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Santa Claus (1985)

Santa Claus: The Movie

The Legend Comes To Life.

Directed by:

Jeannot Szwarc

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 107 minutes

US Certificate: PG UK Certificate: U

On DVD

Country: United States

“A prophecy has come to pass,” croaks the eldest of the North Pole elves, “that there would come to us a Chosen One, and that he, having no child of his own, would love all children everywhere, and that he himself would be an artist and a craftsman.” And no, it’s not Michael Jackson. Gawd, you people have always got to ruin things with your little jokes, don’t you? Just grow up.

The little old codger speaks, of course, of Santa Claus – giver of toys, lover of chimneys and, if David Huddleston’s portrayal of him is anything to go by, slight look-a-like of Kenny Rogers. It’s the old days, and he and his missus Anya (is anyone else a bit disappointed to learn his wife’s not called Mary Christmas?) are in for a life-changing experience when the little folk rescue them from a blizzard and take them to stay at their magical toy factory. The catch? Ol’ Santee has to spend all future Chrimbos delivering pressies to the kiddy-winks of the world. But Hell, the accomodation’s rent-free and he only has to work one night a year, so he cries “I’ll take it!”.

The opening 35 minutes of this film are quite frankly flawless. It’s one of the most spirited, atmospheric and visually wondrous depictions of the Father Christmas story that’s ever been put to screen. The only problem is, after that it all starts to go a bit downhill. The focus of the story switches to ostracized elf Patch (Dudley Moore) and his business link-up with flammable toy mogul (it’s the toys that are flammable, not the mogul) B.Z. (John Lithgow), whilst the Clausmeister himself becomes bogged down in sentimentality when he befriends a posh kid (Carrie Kei Heim) and a homeless (Christian Fitzpatrick).

It remains watchable enough, predominantly because the main players in the cast all put their hearts into it. Huddleston knows how to bellow out a “Ho” or three, Moore makes a great elf, and Lithgow clearly takes a lot of enjoyment out of hamming up his role as the cigar-chomping corporate baddie. But the film never manages to recapture the magic of that opening segment, and is left with nowhere to go other than the telling of a fairly weak and slightly ridiculous story.

It's Got: More elf-based puns than you could possibly know what to do with (including “heaven helps those who help their elf” – aw, bless).

It Needs: To explain how Donner the reindeer came to be named after a kebab.

DVD Extras A 50 minute ‘Making Of’, in which it’s claimed Huddleston actually IS Santa, and a couple of trailers. DVD Extras Rating: 4/10

Alternatives:

Elf, Miracle on 34th Street, The Santa Clause, The Santa Clause 2

Summary

It starts off fantastically – but then, a bit like Santa himself, it all goes pear-shaped.

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