It’s not all that often you get a new Christmas movie – in the cinema at least. Direct to DVD and cookie-cutter TV movies abound but a theatrically released Christmas movie is something a bit special.
When Tom discovers Santa Claus hiding in his garden shed, he eagerly agrees to help him recover his sleigh and his reindeer so he can return to Lapland in time for Christmas. But when Tom’s dad Steve, recently released from prison gets involved, they end up on the run from the police while Jolly Old St Nick ends up, well, in the Nick.
It’s a very British, very modestly budgeted affair which gets by for the first half pretty much on its character interactions in a drab and dreary London (although much of the filming was done in Yorkshire). There’s a vaguely gritty TV-drama feel to the film and while the performances are all light-hearted, there’s still an edge of the harsher realities of life and signs of Christmas are few and far between. Thankfully, writer/ director Christopher Smith is playing the long game and keeping as much of his budget as possible for the finale.
Rafe Spall is likeable and engaging as recently parolled getaway driver Steve (it’s a family Christmas film, so obviously his crime wasn’t going to be anything really nasty) and he has a great rapport with newcomer Kit Connor as his son. The script and story are a little uneven though and there are points where Steve‘s flip-flopping belief in Santa starts to strain credibility because of the evidence around him. In fact, in the movie’s ‘all is lost’ moment, it just doesn’t make sense that our hero would change his mind.
Some of the characters are a little too broad in their writing and portrayal, such as Joanna Scanlan’s bufonophilic parole officer while others are underused, such as Warick Davis’ definitely-not-an-elf prison inmate but despite the problems which niggle at the script and story, overall it’s a pretty successful festive feature. Thankfully, the film’s saving grace is in its title star. Jim Broadbent is Santa Claus, or at least I wish he was. He is brilliant in the role, twinkly eyed, wise and relentlessly cheery and optimistic and although he’s played the role once before (vocally in “Arthur Christmas”), he’s even better here and Santa’s efforts to blend in and survive in prison make for the movie’s funniest and most touching moments.
The film magically comes alive once we get to the finale and while the visit to Lapland (this Santa doesn’t live in the North Pole) and the subsequent prison break are exciting, funny and occasionally icky (reindeer poo is used in a way it has never been before) it feels rushed and unfinished, leaving you wanting more but not in a good way.
Broadbent is definitely one of the best screen Santas of all time, and as charming as “Get Santa” is, you can’t help feeling he deserved a better film to be in. It’s a perfectly serviceable way to pass the time waiting for the man himself to turn up on Christmas Eve but it’ll struggle to find a place amongst the firmament of festive favourites.