The Twelve Flicks of Christmas

A ben’s TEN Holiday Series

Get the Scoop You Won’t Find Anywhere Else on 12 Christmas Movies Old and New
[See complete list of reviews]

The Santa Clause (1994)
Directed by John Pasquin
Rated PG
Starring: Tim Allen, Judge Reinhold, Wendy Crewson, Eric Lloyd

Review by Jeff Koch

Conventional Synopsis:

Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) is a divorced father spending Christmas Eve with his son who doesn’t want to be there. When he inadvertently witnesses Santa Claus fall off of his roof and die, he becomes the new Santa Claus by way of a legal clause. The problem is: only his son believes it. Even he doesn’t believe it, until he’s given no other choice.

Beneath the Surface 

Murder. Kidnapping. Legal intrigue. Does this sound like a family movie to you? Me, neither. Even if you’re couching it in PG language and imagery, you can’t get around the fact that this movie’s premise is built around the inadvertent murder of Santa Claus! Isn’t that called manslaughter? That point is brushed off so easily and given no dramatic weight or consideration at all. Scott’s son, who witnesses the dead Santa lying in front of him, seems totally unfazed.

Nor can you ignore the fact that the movie hinges on a custody battle and a kidnapping! After Scott accepts his role as Santa Claus, he brings his son along with him to the North Pole to prepare for Christmas. Never mind the fact that he is indeed Santa, this is kidnapping. He takes his son with nary a thought of consideration given to the child’s mother, nor does the child seem to mind being away from his mother for a month. Nor is she told anything, so she does what any concerned mother would do, she calls the police. And Scott becomes a wanted man. And the climax of the movie hinges around a manhunt for Santa Claus, and his eventual arrest. (And being busted out of jail by an Army of Elves, but we don’t even have time to get into that.)

Movies that pedal in “magic” still need to deal with and exist in some sort of reality, and this movie sadly lacks in both. Tim Allen gives a terribly uneven performance. He seems to be a horrible father and an extremely unlikable sarcastic loud-mouth. Yet we see moments of tenderness towards his son. But these are then undercut by a short fuse and an unwillingness to believe a single thing his son says. There is no gradual transformation into his believing that he is indeed Santa Claus, so there is no emotional pay-off. At no point do we ever really like Scott, other than by virtue of knowing that this is a family movie and we should like him.

And for a movie that deals so strongly in the most magical myth of Christmas, very little time is spent in that magic place. We see the North Pole and Santa’s workshop (staffed by elves who happen to look exactly like children) for a few brief moments here and there, but most of the movie is spent back in the real world, in court rooms and board meetings, watching Tim Allen become fat and grow a beard. The movie is at its best in the very few moments when we get glimpses of that supposed magic. Sadly, there’s far too little of it to be had.

Ratings

Cocoa Factor = 5 out of 10
How good is this one for cozying up with a fire burning, a hot beverage of your choice, and your new Snuggy?

Magicality = 5 out of 10
How well does this one transport you back to the timeless wonderment beyond rationality when Christmas enveloped you in magic? AKA “The Santa Clause factor.”

A Date with Grandma and Aunt Bernice = 7 out of 10
How appropriate/awkward is this one to watch with relatives of all ages? Will hot kissing scenes or male rear nudity spoil the mood?

Tiny Tim’s Big Truths = 4 out of 10
From the mouths of babes come life’s most profound lessons. At the heart of this flick, how authentic, heartfelt and lasting is the message? Does it transcend Xmas clichés and ring bells?

Overall = 5 out of 10

About bensten

Teacher, writer, blogger and spiritual practitioner. Managing editor of bensten.wordpress.com.

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