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]

Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Rated PG
Starring: Dudley Moore, John Lithgow, and David Huddleston

Review by Jeff Koch

Conventional Synopsis:

Santa Claus: The Movie is really two movies in one. The first movie is the ‘origin’ story of Santa Claus, loving and jovial carpenter who, with his wife, gets caught in a blizzard one night while riding on his sleigh to deliver goods. Through magic (and perhaps death), the Elves find him and he is transformed into the mythical and magical figure we know today.

The second movie is a modern fable involving an evil toy-maker (John Lithgow) and a runaway elf (Dudley Moore) creating a toy that might inadvertently harm children the world over. Only Santa–along with the help of two young children–can save the day.

Beneath the Surface 

I had to break the movie into two separate entities because the first half of the movie is so magical and wonderful, and the second half so dull and predictable, that the two really seem to have no correlation to each other, other than the same actors.

All of the magic takes place in the first half. And to the movie’s credit, it really takes its time, letting the audience savor this loving man’s transformation into Santa Claus. We get to share in his wonder as he first sees the workshop at the North Pole and slowly unlocks all of the secrets of Christmas long taken for granted by most of us. We experience his first sleigh ride with magic reindeer, the invention of the “Naughty or Nice” list, the Elves magical industriousness. The film indulges us in every small detail of the North Pole, and doesn’t take for granted that we all already know what it’s like. It really captures the magic of what we all imagined as children.

The second half of the movie is such a let down–and has so little bearing on what preceded it–that I almost recommend turning it off once we get to modern times. The usually reliable Lithgow puts on a clinic in overacting; the children act so poorly it’s almost comical. Huddleston and Moore are still great, but there’s no real story to latch on to, no dramatic tension that propels you along. Even worse, the magic is completely sapped from the film. If there’s a message to be delivered here, it sure didn’t find its way under my tree.

The first half of the movie is certainly worth seeing if you never have before, but don’t expect any Christmas miracles at the end, nor any rush of holiday cheer or spirit.

Ratings

Cocoa Factor = 7 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 = 9 out of 10 / 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 = 8 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 = 8 out of 10 / 5 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 = 8 out of 10 (“movie 1”) / 5 out of 10 (“movie 2”)

About bensten

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

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