Jolly ol’ Saint Nick crashed into my roof late the other night. When he squeezed his wide self down the chimney and caused a mess with equal gracelessness minutes later, the two of us had a chat about his job and how under-appreciated it really is. After I got over my initial shock about the fact that the guy was actually real, we sat down and I cracked a beer, while the big man gorged himself on milk and cookies that for years I swear were always going to waste at the fireplace. The chat would be quite brief as he obviously had many millions of other homes to get to over the course of the night (stressful much?) but in the end, I got excellent insight into the true identity of the man, the myth and the legend Santa Claus. Turns out, his image had been concealed the entire time. Actually an alcoholic by the name of Tim Allen, his festive alias had been successful covering up incidences like this one for centuries. To prove this was the case, he took a big swig of my 40-oz Old English, threw his toy bag over his shoulder and headed out the front door, asking kindly for a ladder so he could access the roof once more and head on out. I obliged and bid farewell to the bumbling man behind the bushy beard.
Today’s food for thought: The Santa Clause.
Release: November 11, 1994
When up on the roof there arose such a clatter, Scott Calvin reluctantly dashed outside to see what was the matter. . . .
Looking back, it seems strange now to imagine the great Bill Murray magically transforming into the beloved and iconic role of Santa Claus in this Disney classic. In fact it’s impossible.
Maybe Tim Allen’s seemingly natural fit for this role is enhanced by the realization that this was his big-screen debut. Anytime one thinks about the man’s acting chops, they are likely to think back to The Santa Clause, the serendipitous tale about a man whose family life is falling to the wayside when suddenly he’s given a second chance after he inadvertently kills Santa and takes over his duties having donned the big red coat.
Scott is recently divorced and only gets to see his son, Charlie (Eric Lloyd) over the holiday season. His ex-wife Laura (Wendy Crewson) is now seeing a shrink. . .and not for the therapy sessions, either. Dr. Neil Miller (Judge Reinhold) is a psychologist, a nice man with an apparent taste in tacky sweaters, and a skepticism of Scott. The Millers represent something of the perfect Christmas family, one that’s likely to receive nothing but nice gifts; whereas Mr. Calvin over here is doomed for a stocking full of coal.
All of that would soon change following his initial half-hearted completion of Santa’s route across the planet that one fateful Christmas Eve.
To think that someone with a criminal record could play the role of St. Nick is a little disconcerting, especially for those making the film. This is like learning the guy who played Barney the purple dinosaur detested children, or that Steve from Blue’s Clues enjoyed a cocaine high perhaps a bit too much. However, Disney and director John Pasquin felt more comfortable with this particular casting choice than paying attention to some little gray area and hence, Allen’s big screen break.
The casting of the former Home Improvement star is particularly amusing in the first installment as we get to witness the transformation. Allen’s character reluctantly goes from regular guy on the street to a mythical, jolly and lovable spirit. The way the film handles such a transition is perhaps the most enjoyable aspect to The Santa Clause because we get to see the practical implications of his physique. We see his belly rapidly expanding and his facial hair growing as if he’s experiencing a second bout of puberty — times ten! One particular shot of him on a park bench watching Charlie play is priceless.
Allen is good here, no doubt about it. He’s an actor with some great comedic timing, an asset put to good use in this film. However, that’s not to suggest he was starring in a perfect one. Far from it, in fact. The Santa Clause has been accused of excessive sentimentalism, some rather lame joke-telling, and one or two questionably adult themes (the ‘1-800-SPANK-ME’ line apparently caused a real-life outrage) that tended to mix awkwardly with material that was clearly aimed at the more youthful crowd. There’s no steering your sleigh around those facts; this movie dangerously towed the line between dark drama and inane comedy (going to the North Pole proved to be a great example of the latter in the significantly worse sequels), and made this film more unbalanced than it needed to be.
All the same, one can’t deny the twinkle that Allen had in his eyes when the transformation was finally complete. Touching moments abound when Scott finally lets go of all of his previous misconceptions about the holiday, and this is especially true when his identity is eventually revealed to the public (or at least, the people who matter — like the Millers) the very next Christmas. Seeing adults react to the knowledge that Santa is indeed a real person was one of my favorite experiences with this film as a child, an effect that has only moderately weakened over time. The Santa Clause may not be the definitive Christmas classic, but it does just fine on its own.
Recommendation: An admirably clever way to break down some of the mystery surrounding one of the most fabled characters of all time, Pasquin’s full-length feature debut is certainly more desirable over his next outing with Tim Allen (the downright atrocious Jungle 2 Jungle). It also manages to entertain adults and children alike, even though the emphasis is unarguably on the latter. Still, grown-ups could do a lot worse than this as far as kids movies are concerned.
Running Time: 97 mins.
Quoted: “Well, isn’t that a pretty picture, Santa rolling down the block in a PANZER! Well kids, I. . .I certainly hope you have been good this year, cause it looks like Santa just took out the Pearson home. Incoming!”
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