Directed by John Pasquin
November 11, 1994
After someone he assumes is a stranger falls off his roof, toy company executive Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) finds himself slowly changing into jolly old St. Nick.
The Santa Clause turned Tim Allen into the king of Christmas and deservedly so. While he does basically transplant his Tim Taylor character from the series Home Improvement to this movie (complete with the weird laugh that originated in his standup routine) there was tenderness not only in his performance but in this film. He turned in a genuinely funny performance that was also extremely family friendly. No easy thing in a film of any type.
The character of Scott Calvin plays wonderfully off his only real nemesis in the film, his ex-wife’s new husband Neal (Judge Reinhold). Calling Neal a nemesis might be a bit of a stretch. He just happens to be what upsets Scott the most in life.
Reinhold is wonderfully stick up the butt in his performance here as the psychiatrist husband. He has such a grating even tone in the delivery of his lines that I do not like his character. He pisses ME off and I was never married to Laura (Wendy Crewson). Part of issue between Scott and Neal is that Scott wishes his son to maintain his child-like belief in Santa but both Neal and Laura feel he must grow up. Guess who is going to screw with that in a big way?
There does not seem to be any real hate between Laura and Scott. They are divorced but there does not seem to be any kind of animosity or even irritation. I do not need specific details, but I need something more that “it just is.” The character of Scott Calvin can be a bit unthinking and that does offer a bit of an indication on the split. In the beginning of the film he is to be with his son Charlie (Eric Lloyd) but is running late because he is at an office Christmas party celebrating the success of a new toy and lies over the phone to cover himself.
On Christmas Eve after the acting (?) Santa buys the farm, Scott is convinced by Charlie to put the Santa garb (the body having magically disappeared). No matter what I cannot see myself putting on the abandoned clothing of a stranger no matter how much a little kid begged me or what season it was. At that point Scott was not believing he had actually killed Santa but rather believed some random stranger had fallen from his roof and then abandoned his clothing in the dead of winter. Nobody would cave to their kid under those conditions. Then again if he had not it would have been a very short movie.
The late, great Peter Boyle shows up in what amounts to an extended cameo as Scott’s boss Mr. Whittle. I expected more of him in this movie. Usually when he showed up in something the creative minds put him in just about every scene even if his character contributed nothing. The man’s resume alone lent cred to any production and maybe that was why he was in it. Not that the film really needs it. It stands well enough on its own merits. David Krumholtz is perhaps the biggest scene stealer as the head elf Bernard. Then again, he is in so many more scenes than Judy the Elf (Paige Tamada) who has perhaps one of the funniest moments in the film. In a conversation at the beginning of the film with Scott, Judy believes he is hitting on her and she mentions that she is seeing someone in wrapping. It is just a very adult moment done in a silly way. I would have liked more scenes with her, but she was in the movie for little more than this one joke.
The Santa Clause goes for the laugh here. It is family friendly but very funny. This film is silly without taking shots at the season. They embrace Christmas tropes and put a bit of a twist on them. For example there are elves for everything in this film-even commando rescues! In the Christmas world of the North Pole polar bears direct traffic and there is an extreme emphasis on the trappings of Christmas.
The laughs come pretty steady. The script is well paced, and everyone turns in a good performance. Too often the performers just phone it in in films like this but not here. I do think the directing at times is a little like a television film, but it does not harm the movie overall. It worked in its favor given the star was most comfortable at the time in that format.
The Santa Clause does not get overly saccharine. While there is emotion in this film based around Scott’s love for his son, it does get weighed down with cuteness and forced sweet moments. The moments that tug at your heart are not heavy in that matter, but they are noticeable.
The Santa Clause is a great family Christmas film. It is a charming slice of Christmas spirit with modern sensibilities that does not talk down the holiday or the characters. Watch it!