The Santa Clause (1994)

Posted by on Jan 2, 2012 in Christmas Treats (Other Than Your Aunt Mildred's Gingersnaps) | 0 comments


Disclaimer: Those children with good reasoning may feel compelled to kill Santa.

Whether the idea for The Santa Clause sprouted from an unintentional misspelling or a direct reference to Chico Marx’s “sanity clause” bit, writers Leo Benvenuti and Steve Rudnick (the team behind Space Jam and Kicking & Screaming) obviously and fleetingly took pride in discovering a new meaning for Santa Claus by the simple addition of an “E.” Thanks to that little vowel, the duo penned three holiday comedies, the first of which has the only real value (and even that is arguable).

The framework of the film’s plot is as routine as they come. We follow an undependable divorcee, who focuses far too much on his work and far too little on his familial relationships, especially regarding his young son. Tim Allen fills in as Scott Calvin, who has custody of his child for Christmas Eve, much to the boy’s dismay. The young Charlie (Eric Lloyd) recently heard there is no Santa Claus, so he’s understandably even more bummed out. When Scott hears about it, first pointing blame at his ex-wife’s (Wendy Crewson) new boyfriend (a psychiatrist played by Judge Reinhold), he uses the opportunity to play dad and insist that he believes in the fat man. Yet, when Charlie asks logistical questions about Santa’s job, Scott isn’t too reassuring.

But if there’s one thing this Santa2movie is known for, it’s the fact that it provides all the answers curious kids could possibly query about Mr. Kringle. In a dizzying chain of events began by a “clutter,” Santa falls off a roof and dies, Scott finds a card that says, “if something should happen to me, put on my suit,” and Charlie somehow talks his father into filling in for the jolly old soul. As the reindeer fly from roof to roof, the film shows us how Santa gets down small or non-existent chimneys, how all those toys fit in a sack, and even how he visits all those homes (though you have to be sharp to catch this one).

As Scott and Charlie find out from the elves upon returning the sleigh to the North Pole, the instructional card actually had a “clause” in fine print that binds Scott to the duties of Santa Claus until his death. So, until Thanksgiving, Scott can lead a personal life, but he must return for the Christmas preparations. But, surprise surprise, his hair rapidly turns white, his weight skyrockets, and kids stop him on the street to tell him their gift wishes.

On the surface, the Santa santa3explanations look to satisfy the inquisitive and questioning minds of youngsters. A deeper look into the film’s themes, however, points to a more adult audience. Reinhold’s character, an intelligent and well-intentioned psychiatrist, represents the larger scope of a society concerned with science, medicine, and the politically correct. Much like The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, this film argues that fantasy has little space in ages of reason. But unlike Munchausen, which empowers viewers to have faith and imagination, The Santa Clause tells us that seeing is believing. Ask any child with faith and imagination, and they’ll gladly tell you Santa exists, even if they can’t explain the logistics. Ask any teen, and they’ll have nothing but doubt. The sad truth is that society forces us to question these things as we age, and it is at the aging audience that the film’s message is directed.

After adding some cutesiness and a youngster main character to broaden the audience base, The Santa Clause raked in a whopping $189 million worldwide and led to two sequels (The Santa Clause 2 (2002) and Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006)).

Filmmakers wrote the original with Bill Murray in mind. I only point this out because of how often we hear “so-and-so” could have been the lead, therefore ruining a classic film (Ronald Reagan in Casablanca being a prime example). The difference here is, first of all, The Santa Clause is far from a classic and, secondly, Bill Murray would have been much better. Chevy Chase was also considered, but thankfully had to turn it down. This isn’t to say Allen doesn’t fill Santa’s shoes well. He handles the sarcastic and snappy wit well enough, but do we really need to associate Santa’s “Ho Ho Ho” with his grunting catchphrase from Home Improvement? I think not.

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