Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way.
Oh what fun it is to watch a new movie each day.
The elves use Fed Ex?
After killing Santa Claus, a divorced father puts on the big red suit and assumes his victim’s identity. Wackiness ensues.
All through this film there was one thought that kept popping up in my head: isn’t it convenient that a 40-year-old white man was the one to take the reins? What would have happened if it had been a woman? Or a black man? Or a kid? This movie would have been very different indeed had Santa fallen off a different roof. But enough speculation. Disney’s The Santa Clause was released in 1994. That means there are parents who weren’t even born yet when this movie came out. I don’t know about you, but that sure as shit makes me feel old.
Tim Allen plays Scott Calvin, a man who over the course of a year completely loses his grip on reality. He starts the film as a reasonably well-adjusted man who shares custody of his young son with the boy’s mother and her new husband, but by the end he has retreated entirely into his own delusions. In my opinion it was the act of manslaughter at the beginning of the movie that was the initial cause of this psychotic episode. In his guilt and confusion at ending the life of another human being, even one dressed as Santa who was trying to break into his house and possibly murder Scott and Charlie as they slept, Scott’s mind was simply unable to handle the overwhelming mental trauma. While the ego and super-ego were temporarily incapacitated, Scott’s id saw the red suit and managed to influence his higher functions into believing that he was now Santa Claus. Once this thought had taken root, it appears that it was impossible to shake loose again without extensive psychiatric treatment. At that moment, the personality of “Scott Calvin” started to become subsumed into that of “Santa Claus”.
If Neil Miller had been a more forceful person and succeeded in getting Scott into therapy when the symptoms started presenting, it is possible that his new dissociative disorder could have been held in check. Neil, played by Judge Reinhold, is Charlie’s stepfather and a psychiatrist, but his apparent obsession with overly colourful mid-nineties sweaters has obviously clouded his focus, making him next to useless as a mental health professional. Charlie’s mother Laura is the only character in the film to display reason in trying to have Scott’s visitation rights revoked through legal means. Wendy Crewson is to be applauded for her portrayal of a woman caught in such a distressing situation. Charlie, like most eight year old boys, already spends most of his days in one fantasy world or another. Desperate to believe his father is telling the truth, he willingly joins Scott in his delusions. In fact, he could be said to have influenced his father’s breakdown. There is a time when Scott’s psyche is attempting to heal itself, but during this vulnerable period Charlie remains insistent that Scott is Santa, thus making Charlie the ultimate villain of the piece.
Director John Pasquin also served as a producer on Home Improvement, frequently directing episodes of the Tim Allen sitcom as well. He uses this close relationship to bring out a side of Allen not often seen. It was also a brave decision on his part to avoid any stylistic clues as to the veracity of any given moment in the film, leaving it entirely up to the viewer to decide for themselves what is real and what is merely a nightmare in Scott’s damaged brain.
Setting aside my interpretation of the film as an almost Kubrickian depiction of one man’s descent into madness, The Santa Clause proves itself to be perfectly servicable family entertainment for the festive season. I had already seen the second and third parts of this trilogy before now. The second had some moments of fun to it but the third was mostly kind of appalling. These had made me a bit reluctant to sit through this first installment, but that hesitancy turned out to be unnecessary. In all fairness, I’m probably among the last people over the age of about 4 to see this flick, but if you are as useless as me then feel free to catch yourself up without fear.
Just while I’m here, there is one other thing that has always bugged me about movies like this. If all these adults don’t believe in Santa Claus, how do they explain the new presents on Christmas Day that they are not responsible for?