In the grand tradition of Christmas TV repeats, I’m going to re-run last year’s again, although I’ll throw in the odd Craggus Christmas Cracker here and there as I manage to take in some new festive features. So, every day from the 1st of December to Christmas Eve, I’ll be (re)delivering The Craggus’ Christmas Countdown, a handy advent calendar of Christmas movie reviews. Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas!
First up for our Christmas cavalcade is 1994’s “The Santa Clause”, starring Tim Allen. It begins with some well-worn clichés: the divorced, career-minded Dad who is hosting his reluctant son for Christmas Eve while his ex-wife and her new husband go to their parents. Tim Allen, at the height of his “Home Improvement” popularity here, delivers his trademark schtick as Scott Calvin, the man who reluctantly comes to accept that he has been duped into becoming the new Santa Claus due to a contractual quirk when the previous Santa accidentally falls off Calvin’s roof.
Charlie’s mother and her psychiatrist husband become concerned by Charlie’s fervent belief that his father is Santa Claus, while Scott himself has no choice but to take his Santa-hood very seriously as he turns prematurely white and starts putting on weight.
The story rattles along at a brisk pace and the cast are bright, enthusiastic and likeable. Judge Reinhold has the unenviable task of playing Neil, the serious-minded psychiatrist husband but manages to keep him just this side of likeable. Wendy Crewson and Peter Boyle are good value as Scott Calvin’s ex-wife and boss respectively, while Eric Lloyd gives a great performance as Charlie Calvin and David Krumholtz provides some much-needed sass to keep the treacle at bay as no-nonsense elf Bernard.
This is a well thought out version of the Santa Claus mythos, and the film is liberally sprinkled with delightful touches and attention to detail. The North Pole and Santa’s Workshop are wonderfully realised and the director does a great job in using a cast of children as elves without Santa’s interactions, even inadvertent flirting with one elf, seeming creepy or weird. The makeup effect on Tim Allen to transform him fully into Santa Claus is excellent, and Allen really puts the effort in to embody Santa and his eyes positively twinkle with mischievous festivity. True, a few of the lines are real clunkers – “Elves with attitude” but the overall package is as light and frothy and sweet as a well-made cup of eggnog.
Although the sequels are heavily subject to the law of diminishing returns and by the time of “The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause”, the franchise becomes a soulless cash grab, “The Santa Clause” is charming, wonderful and magical Christmas movie that deserves a place on your festive viewing schedule.