12 Ways of Christmas: #2 ‘The Santa Clause’

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Welcome to The Twelve Ways of Christmas, where we discuss holiday films you’ve already seen or never plan on watching. Why not, right? Every other damn movie site’s doing it, and since when is giving in to peer pressure a bad thing?

With little rhyme or reason, check in every day from now until The Day That Must Not Be Named for a new entry. And Happy Kwanzaa.

Then one foggy Christmas Eve, Santa fell and died. On Tim Allen’s lawn no less. Allen, a successful suit at a toy company, is then magically carried to the North Pole by eight animatronic reindeer, where he becomes contractually obligated to don the red coat and put on some belly jiggle.

Sounds charming right? Parts of The Santa Clause are categorically “cute,” namely Allen’s incredulity that he is in fact becoming Santa Claus: jiggling his belly at a physical exam or inhaling chocolate chip and macadamia at a board meeting. A man’s slow degeneration into an elderly diabetic is captivatingly weird stuff, but Allen on the fringes of his transformation isn’t nearly as exciting, in or out of the red coat and hat.

But it’s all the hokey North Pole tech that morphs a passably silly story into ridiculousness. The “CD” in “CD Player” stands for Cookie Dispenser. And don’t forget we just installed a new hot cocoa dispenser in your sleigh. Flame retardant suits and a hat complete with wire and mic communique are all just too much. Never mind that Santa still somehow squeezes down a chimney without any Holiday Spy Kids contraptions. It’s simply maaaagic. If screenwriters Leo Benvenuti and Steve Rudnick didn’t think the logistics of gift-delivery were important enough to explain, why bother with technology for anything else? This isn’t an issue of unreality; it’s one of consistency.

Don’t get me started on The Santa Clause’s disturbing central moral. Allen, having fully changed into a living, breathing, cookie-eating Santa Claus, is cut out of his son’s life with a hasty sole custody sub plot. Why? Because Allen starts to look and dress like Saint Nick himself.

Really? I can believe Allen’s absenteeism from being a father and once a supportive husband pigeonholed him into this position of the ostracized family man. I just don’t get how dressing like Santa makes things worse.

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And then things get weird. Santa Allen decides to take his son Charlie along for a midnight ride, so naturally Mom and her douchey new husband Dr. Judge Reinhold call in a citywide manhunt for the boy and the creepy old man who kidnapped him. To be fair, when a court orders deems you unfit to raise your own child (for whatever reason), you probably shouldn’t snatch him up for a transcontinental night of roof-crashing and present-dropping.

The cops bust Crass Cringle and bring Charlie back to his mother. Safe and sound. Until Mom lets Charlie go back to his deranged Santa father because get this: He’s Santa now. That’s it. That’s the reason. There’s no further explanation. Santa Clause’s relationship mechanics are so wondrously fucked, even the resolution makes absolutely no sense. Sure you sort kidnapped our kid and yeah you clearly think you’re a fictional person. But what the hell, it’s Christmas!

In typical bridge-burning Twitter fashion, I called out First Showing’s Ethan Anderton for his claim that The Santa Clause is a top five Christmas film. Among other reasons, Anderton defended his opinion by claiming that an analysis of the film’s views on family and its ensuing resolution isn’t fair to the movie’s intentions, considering its target audience and the creative studio behind it. As a fan of Beauty and the Beast, Pinnocchio, and Snow White, I think that’s bullshit. The Mouse House has shown dozens of times it’s capable of a moving story that appeals to audiences across ages. This is not one of those stories.

An emotionally crippling, physically debilitating aging condition seriously puts Tim Allen’s health and relationships at risk. So naturally he should regain his family’s trust in the end. “Spy Kids meets a Christmas Carol” doesn’t even sound good on paper. Who in their right minds thought it would make a fun ninety minutes? Oh. Right.

Way #1: Christmas Carol: The Movie

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