SANTA CLAUS1985"Now, all those within the sound of my voice, and all those on this Earth everywhere know that henceforth you will be called Santa Claus."
-- Ancient Elf
Santa Claus is a 1985 family film directed by Jeannot Szwarc that tells the story of the origins of Santa Claus himself before giving him a contemporary problem to face. The man who would be Santa Claus (David Huddleston) lived a humble life delivering toys to the children of his village on Christmas Eve, but after his wife Anya (Judy Cornwell) and he are caught in a snowstorm on year, the two magically find themselves surrounded by elves who lead them to a mystical factory at the North Pole. According to an ancient prophesy, this man was destined to become Santa Claus, and so, he begins to take his gift-giving on a global scale for all of eternity. Fast-forward to the present day, and a slightly disgruntled elf named Patch (Dudley Moore) who desperately wants to impress Santa with his toy-making skills makes his way to New York city and joins with a big-time toymaker B.Z. (John Lithgow) to create the next big sensation for the mass consumer public, forcing Santa to reconsider his entire toy-making philosophy.
I can honestly say that I had never heard of this film before doing a quick search on NetFlix for a fancy holiday movie to watch this evening. Unlike many of the other films I've reviewed during this holiday season, this one just hasn't quite been on anyone's radar, and after giving it a viewing, I'd have to say there's probably a good reason for such. Critically, the film never garnered much success - it currently holds an 18% approval rating on Rottentomatoes.com - and it hasn't fared much better with your average reviewing public (the Internet Movie Database lists its current score as a 5.2 out of a possible 10.0). Despite the negative feedback that the film has received, I still held out hope that it might prove to be at least moderately enjoyable.
Sadly, the film falls short of any real expectations. The screenplay can be split into two sections, almost two acts, if you will. The first act focuses on Santa's origins, and to be fair, that part of the story fascinated me more than the second part. Sure, the filmmakers made every attempt to include as many Santa and Christmas clichés as possible, but despite that, it still serves as an interesting version of how the many may have taken up his duties. The film's second act, however, fails to stir even the slightest bit of imagination. I feel like I've seen it all before: a former employee decides to go against his former boss by helping out the main competition. How many films have followed that storyline in the past? It seems tried and tested, and under the Christmas lights, it just doesn't seem to fit all that well. The film turned sour and ultimately a bit boring, and I had to fight to keep my attention with the screen.
What's worse is that our acting ensemble doesn't exactly pick up the slack. While there are some recognizable faces, there's no one who's really giving all that great of a performance. While I've personally never heard of our titular lead Huddleston, a quick look at his acting career shows that he's appeared in such big-time films as 1974's Blazing Saddles and, perhaps most famously, as the titular character in 1998's The Big Lebowski. However, he doesn't offer much in terms of a role here, despite playing a Santa Claus that I think we all could wish was the real one. We're also getting some spotty performances from some bigger names like Oscar nominees Moore and Lithgow, who are both too over-the-top to be believed in any way imaginable. We're also getting some moderately bad performances from our two child actors - Christian Fitzpatrick and Carrie Kei Heim - but I don't want to stomp on them too much. The only person who offers even a slightly is Cornwell as Mrs. Claus, but she's used so sparsely that it's almost impossible to notice.
Ultimately, Santa Claus is probably a Christmas film that you should pass. It's not really offering anything all that fascinating, and I personally couldn't find a way to keep myself engaged with the characters or the storyline. Still, I can't completely bash it because it does have quite a dash of Christmas spirit. That being said, I still don't think it's worth the time or the effort to watch it, so watch it at your own discretion.
Movie Review Summary
1.5 Thumbs Down