26 November 2001 | jhclues
Tim Allen As...Huh?
Ever wonder, who is Santa Claus, really? Where does he come from, how old is he? How in the world does he squeeze down a chimney, and how does he get in if there isn't a chimney? What's the deal here? Well, happily, the answers to these questions and more are finally answered, as the legend of Santa Claus comes to life as never before in `The Santa Clause,' directed by John Pasquin and starring Tim Allen. Scott Calvin (Allen) is an executive with a toy manufacturing company, he's divorced and has a young son, Charlie (Eric Lloyd), who still believes in Santa, but is at an age at which doubt is beginning to creep into the picture. And the fact that Charlie's mom, Laura (Wendy Crewson) has a boyfriend, Dr. Neal Miller (Judge Reinhold), who is a psychiatrist, isn't helping the situation any. Neal, it seems, is adamant about counseling Charlie in the realities of life, which of course includes the real scoop on Santa, which doesn't go over too well with Scott.
Then on Christmas Eve, which Charlie is spending with Scott, a strange thing happens. There's a clatter on the roof, and Scott rushes outside to investigate, where he discovers a man in a red suit clamoring about on the roof of his two-story house. As Scott watches, the man loses his footing and falls into the snow on the front lawn. And to Scott's amazement, it's Santa Claus! Or at least a guy dressed up like Santa, and he's not in very good shape at the moment. Lying there on his back, the man hands Scott a card with instructions written on it about what to do in this particular situation. `Put on the suit,' it says, `The reindeer will know what to do.' And when Scott looks back up at the roof, what he sees concludes what Neal would probably call an SEE (Significant Emotional Experience), and though he doesn't realize it at the moment, his life is about to change forever...
And with that, Pasquin goes on to tell the story of Scott Calvin's amazing odyssey, which puts a humorous, and at times poignant, spin on this contemporary and highly imaginative rendition of the Santa Claus story, which offers much more than merely a fresh face on an old tale. The Santa angle has that universal appeal that will attract viewers initially, but what makes this story really accessible is the reality which lies beneath the fantasy. The relationships examined in this film-- the whole situation with Scott, Charlie, Laura and Neal-- are quite common in our modern world, and that obstacle in the lives of these characters puts a necessary balance in the story that makes it more than just another Christmas fantasy. It puts an edge on the sentimentality that would've been over-the-top had Scott, for example, been a happily married man with a text book family life. That would've been good for maybe a one hour T.V. special on a Tuesday night, whereas this story and the way it's presented is unique and lends itself well to full length motion picture status.
When you think of Tim Allen, you don't necessarily think in terms of Santa Claus-- his Tim Taylor, `Home Improvement' persona is simply too far-reaching (there are, in fact, some `in' jokes sprinkled subtly throughout this film, like when Scott, in Santa's workshop, picks up a toy tool belt and holds it up to himself)-- but it actually becomes a positive here, and another part of the appeal of this film. it establishes Scott as a real person, an average guy attempting to cope with the everyday problems of everyday life. And it keeps the core of the story grounded, which ultimately makes the fantasy work while giving it heart. So, in retrospect, Allen was a perfect choice for the role of Scott Calvin, and in the long run this just may turn out to be one of his most memorable roles (which is somewhat ironic, as this was Allen's big screen debut), because this is certainly the kind of film that is bound to make a lot of people's annual `holiday movies to watch' list, falling into that category of films you can watch over and over again every Christmas season, like `A Christmas Story.' `Christmas Vacation,' `A Christmas Carol' and `It's A Wonderful Life.' All films which, though certainly diverse, have at their center the spirit of Christmas along with family values and traditions, and all told in a way that enables the viewer to readily identify with the characters and the story, which is exactly what this film does.
Eric Lloyd turns in a good performance as Charlie, making his character believable while keeping him positive despite the conflicts which surround him, and Crewson and Reinhold are solid in their respective roles, as well. But in supporting roles, the standout performances come from David Krumholtz, as Bernard, Santa's Head Elf, and Paige Tamada, who is endearing as Judy, the Little Elf.
Rounding out the supporting cast are Peter Boyle (Mr. Whittle), Mary Gross (Miss Daniels), Larry Brandenburg (Detective Nunzio), Judith Scott (Susan), Jayne Eastwood (Judy, the Waitress) and Joyce Guy (Principal Compton). An entertaining and ultimately uplifting movie, `The Santa Clause' is funny and enjoyable and has a lot to offer in the way of family entertainment, the kind of film adults and kids alike are going to appreciate. And it may even make you believe in some things you hadn't even considered before-- but that's for you to figure out as you watch the movie. And that's the magic of the movies. I rate this one 8/10.