tek's rating: ¾

The Santa Clause (PG)
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Caution: spoilers.

This came out in 1994, and I'm sure I saw it at least once, presumably in the 90s. But I'm writing this review after watching it in 2022, the day after "The Santa Clauses" premiered on Disney+, because I wanted to refresh my memory of the movie before watching the series. (I should at least watch the first sequel before watching the series, as well.) I didn't remember particularly caring for the film, and now that I've seen it again, that feeling hasn't really changed. The story isn't bad, and I guess I found some of the humor at least mildly amusing. (One of my favorite jokes was about Disney Channel, which I know was just a toss-off, on-brand bit of advertisement, and it might have been funnier if I'd been watching the movie on Disney Channel, but I found it funny enough because I was watching it on Disney+.) But I'd say most of the movie's humor didn't really land, for me, and I'm not sure how much of that is because of the writing and how much is because I've never particularly been a fan of Tim Allen, who plays the main character. I can say the movie pulls off a neat trick of being both too family-friendly and not family-friendly enough, for my taste. It's both cynical and saccharine, and I'm not sure how well those two things mix, in this case. But overall, at least I didn't mind watching the movie.

Scott Calvin (Allen) works for a toy company (a fact I didn't remember, but I think it's kind of a nice touch). He's divorced from a woman named Laura (Wendy Crewson), who is now married to a psychiatrist named Dr. Neil Miller (Judge Reinhold). Laura and Neil are raising Laura and Scott's young son, Charlie, who reluctantly goes to stay with Scott for Christmas Eve. That night, Charlie hears a noise on the roof, and when Scott goes to investigate, he finds Santa Claus standing on the roof. Scout shouts at him, startling Santa, who falls off the roof and dies. (Pretty grim setup for the main plot, right?) Scott finds a business card in Santa's suit, though of course he doesn't believe it's really Santa Claus. He and Charlie end up going for a ride in Santa's sleigh, and Scott has to deliver presents, so he puts on Santa's suit. At the end of the night, the reindeer take them to the North Pole, where they meet some elves, including the head elf, Bernard (David Krumholtz), and an elf named Judy. (There are tons of other elves working in the background.) Bernard gives Charlie a magical snow globe, and Judy gives Scott a pair of pajamas, after Bernard explains to Scott that by putting on Santa's suit, he became the new Santa Claus. (It's all on the business card, in fine print that Scott hadn't read.) This rule about how new people acquire the role of Santa is called the "Santa Clause", which I don't think is a terrible pun, though it's a bit of a thin premise to base a whole movie on, let alone a franchise. But whatever. Scott eventually goes to sleep, and wakes up the next morning in his own house.

Despite the fact that Scott is still wearing the pajamas Judy gave him, and Charlie still has the snow globe, Scott believes the previous night's events were all a dream, because he still doesn't believe in Santa Claus. It seems pretty odd to me that he couldn't tell a dream from reality, let alone ignoring tangible proof that it all happened, but as Judy said, in one of the film's more memorable lines, "seeing isn't believing; believing is seeing". Unfortunately for Scott, Charlie believes the events were real, and is convinced his dad is the new Santa Claus. (It's kind of sad, when you think about it, that that is basically the only thing that makes him want to spend time with his father.) Laura and Neil are very disturbed by Charlie's new obsession, and I think they place undue blame for it on Scott, despite his trying to talk Charlie out of it. But when the next Christmas approaches, Scott's physical appearance suddenly starts changing. He rapidly gains weight and a beard, and his hair starts turning white. And still he doesn't believe what's really going on, but Laura and Neil believe he's intentionally playing into Charlie's delusion, so that Charlie will want to spend more time with him, which leads them to get his visitation rights revoked. Beyond that, I don't want to reveal too many more details. But things get more dramatic after Scott finally accepts the truth about himself being the new Santa Claus and takes Charlie with him to deliver presents. Of course, in the end, even Laura and Neil come to believe the truth, and all the drama is resolved.

There were parts of the movie I kind of liked and parts I kind of didn't like, both in regard to humor and drama. I can't say I cared especially much about any of the characters, but at least I didn't really dislike any of them, for the most part. (My least favorite joke could be considered mild street harassment, which in the moment made me dislike Scott more than I did for most of the movie, though it could be argued he meant to be talking to himself- just out loud- rather than to the woman he was talking about. Either way, it seemed like inappropriate humor, particularly for a family movie.) I feel like the movie has some decent concepts, but they mostly weren't executed quite as well as they could have been. And I don't know what else to tell you.

Followed by The Santa Clause 2

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