of The Santa Clauses arrive on Disney+ on Wednesdays, with the first two episodes debuting on 16th November 2022.
“Saying ‘merry Christmas to all’ has suddenly become problematic,” laments Santa Claus (Tim Allen) early on in The Santa Clauses. It’s been almost 30 years since Scott Calvin stepped into the shoes of Santa due to a legal clause that spawned three Disney films – and if that line of dialogue sounds like a strange way to update the franchise for 2022, you’re not far wrong.
The Santa Clauses catches us back up with Scott as he’s getting a little long in the stockings. He’s as jolly as usual on the surface, but he’s starting to lose his magic – because people, we’re told, don’t care about Christmas anymore. Meanwhile, in Chicago, entrepreneur Simon (Kal Penn) is trying to perfect a drone delivery system for an online retailer in time for the Christmas rush – bonus points for spotting the inconsistency in the premise there, not to mention the potential Santa replacement waiting in the wings.
The idea of single dad Simon taking on the sleigh himself is an appealing one, not least because Kal Penn is always a warm and winning presence. Unfortunately, though, the series is less concerned with teeing up that plot point and more bothered with giving screen time to Tim Allen’s ageing Santa. Struggling to balance being Mr Claus and spending time with his family, he finds himself distanced from his kids – Buddy (Austin Kane) and Sandra (Elizabeth Allen-Dick), who have grown up at the North Pole – and his wife, Carol (Elizabeth Mitchell), who is beginning to regret losing her career and her first name to the role of Mrs Claus.
There are interesting ideas there to explore, but again the series doesn’t show signs in its opening episodes of trying to do so. Instead, showrunner Jack Burditt (30 Rock, Modern Family) – who exec-produces alongside Tim Allen – is more preoccupied with Santa’s dilemmas and frustrations, from needing to put on weight to trying to squeeze down a chimney without magic. The result feels bloated and boring rather than magical and fun, not helped by the fact that the narrative is being stretched out over six episodes for no real reason.
The result joins the growing number of Disney+ shows that would better as movies, and winds up less a reminder of the magic of Christmas and more a reminder of Hollywood’s commercial determination to continue a franchise to cash in on the festive season. Saying ‘merry Christmas to all’? The Santa Clauses is problematic for entirely different reasons.