The Santa Clause 1994

The Santa Clause has that distinct 90s feel to it that we all know and love. A grittiness that we can appreciate because it no longer seems to exist in every film that comes out, though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Tim Allen stars as the titular Santa Clause, Scott Calvin, who works for a toy manufacturing company – having just come off a great fiscal year due to a successful doll they produced. If only his marriage was as successful as his career. Sharing a child, Charlie Calvin (played by Eric Lloyd), with his ex-wife Laura (Wendy Crewson), who has remarried a psychiatrist, Dr. Neal Miller (Judge Reinhold), Scott is upset that they have come to the conclusion to teal Charlie that Santa Clause isn’t real. They can’t help but even fight within range of their son, who is like most 90s children – more precocious than the norm – and he has clearly realized which parent is more emotionally available. Mom.

Scott is trying his best, though he can’t help but lie to cover his ambition when it comes to work, taking up most of his time and leading to him being late to spend Christmas with his son. Neal, who listens to Charlie and has frank conversations with him, is trying to help Charlie grow up faster than Scott clearly would like and is a clear foil to Scott. He is capable of cooking, always on time, attentive, and direct, and it’s not hard to understand why he has a distinct dislike for Scott. The man is pretty rude to him, after all. But, when it comes to film, the stepfather is portrayed as the villain, or at least that’s how the film tries to present him. In the 90s, it was so clear to me which one I was supposed to like, and yet through a modern lens, that has turned on its head. But that’s the great thing about film and television. You can go back, reflect with new insight and information, and come to a different determination. This is why films often go out of their way to place clear markers that you should like one character over another (here’s looking at you, Neal, honking to get your wife out of your ex-husband’s house).

But that’s the pretext for this story, which is about Scott Calvin coming to terms with having murdered Santa- Oh, I’m sorry, this is a PG film.

This is the pretext for Scott Calvin coming to terms with stepping up as the new Santa Clause. After a quiet dinner at Denny’s, with other fathers and their kids who couldn’t cook a Christmas dinner, they head home to read a story to put him to bed – only for a loud noise to interrupt their evening of rest. Finding a strange man on his roof, Scott reacts like anybody would by calling out to him and accidentally causing him to fall down – leaving behind his suit, bag, reindeer, and sleigh. In an effort to prove to Charlie that he doesn’t think that everything he says is “stupid,” Scott puts on the suit and learns how Santa makes his deliveries. The bag has what it needs. It can help you to fly, squeeze through the chimney through size-changing magic, and can create fireplaces on command.

After those few deliveries we see on screen, the reindeer take Scott and Charlie back to the North Pole, where Scott learns he has to take on the duties and responsibilities of Santa Clause because he put on the suit. Bernard (David Krumholtz) is quite insistent on this. The magic that is Santa’s Village is filled with busy elves who have already come to terms with Scott as their new boss. The only cranky one seems to be Bernard, though he melts like ice in the sun around Charlie – and I assume all kids, as their job is to perpetuate the joy of magic on Christmas. Unfortunately for all of them, all Scott wants to do is not be Santa Clause. Too bad he already accepted the Santa Clause.

Not Santa Clause the person, Santa Clause the clause. This results in one of the most devastating moments of the movie – when Scott loudly proclaims that he chooses not to believe it. This leads to all of the elves quieting instantly and turning to look at him, prompting Bernard to explain the spirit of Christmas.

At the heart of this film are family and belief, and it uses the facets of Christmas we know and love to tell that story. And tell it well. Logically, Scott is right on both fronts. Selling the story of Santa Clause to his child during a difficult time of transition while not truly believing in it himself until given proof. Neal and Laura are in a similar boat – how can you believe in something that you have no proof of when the trappings of adult life are blindingly present.

Left with eleven months to get his affairs in order, Scott doesn’t believe it’s real at first when he wakes up in his own bed. But the evidence is there, and Charlie is not about to let his dad forget it. As those next eleven months progress, Scott begins to physically change into Santa Clause, setting the stage for several hilarious scenes that only work in a 90s film. By the time Laura and Neal realize the truth, Scott is already in some dire straits that require the Elves to get him free.

Partly what makes this movie so magical was its dedication to the idea of Christmas. Its elves, almost all of whom were played by children in order to capture that vision of young, cute, and adorable workaholics. David Krumholtz’s Bernard was a teenager when the first film was produced and released, though he came with a hint of maturity when next to all of the child actors. It worked to distinguish him from the worker elves, and his no-nonsense tact with Scott Calvin, compared to Charlie, is downright hilarious. Because for Bernard, and all of the other elves at the North Pole, the magic of Christmas should not be compromised in the eyes of the children.

The Santa Clause is one of those holiday gems. When it was first released, it was clear that it was one and done, yet eight years later brought with it The Santa Clause 2, which still managed to capture some of that charm. The Santa Clause 3 less so. However, by the time this review is up, The Santa Clauses will have completed its run on Disney+, and time will tell if it stands up against the first installment.

Goodness knows I want it too.

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