An event movie, a big deal at the time of it’s release, I remember seeing a hundred and one clips of Santa Claus: The Movie on TV when it first came out and I’m sure that everyone involved with it hoped it would become THE modern seasonal must-see in the run up to Christmas.
But that didn’t happen and you start to wonder why as you enjoy the first half of the movie, an origin tale that shows how the man who was so kind and giving to others actually became Santa Claus (David Huddleston, who is great in the role) and the process required to get gifts made and delivered to children all around the world. He has his elves to help him even if sometimes enthusiasm far exceeds the end result, as is the case with Patch (Dudley Moore). After making a huge, costly mistake that spoils Christmas for a lot of children, Patch heads off into the big, wide world and ends up meeting sleek, sneaky toymaker B.Z. (John Lithgow). All Patch wants is a chance to do something that will make Santa realise how good he can be but, instead, he could end up inadvertently ruining Christmas. Forever.
Written by David and Leslie Newman, it’s clear in many instances that this movie wanted to be the definitive on screen Santa tale but there’s only so much time you want to spend watching that kind of inconsequential, magical fluff. Sit a kid on Santa’s knee and he will be in awe before trying to tell the big man what he wants for Christmas. Leave him there too long, however, and he will quickly get bored and try to wriggle free. Which is exactly what happens here.
Jeannot Szwarc directs with no flair. While there’s plenty of magic on screen there’s very little magic emanating out to the viewer. Fortunately, Dudley Moore is always great when he appears and John Lithgow makes a wonderfully entertaining, villainous figure who wants to profit from a seasonal sequel to Christmas. But Santa is quite dull and the children he meets (Joe, played by Christian Fitzpatrick, and Cornelia, played by Carrie Kei Heim) are uninteresting and unappealing.
It IS nice to settle down during the Yuletide season to watch this but it’s only a novelty piece and there are many other seasonal treats vying for your attention that are better deserving of your time. Fans of the bizarre may want to add a point for this being the only movie that will give you a chance to see Burgess Meredith, Melvyn Hayes and Christopher Ryan (aka Mike from “The Young Ones”) playing elves.
DIRECTOR: JEANNOT SZWARC
WRITER: DAVID NEWMAN, LESLIE NEWMAN
STARS: DUDLEY MOORE, JOHN LITHGOW, DAVID HUDDLESTON, BURGESS MEREDITH, JUDY CORNWELL, JEFFREY KRAMER
RUNTIME: 107 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: UK, USA