The Santa Clause (1994) - film review


Directed by John Pasquin

Starring Tim Allen, Judge Reinhold, Wendy Crewson

Christmas film review by Chris Olson

The Yuletide season can unearth a lot of conflict for many families, being a time where actual human interaction is encouraged, as well alcohol consumption. Centering around a broken family at Christmas, The Santa Clause, starring Tim Allen, tells a familiar story for a lot of families who must add divorce as a trimming to their festivities.


Allen plays Scott Calvin, a lacklustre father but successful businessman (the company he works for makes toys, but unlike Santa, for profit) who has his begrudging son Charlie (Eric Lloyd) stay with him on Christmas Eve. At first desperate to keep his son's innocence which is slowly slipping away as he grows up, Scott is faced with a difficult decision when faced with his own belief system when he encounters (and inadvertently kills) the real Santa Claus. When Santa falls off his roof, Scott adorns the red suit at Charlie's insistence, and ends up entering into a binding, magical contract which makes him the ultimate gift giver.

As Scott takes on the role of Santa, his whole world is shaken up like a snow globe, with physical changes starting to take place, as well as losing his grip on guardianship of Charlie, as the unhealthy relationship with Christmas increases.

Quipping all the way, Allen turns in a charming curmudgeon in Scott which eventually turns into one of the more iconic depictions of Santa. His character's arc is actually quite impressive for a film of this genre, and his relationship with Charlie adds gravitas. His awkward tension with ex-wife Laura (Wendy Crewson) and consistent mocking of her outrageous-jumper-wearing boyfriend Neil (Judge Reinhold) is well executed, delivering a very believable on screen depiction of a broken marriage at Christmas.


One impressive feature of The Santa Clause, as a Christmas film, is its combination of fantasy and reality. Whereas a lot of beloved Christmas movies err on one side of the fence or the other, this story combines emotional realism with epic fantasy. Santa's workshop is a wondrous grotto of joy and colour, and the myriad of Christmas clichés (flying reindeer, elves, the naughty and nice list) are displayed with loving tenderness that will enrapture a younger audience and rekindle a degree of nostalgia in the hardiest of adult cynics.

Whilst some of the special effects seem pretty hokey now, there is always a degree of slack given to a Christmas film, where audiences forgive a slightly dated flying reindeer, in the same way they forgive old tree decorations as they hold sentimental value...or ignore sell by dates on mince pie filling.

Fantastic to see a movie tackle the sensitive issue of divorce through a Christmas story, as well as delivering a gorgeous depiction of all things merry. Aside from some of the ultra "warm and fuzzy" elements, The Santa Clause will most likely remain a firm film favourite for viewers during December.

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