One would expect a holiday epic with a title like Santa Claus: The Movie. It implies something definitive, which would therefore put it in the canon of Christmas classics. However, this is definitely not the case. Rather than inspiring the magic of the holiday, this movie is more likely to make you drowsy on Christmas Eve, preparing all for the arrival of the title character.
Santa Claus goes into the “history” of Saint Nick starting with a jolly Russian toymaker who would give gifts to all the local boys and girls. In a move reminiscent of Spielberg’s alien films Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, elves abduct the toymaker and dub him Santa Claus.
Mixed in are a street-wise young boy named Joe (Christian Fitzpatrick), a rich girl (Carrie Kie Heim) who is raised by her nanny, Patch (Dudley Moore), an elf with dreams of a mass toy production and an evil, cigar-smoking toy executive (John Lithgow) looking to repair a faltering public image. So much going on, so little time, absolutely no excitement. Simply put, Santa Claus is boring. Scene after scene drags on. The only magic comes in the form of animated twinkles, an after effect that tries to force enchantment. However magic comes from a feeling and it can’t be forced. A Christmas Story is set entirely in “reality” yet it is filled with the magic of the season. Santa Claus, on the other hand, is forced. It just keeps dragging on and on and on some more. And right when you’re ready for it to be over, the second act kicks in.
If there’s anything positive about the film, it’s the look. Santa Claus was ambitious for its time. As a result, it appears that no cost was spared in creating the film’s look. This doesn’t transfer over into the script though where the multiple story lines overlap and aren’t given the necessary time to develop properly.
There is room out there for a definitive Santa Claus film. The original Miracle on 34th Street might come close, but it’s not quite there. Santa Claus: The Movie, no matter how ambitious the production or the definitive sound of its title, isn’t even close.
Santa Claus: The Movie Trailer