We’re just a few days before Christmas and, to a lot of little boys and girls, what is Christmas without the presence of Santa Claus? Oh, there’s always going to be a question if he’s real or not, but whatever side of the fence you fall on regarding this debate, there’s not denying he’s always going to be an iconic character during the holidays. After all, he does appear only once a year to bring toys to the boys and girls who have been good all year.
As popular as he is, not many people know they actually made a movie based on good ol’ Saint Nick. I didn’t either until I somehow stumbled upon the 1985 holiday… well, I can’t call it a beloved “classic” because I don’t know many people who’ve ever heard to it. Anyway, here’s a look at Santa Claus: The Movie.
Santa Claus: The Movie is kind of an odd film, if you ask me. It’s odd because it both tries to focus on Santa Claus and still tries to tell a totally different story devoid of the jolly old man in red at different points of the film. The start of Santa Claus: The Movie does tell a quick snippet of the man’s origins at the very start, which, I will admit, is kind of a bonkers origin story. He was basically a jolly, fat, bearded man who loved delivering toys to children on Christmas Eve. He, along with his wife and two reindeer, Donner and Blitzen, get stuck in a blizzard during one of the toy deliveries but are saved by elves. It’s revealed he’s actually some sort of prophesied Chosen One who will deliver toys to all the children in the world. The elves heal him and rename the jolly, fat, bearded man Santa Claus. The En… oh, not the end. Sorry.
Fast forward a few centuries later, Santa Claus is getting tired as the world’s population keeps growing and there are more and more kids he has to deliver toys to. So he decides to hire an assistant to help him out. An elf named Patch, played by Dudley Moore, gets the position thanks to his inventions that helps them make more toys quicker. The toys are defective, however, leading to Patch resigning and moving to New York.
This is when Santa Claus: The Movie starts to shift quite a bit as the focus now becomes more about Patch’s struggle to regain Santa Claus’ trust. He does this by aligning himself with an unscrupulous toy company CEO, BZ, played by John Lithgow, who wants to usurp Santa Claus as the best toy giver in the world. So, despite the film being supposedly about Santa Claus, around half the movie is all about Patch and his inventions while BZ tries to monopolize it for his own greed. It’s kind of weird because you would expect the whole film to be all about Santa Claus when half of the film is actually about an elf trying to regain Santa Claus’ trust.
Oddly enough, I don’t mind it because I do think the scenes with Dudley Moore and John Lithgow are fantastic. I haven’t watched a lot of films with Dudley Moore in them (I strangely get him mixed up with Dustin Hoffman very often) but I do like his performance here. Oh, he makes too many bad elf puns but there’s a certain child-like charm and innocence to the way he brings Patch the elf to life. However, the man who steals the show is definitely John Lithgow as the evil toy CEO. If you’re watched him play High Commander Dick Solomon in 3rd Rock from the Sun and enjoyed it, you’ll love him here!
It’s not like the rest of the cast are bad actors. David Huddleston plays Santa Claus to great effect. He comes off a kind and benevolent, which is how Santa Claus is supposed to be. Judy Cornwall’s version of Mrs. Claus, well, doesn’t really do much but she’s still supportive to her husband and tries to look for the bright side of things. Even the child actors who play the orphans are actually decent performers as they deliver their lines with enough emotion and, shockingly, are written well enough to have some depth to them. However, that’s just the problem. Besides Dudley Moore’s Patch and John Lithgow’s BZ, no one else is given any real meat to work with. They never get to run a gamut of emotions nor get a chance to ham it up so, while functional, they do come off as rather one note.
The production values of Santa Claus: The Movie, like the story, feels quite unbalanced. The best way to describe my impressions is that it either looks like the cheapest high budget movie out there or the biggest budgeted B-movie ever made. The hair and beard prosthetics used for Santa Claus and some of the elves look good but the costumes look rather tacky and fake. The sets are supposed to look grand and big, which they do. However, they also come off without any of the necessary attention to detail to actually make them look exceptional. The puppetry for the reindeer are good but there are more than a few scenes where they look creepy and undead. The special effects, especially for the flying scenes, might’ve looked good way back in 1985 but, at the same time, they could’ve done a much better job in cleaning them up.
Despite all of the weirdness this film has, I actually enjoyed Santa Claus: The Movie. The entire movie just has a certain charm and comes off sure of itself that it knows exactly what they’re doing. They knew their target audience and they were making a wholesome kid’s movie and it does come off like that to a T. They never did seem to really get anything to perfection but, when you add all of the stuff they put together, everything does work together in a way that elevates it to a whole new level.
With that being said, I do recommend trying to watch Santa Claus: The Movie, especially if you have young children who would love a goofy Christmas movie. I can’t say it’s a classic but I definitely feel Santa Claus: The Movie should, at the very least, be a cult hit.
Have you seen Santa Claus: The Movie? What did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!