I remember renting the video cassette for “The Santa Clause” when I was only eight years old. It had already been established as a classic by people far beyond my knowledge and age, which fuelled the flames of childish wonder sky-high. Although its success rendered two sequels, they fell behind on both revenue and satisfaction grounds. Tim Allen, who plays the jolly Saint Nicolas himself, should have called it a day after the first instalment, reserving a note of victory upon exit. Director Michael Lembeck seemed just as invested, continuing the series twelve years after the original’s release. Good effort, guys, but nothing beats film number one and here is the reason why.
Plotted around the story of Scott Calvin (Allen) – a divorced toy salesman, who is struggling to connect with only son Charlie, trouble comes when an unexpected guest falls off his roof on Christmas night. An empty-seated sleigh awaits on top of Calvin’s house, led by a full package of reindeer sniffling the crispy cold air. Unknowingly, Scott and Charlie are about to discover just how real Christmas magic is a the revelation will change their lives for good. After a colourful visit to the North Pole and Santa’s workshop, they return back home confused and bewildered by the almost unreal adventure. As Calvin begins to morph into his new position of festive guardian, he receives a beard that defies trimming and a tummy able to devours cookies like a mighty paper shredder. Carol, Charlie’s mother, refuses to believe this process is the real spirit of Christmas and does everything within her power to fight for their son’s custody. But in the thick of family season, it’s up to Scott Calvin and his right hand elf Bernard to show her and the world otherwise.
Per nineties ritual, the soundtrack to this picture is one of its most important ingredients. Composed by Michael Convertino, it conveys the triumphant highs of jollity and the thin lows of stumbling mishaps to perfection. For a true representation of the rollercoaster tonality, listen to “Let’s Go”, which is number one on the album. If that doesn’t get you in the mood for a warmly tucked blanked in front of the television set, then all hope shall be abandoned.
The elves, most of which appear as children, but are aged at an impressive number of centuries, help restore the balance of cheer just as much. Bernard’s dry stares and flat humour are sure to get you giggling over his stone cold facial expressions and nonchalant supernatural terminology. There is nothing more priceless than a grumpy, yet loving old soul trapped in the body of a prepubescent boy.
Tim Allen himself stays true to the comedic timbre of his Scott Calvin, complaining about lactose intolerance to a sleeping child and trying to jog the Santa weigh off on a miniature treadmill. Despite these sunny-side-up undertones, the spectator is still majorly faced with the issue of divorce and abandonment. Struggling to prove the truth, Calvin slowly loses grip on the last fragments of family he has. Allen emphasises on this in equal measures, levelling hopelessness with undying optimism. However, this wouldn’t be a Christmas film without a miraculous bounce back, so a group of special-op elves fly to the rescue.
Let’s not forget the entire sequence of events is triggered by the accidental death of Santa Clause. Not a lot of movies are brave enough to pull a freak plot point such as this banger here, but Lembeck twists it notably well. Instead of lingering on the morbidity of it all, we find ourselves urging it on. If the spirit of Christmas himself fell down from my roof, I imagine I’d be calling an ambulance instead of thinking up possibilities.
Through medical appointments, court dates, custody battles and a police arrest, “The Santa Clause” manages to emerge as festive as the next film of its kind. It shows that the power of Christmas can bring the hardest of hearts to peace and the grimmest of situations to light. It finishes strong and exhilarating, feeding the desire to call your mum and dad, or step up and even visit them. Maybe it’ll be worth sleeping in your old single bed under a Jason Sudeikis poster, you never know.
May your Christmas be merry through thick and thin, because it’s the time of year where everyone’s a little nicer and a tad more generous. Be kind and be happy, and bring the same to everyone around.
Now pour yourself a cup of eggnog.