The Santa Clause Review

Posted: December 25, 2013 by moviebuff801 in moviebuff801's Movie Reviews, Time Capsule Reviews

Release Date: November 11th, 1994

Running Time: 1 hour and 37 minutes

Written by: Leo Benvenuti & Steve Rudnick

Directed by: John Pasquin

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

By: Michael “MovieBuff801” Dennos

It’s A Wonderful Life, White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Story, Elf … what do all these titles have in common?  They seem to be the personal favorite Christmas films of a good majority of people, but there’s one film I purposely left off of that list?  Why?  Well, because it’s my personal favorite Christmas film, and now is the perfect time to talk about it.  What is this movie, you ask?  Well, it’s a childhood favorite of mine from 1994 and stars a certain somebody who was famous for his hit sitcom on ABC at the time.  Yes, I’m of course talking about The Santa Clause!  Let me tell you, it’s never Christmastime for me until I watch this movie at least once every December.

Our central character in this yuletide tale is Scott Calvin (Tim Allen), a hard-working businessman at a toy company with an arsenal of sarcastic quips always at the ready.  Scott is one of those divorced Dads whose dedication to his work ended up costing him his wife (Wendy Crewson) and young son Charlie (Eric Lloyd).  Well, that and the fact that he and his wife started to fight almost endlessly.  One Christmas Eve night, Charlie comes to stay with Scott and in the middle of the night arises such a clatter, that Scott springs from his bed to see what is the matter.  On the roof, he finds who else but Santa Claus, and accidentally causes jolly ol’ Saint Nick to slip and fall to his demise (you know, for kids!).  In so doing, Scott must take up the mantle of the red-suited gift-giver, due to a clause — a “Santa Clause” — which stipulates that very thing.  Of course, Scott is both hesitant and doubtful about the whole affair, even after spending a night at The North Pole itself.  But when next year’s Christmas rolls around, certain transformations begin occurring to Scott and he gradually finds out that Santa Claus may be more than just a bedtime story.  This delights Charlie, but to certain people such as his stepdad Neal (Judge Reinhold), it all seems unhealthy and dangerous.

There are certain movies from each of our childhoods that we watch religiously as we grow up, but at the same have a seed of doubt that they’ll lose their charm sometime, and then they fortunately don’t.  The Santa Clause has become one of those films for me.  In fact, I think I might enjoy it even more all these years later.  Not only is there plenty of humor that I didn’t pick up on as a kid, but despite the Disney brand name and the PG rating, the movie treats its premise with a surprising and refreshing amount of seriousness, which also gives it a nice amount of heart.  Instead of mining the story for cheap laughs and nothing else, everyone involved really feel like they made this film with the main intention of creating something that can go down as a holiday classic in its own right, which this certainly has.  It also brought about two sequels, but those are reviews for another time, dear readers.

The role of Scott Calvin is very much tailored to Tim Allen’s strong suits, which would definitely explain why he’s so good in this movie.  Now, it’s not a GREAT performance by any means, but Allen still manages to handle Scott’s character arc in this film very competently and effectively.  First of all, he has a good number of nice zingers throughout the movie and anybody who appreciates his humor and/or is a fan of Home Improvement will certainly find plenty of laughs to be had here.  Allen makes Scott quite funny but also appropriately sympathetic when the story calls for it.  When he finally turns into Santa Claus full-on, Allen shows this sincerity that makes it easy to buy.  Then there’s Eric Lloyd as Charlie, and by God, is this kid endearing.  He’s also plenty sincere himself, but not so much that the character ever becomes too cute to stomach.  Lloyd and screenwriters Leo Benvenuti & Steve Rudnick make sure that Charlie’s “kiddyness” is played up just the right amount, so that it’s easy to care about him and his relationship with Scott.  That relationship is a really big part, and maybe even the central driving force of the narrative of The Santa Clause, so it’s really a relief that it feels realized enough.  The supporting players such as Judge Reinhold and David Krumholtz as the head elf Bernard also do good work.

Getting back to what I said earlier about how the script treats the story with a certain degree of seriousness, this is both good and bad.  Good in the sense that it helps us get more involved with the characters and lends everything a fair amount of weight.  Bad, or sort of bad, in how it raises the question of the virtue of belief.  After Scott and Charlie’s adventures on that initial Christmas Eve, all of the other grown-ups around Charlie start to see his believing in Santa as unhealthy.  Well … why?  Little kids are supposed to believe in Santa, it’s one of the best parts about being young.  Sure, they’ll eventually find out the truth, but why rain on their parade so soon?  The extreme to which this is portrayed can feel a little, well, distractingly extreme in a few scenes, even if it’s all leading up to what it’s really saying about the power of belief.  Also, when you have movies like this where characters undergo magical transformations in a quick span of time, it always seems odd that other characters don’t stop and consider something like, “Well, wait, how IS Scott gaining so much weight so fast?”  Just one of my movie pet peeves.

But other than that, The Santa Clause is a wonderful little movie and one of the few modern Christmas films that’s any good.  It deservedly holds its place as my favorite Christmas movie ever, and it’s just the sort of heartwarming piece of Christmas cheer that’s in such demand around this time every year.

***1/2 /****

Comments
  1. CMrok93 says:

    Good review. Tim Allen’s wise-cracks still make me laugh and wonder why they even bothered with a sequel to this. Oh wait, money. Never mind.

  2. moviebuff801 says:

    Thanks. I still like the second film, but the third…yeeeeeeeah, you won’t see me jumping to that one’s defense.

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