THE SANTA CLAUSE
Tim Allen stars in The Santa Clause, a Christmas-set family comedy from Disney released back in 1994. Allen plays Scott Calvin, a father who finds himself reluctantly taking on the big job of being Santa Claus after accidentally knocking Santa off his roof on Christmas Eve.
The simple premise is a fun one and it sets things up for an enjoyably silly and charming Christmas movie quite nicely. As Scott Calvin desperately tries to cling onto what he believes to be reality and deny the existence of Santa, the elves etc. despite having taken on that role himself for an entire night, he finds that the "clause" he's unwittingly adhered to involves a lot more than he'd bargained for. This includes physically turning into Santa himself as he suddenly puts on weight and grows an impossible-to-shave beard and, while he starts to accept and even enjoy the idea of becoming Santa Claus, and this strengthens his once cold relationship with his young son, it also presents problems at work and with his ex-wife who becomes understandably concerned.
There's a lot of potential for laughs with this whole idea and the film does have its funny parts and clever one liners, delivered effortlessly by a perfectly cast Tim Allen, but it's a very safe movie that never aims for anything beyond light-hearted cheese. It's never quite as funny as it could've been and the film's plot stagnates quite a bit after the initial North Pole adventure. One can't help but feel that making Scott Calvin more odious from the get-go would've made his (literal) transformation mean a lot more and presented more opportunities for amusing conflicts. As it stands, the likes of Peter Boyle and Judge Reinhold feel a tad wasted in a film that could have easily made the most of their talents.
If you think about it for two seconds, the idea of a man being forced to be Santa Claus, both as a job and... physically, with no possibility of opting out, is a bit of a disturbing one so the man in question would've had to be a real Scrooge to deserve something like that. Calvin really isn't that bad. Sure, he's snarky to his ex and her new boyfriend and the Christmas he'd planned for his son turns out to be a disaster but hey, at least he cared enough to try. The message the film sends ends up feeling a bit clumsy when it comes to Calvin's relationship with his family. That said, with all the Christmas spirit shoved in your face throughout the movie, this is easy to overlook, especially for younger viewers who will, quite likely, enjoy every minute of it.
Despite its refusal to go all out Nutty Professor-style and live up to its comedic potential, The Santa Clause remains a charming little film with enough Christmas spirit to make it a worthy seasonal treat that kids and grown-ups can enjoy together that time of year. Slight warning, however, those special effects do not hold up as well as they once did.