THE SANTA CLAUSE: Holiday Movies At Their Worst
The Santa Clause isn't the festive classic you remember - it's a soulless comedy that doesn't even understand the meaning of Christmas.
The Tim Allen Disney vehicle, The Santa Clause, came out in November 1994. It reached number one at the box office, Allen also had a hit show with Home Improvement and made comedy specials. Allen starred in several Disney-related films making him a contemporary Dean Jones or Fred MacMurray in the ‘go-to grown up’ roles needed in live-action Disney films. At the time of the film’s release, I was in the sixth grade and a month shy of my twelfth birthday. I saw the movie and owned it on VHS. I enjoyed this movie at the time, and decided to re-visit it to see if it holds up; it doesn’t.
Four year prior, I introduced this movie to my then-girlfriend, now wife when we spent our first Christmas together. She had never seen it, and I built it up to be this fun comedy. We sat down one evening and put it on (it was available through a video-on-demand service). From start to finish, minimal if any laughter. My wife feel asleep at the 1 hour mark. I woke her up and this exchanged followed:
“Why did you pick that movie? It wasn’t funny,” she said. I sighed, and shook my head.
“Sorry, I remember it being funnier. I can’t believe it’s crap,” I said. We turned off the TV, and go to bed.
Like a previous article published by Film Inquiry, “The Dangers of Nostalgia”, my memory had been that of a world seen through the eyes of a child. An eleven or twelve year old’s humor is still undeveloped. A flatulent reindeer (there’s one in the movie) is the funniest thing ever to a kid, but after re-watching it with adult eyes, I see a film that does not hold up and is a failure as a holiday movie. Below are several reasons why The Santa Clause is an awful, unfunny movie.
Tim Allen plays Scott Calvin (SC like Santa Claus, get it?) who cares only about his success. He is divorced and has the opportunity to spend Christmas Eve with his son. You want to feel sorry for the kid. In Disney movies, child actors are either charming, funny or sweet. This kid is none of those things.
The child whines and complains throughout the duration of the movie. He lacks any form of character depth. When he does crack a smile, it’s because the little brat got his way. Whether it’s hanging out at the North Pole or talking about anything Santa-related.
No matter what Tim Allen does, his wimpy kid is never totally satisfied. He doesn’t do anything to add to the story, except to test the patience of the audience.
We know now that Scott Calvin only cares about himself, but what about the other adults? There are many scenes with his ex-wife and her new husband, and you’d think there would be a decent one in the group, but there isn’t. Scott always insults his ex’s new husband, Neil, but not because the new husband is a jerk, but because he’s a psychiatrist and a bit of a dweeb. I understand the mockery if Neil had questionable behavior, but he’s as bland as white bread, completely inoffensive. Also, the wife thinks everything Scott does is only for himself, but she’s pretty similar.
For a Christmas movie, these are not uplifting characters. There are minimal changes at the end where they accept each other for who they are, but the majority of the movie is just a constant attack. If I want to see couples fight and get immersed in the verbal sparring, I’d watch Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, not a Disney movie.
As referenced earlier, The Santa Clause is painfully unfunny. What leads to this observation is the sheer amount of lazy, tired jokes that are sprinkled throughout the story. In particular, Allen brings too much of his Tim “The Toolman” Taylor persona to the portrayal of Scott Calvin.
Early in the film, Allen ruins the Christmas Eve dinner planned for him and his son. The scene descents to a whole “ugh ugh, me man, me no cook good, ugh ugh” bit and they end up at Denny’s, populated by other divorced dads that ruined dinner and Asian businessmen. First, they overdo the “dads can’t cook” gag and for the Asian men, I see that the filmmakers want to point out that Christmas is not widely celebrated in Asia, that is why they’re at Denny’s. However, if the men traveled to the US for business, why is it near Christmas when many companies take a holiday? It does not make sense, and the gag doesn’t work.
According to the movie, if you accidentally kill Santa Claus, you must assume the duties of Santa. Once the deal is made, you gradually transform into Santa. Santa, as we know, has a white beard and a round gut. On the latter, it brings an abundance of fat jokes. A few is understandable given the character’s sudden change in appearance, but like the other jokes in the movie, it is done too often and you can see the joke coming from a mile away.
Lack Of Holiday Cheer
Many Christmas films share the recurring themes of kindness, love for your family and friends, and the spirit of the holiday season. Bill Murray becomes a better person at the end of Scrooged and we see his character develop through the course of The Santa Clause. Chevy Chase at the end of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation learns Christmas is not about the best decorations and meal, but sharing the holiday with people you love the most. You feel good at the end of both movies. With The Santa Clause, the holiday cheer is absent.
The characters are horrible people, and they change because of gifts. In the third act, there is a slight promotion of greed and materialism. Scott Calvin’s ex-wife and Neil don’t believe in Santa because they did not receive the gifts they wanted as children. When the film ends, they each receive the gift they asked for and now believe in Santa. Everyone suddenly becomes happy and fulfilled because of stuff.
The elves in particular are obsessed with getting toys out. Receiving a gift is nice, but the joy of giving a present outweighs receiving one. This movie mangles holiday cheer. It gives families watching this the message that we need things to be happy. The Santa Clause is an empty vessel that will make you feel lousy.
The Santa Clause: Final Thoughts
As we see, this is not a holiday classic. It somehow spawned two sequels, and I’m still trying to figure out who in the audience wanted more of this story. It certainly wasn’t me, I was a university-aged student by the time the sequels were released and knew better.
The Santa Clause is a failure as a holiday movie. It promotes negative aspects of the season and attempts to have you cheer for disgusting, irritating people. My advice is to stay away from this train wreck, and find something that will make you smile and see the meaning of the season. Merry Christmas and happy holidays.
Do you agree with this article? What holiday movie makes you happy? Please comment below
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