Length: 97 minutes
Release Date: November 11, 1994
Directed by: John Pasquin
Genre: Comedy / Drama / Family
Rating: 3 out of 5
Tim Allen stars in the first of a trio of Christmas films designed to keep the magic of Christmas alive and the laughter of the audience going. Dad Scott (Tim Allen) is determined to help his son, Charlie, remain convinced that Santa is real, despite his ex-wife and her new husband taking the opposite stance. But when Scott transforms from a Santa supporter to the Jolly Old Soul himself, life gets a little complicated.
When a Christmas Eve accident leaves the real Santa incapacitated, Scott is left to fill the role and fly around town dumping presents down chimneys. As if that experience isn’t enough to make Scott question his own sanity, Santa’s sleigh then transports him to the North Pole, where he learns that by donning the big guy’s red suit, he’s now agreed to become Santa himself: this is the Santa clause. Within the next year, Scott will need to prepare to take on the following Christmas’s duties all by himself.
Funny man Tim Allen plays the role of Santa with panache and seems to intuitively move through each scene as if the role were written especially for him. And, in a way, it was, because Allen and director John Pasquin previously teamed up on TV’s “Home Improvement.” Allen’s humor is mostly designed for adult audiences, although this is a movie branded for children and families. This means younger audiences may not actually get all of the jokes and lines in the movie. Of course, with Santa as a theme, the movie is likely to keep littler kids intrigued as the story progresses.
In the year leading up to Scott’s full-time debut as Santa, his body prepares for what his psyche is still struggling to accept. He puts on quite a few pounds, his hair turns white, and he can’t keep his beard shaved no matter how often he tries. Eventually, Scott’s mind joins the battle, leaving those around him wondering if he has gone crazy with his belief that he is Santa. So alarming are his claims that his son is taken away from him. As the tension escalates and his son Charlie and he head to the North Pole to get ready for Christmas, those back home fear Scott’s gone off the deep end.
Allen’s onscreen son Charlie, played by then-child actor Eric Lloyd, went on to also star in both “The Santa Clause 2” and “The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause.” His performance shows promise throughout the movie and its sequels, although his career petered out once he reached adulthood. Lloyd’s performance clearly shows that he is delighted to be playing opposite Allen, which enhances his believability in his role. Chief Elf Bernard, played by David Krumholtz, is another secondary character that shows promise in this film. His role adds just the irreverence needed to offset Allen’s dry humor.
Some viewers will note that this movie came out just after the mega-popular “Mrs. Doubtfire,” starring Robin Williams. The two movies share the theme of a divorced dad transforming into someone else just so that he can be close to his children. A handful of critics argue that “The Santa Clause” is derivative and unoriginal, but even if this were true, the movie redeems itself by showcasing star Allen as the all-appealing Santa Claus, while Williams’s transformed character in “Mrs. Doubtfire” is meant only to appeal to his own children. With the passage of so many years since either movie’s release, such a comparison is less relevant to today’s viewing audience than it may have been in the 1990s.
Overall, this film provides an hour and a half of fun for most viewers. As with many movies starring Tim Allen, the acting in this film is largely carried by his recognizable brand of humor. Unfortunately, that overshadowed the other actors in “The Santa Clause” at times. The adult members of the supporting cast, which includes Judge Reinhold (“Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” “Beverly Hills Cop”) and Wendy Crewson (“Air Force One,” various television shows), took a backseat to Allen even in scenes in which their roles should have been more prominent. Reinhold does a creditable job of portraying a psychiatrist, while Crewson as Allen’s ex-wife shows the tricky side of big-screen divorce. However, Allen’s personality, both onscreen and offscreen, is simply so large that only those actors who are equally forceful can measure up to it. Luckily, in “The Santa Clause,” this fact goes unnoticed by the younger members of the audience.
See what Tim Allen has to say about “The Santa Claus”