Scott Calvin (who ironically has the same initials as Santa Clause) is a divorced Father, a busy advertising executive and a kind of washed-up cynic who struggles to connect with his young son, Charlie. On Christmas Eve, responding to the sound of something unfamiliar on his roof, Scott scares Santa who falls from the roof and flat into the snow, disappearing in the process. Putting on the coat and getting the sleigh, Scott and Charlie end up finishing Santa’s round and discovering the Santa Clause (get it?): by putting on the suit, he has now accepted the duties of the great man and so becomes Father Christmas.
I’ve watched this film every year since its release in 1994 and it is a bona fide classic. Father Christmas, elves, the great operation in the North Pole, boundless amounts of Christmas spirit and a really heart-warming story about Fatherhood and the struggles of divorced families: The Santa Clause really ticks every available Christmas film trope but without the slushy sentimentality.
I only just realised this year that the title actually refers to the clause of the contract that Scott unwillingly accepts when putting on the coat as opposed to the name of the big man himself, but that’s the beauty of this film. Having watched it since I was 7 years old I have been able to appreciate it with each passing year as I have slowly moved from a child believing in Father Christmas to an adult with a young child who can appreciate the nostalgia of this magical time of year, as well as the cynicism of Scott Calvin and his quick witted response to his out-of-control life.
What I also love about this film is that the bulk of the story focuses on Scott’s transition from advertising executive for a toy manufacturer to probably the biggest manufacturer and distributor of toys in the whole world (though we’ll ignore the child labour…). It could’ve been easy for this film to make him Father Christmas (or Santa Claus as I guess I should be calling him) and then have in some other slapstick scenario, but instead the filmmakers have used this extraordinary situation to focus on Scott and Charlie’s relationship. Charlie finally connects with his Dad as he sees first hand his Father become the idolised hero of every kids’ childhood, however this poses a problem as no-one else believes him. Thus ensues a struggle for Scott and Charlie to finally connect over something that only they know is true: it’s fatherhood in the face of adversity. It’s a tough job being a Father or Father figure, and this film perfectly highlights that it’s not always easy and you don’t always get it right, but the responsibility and the reward are resounding.
Just like Elf, this film also brings to light the inner child in all of us. Charlie’s step-Father Neal is a psychologist and so basks in what he perceives to be the reasons behind Scott’s sudden manifestation – both physically and mentally – into the jolly big fat man. But in the end, not even his psychologically trained mind can fail to see the reality of the situation, and the adults who find out that he’s real all along really bring to light the inner-child in all of us and our desperation to have something innocent to hold on to.
The Santa Clause was a huge success and inevitably spawned sequels. The Santa Clause 2 was released eight years later in 2002 and focused on the Mrs Clause – Santa needs to get married! It’s a decent enough sequel that retains its focus on Fatherhood and the ‘absent’ Father, as well as a chance at love later on in life. With more emphasis on our inner-child that perhaps felt a little too sickly, the sequel nonetheless scored well with audiences and so the third film was produced. The Santa Clause 3 is terrible, a poor idea that shits all over the previous two entries so don’t watch it – that’s all I can say.
It’s a classic Christmas film that will always be pertinent, more-so as we struggle to maintain the faith and mysticism of Father Christmas in an ever increasing world of internet access and miserable children/adults that want to ruin the magic of the big man.
TOMORROW: ‘Tis the Season