Sunday, December 18, 2016

Christmas Movie Marathon Day 22

           I'm trying something different to get in the holiday spirit this year. Every day, from now through Christmas, I will be watching a different Christmas movie or television special. I have compiled the list of features ahead of time and am drawing one, at random, from my Christmas stocking everyday to determine what gets watched. Thank you for joining me in this endeavor. Let's find out what the twenty-second feature is.

The Santa Clause (1994)

           I have only seen this movie one time, on VHS, way back in the holiday season of 1995. My mother arranged to have someone place a package from Santa in our tree while we were out doing whatever holiday activities we were up to 21 years ago. That package was a VHS copy of The Santa Clause. My family watched it together that night. I remember enough about the story to know that I didn't hate it but it also didn't become something I watched in future years. If I was that lukewarm on it at age 10 it doesn't bode particularly well for me now. But, maybe I'm wrong, let's find out. 


           It is Christmas Eve; Scott Calvin, a divorced toy executive, has custody of his son, Charlie, for the holiday. Charlie would prefer to spend Christmas with his mom, Laura, and her boyfriend, Neal. For his part, Scott doesn't really know what to do to make Christmas special. He burns the turkey necessitating a run to Denny's for the Christmas Eve meal and then he stumbles his way through a reading of T'was the Night Before Christmas. With both of them feeling discouraged, Scott puts Charlie to bed.
           Soon, however, Charlie is awoken by a sound up on the roof. He goes to wake up his dad. At first, Scott doesn't believe him but then he hears the sound as well. They go outside and spot Santa on the roof. Scott calls out to Santa which causes him to lose his footing and fall off the roof and die. Scott finds a card in the deceased Santa's pocket telling him that if anything happens to Santa whoever is reading the card should put on the suit and the reindeer will know what to do. With that the body vanishes and, with some prodding from Charlie, Scott does indeed put on the suit and they end up making the rest of Santa's deliveries.

It is the rare Christmas movie that has Santa die an ignominious death inside of its first 15 minutes.

           With the deliveries completed the reindeer bring them to the North Pole. It is here that Scott is made aware that his life has been forever altered. In fine print, along the outside edge of the card that was in Santa's pocket, is printed the titular Santa Clause. By putting on the suit and entering the sleigh, Scott has given up all rights to his previous life and has become the new Santa. Scott is in disbelief and falls asleep at the North Pole still protesting this chain of events. He and Charlie wake up back at the house and Scott is beginning to think that it was just a dream until he realizes that he is wearing the pajamas that he got at the North Pole.
           The film then speeds us through the year leading up to the next holiday season. Scott undergoes magical changes that make him look his new part. Charlie fully believes in what happened even before Scott does making his mom and Neal wonder if Scott might be an unhealthy influence on him. Laura and Neal successfully petition to have Scott's visitation rights revoked. In spite of this, Charlie returns with Scott to the North Pole at Thanksgiving to prepare for the coming Christmas creating a kidnapped child situation.  Because of this, Scott gets grabbed by the police when he arrives to fill the stockings at Laura's house. Charlie and some special forces elves break Scott out of jail and Scott returns Charlie to Laura and Neal. Laura suddenly believes Scott's story and burns the documents revoking his visitation rights. This somehow makes everything better and Scott leaves to make the rest of his deliveries, confident and assured in his role as Santa.

"You took my son for a month without telling me where he was, I want you to see more of him for some reason"

Final Thoughts

           The first thing that strikes me about this film is the way Tim Allen goes about playing Scott Calvin. I get that he is trying to play a redeemable asshole type character a la Bill Murray in Groundhog's Day but he simply lacks the charm necessary to do so. He just comes off as wholly mean spirited. A second point is that this movie simply oozes nineties cliches. The entire plot is constructed around a legal contract regarding Santa Claus. I can't imagine this being dreamed up outside of the overly litigious era of hot coffee lawsuits. Further the film tackles that frequent topic of nineties family movies: divorced parents. To its credit, they don't end up back together at the film's conclusion, which is refreshing. All in all, not the worst thing I've watched for this project but there are simply too many logical inconsistencies and too much sloppy writing for me to add it to my regular rotation. It will likely be another 21 years before I seek this one out again. On the plus side, it is available on Netflix. So, if you have a subscription and are desperate for a holiday feature, this film is there for you. See you next time.

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