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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 12/23/00

The Santa Clause
1994 (1998) - Disney (Buena Vista)

review by Brad Pilcher of The Digital Bits

The Santa Clause Film Rating: A-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B/D

Specs and Features

97 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, film-themed menu screens, theatrical trailer, scene access (17 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), French (DD 2.0), subtitles: None

"Not too hot. Extra chocolate. Shaken, not stirred."

Some people have said Hollywood just doesn't make classic movies anymore. I'd beg to differ and The Santa Clause is one reason why. Now, before you go throwing things at me and start asking where my sanity went, I'll tell you why I think this movie is a classic. You see, it's not just a classic. It's OUR classic - a true tale of our times. It's a Wonderful Life was great (and still is), but times have changed. Divorce is as much the norm as happily married parents celebrating their golden anniversary. Cynicism pervades our culture, even down to eternal icons like Santa Claus, and that's a bit sad. You see, I'd be willing call The Santa Clause the ultimate postmodern Christmas flick, but it isn't. It's a beckoning call to return to our roots, to learn our lessons and to live together with peace on Earth and goodwill towards men. It says all that in a very modern kind of way. It's the post-post-modern Christmas flick, and it's cool man. Oh yeah, very cool!

Let's start with the story. Tim Allen (of Home Improvement fame) is Scott Calvin, a divorced father who works for a toy company, ruthlessly marketing their products to kids. His son, Charlie, is spending Christmas Eve with him, and neither of them is terribly excited. When Santa shows up, however, things go a bit awry. First, Santa slips and falls off the roof, so to make his son happy (and shut him up) Scott tosses on the Santa suit and climbs up on the roof to check out the reindeer. An "oopsy" here and an "uh-oh" there lead to father and son delivering all the toys for the fat guy. What Scott Calvin doesn't know, is that putting on the suit made him subject to the Santa Clause (as in contractual obligation). Seems that he's the new big guy... and boy does he start showing it. How does gaining 45 pounds in a week sound to you? Of course, all of this is not what our tool-man planned on and he's about to lose any chance to see his son again, because everybody thinks he's gone loco!

The bottom line is this movie is a bit formulaic, but it's damned cute and pretty funny to boot. Tim Allen shows why he's a well-paid comedian, and the premise is played out perfectly. We even get very clever and amusing gags and explanations of all the questions your kids have about Christmas. Like, "How does a fat guy get down a chimney when the house has no chimney?" No, it isn't a classic in the way Miracle on 34th Street is a classic. But it still manages to take all the cynicism and telltale signs of our post-modern age and turn them on their head in an honest plea to learn to live with and love each other. It even manages to be light and fully digestible in getting the point across, and you won't have to work off the pounds after the New Year.

Not to mention that it looks pretty decent on DVD. It doesn't look great, but it's still quite watchable. The colors could be more vibrant at times and there is a little bit of artifacting here. The film also is a little on the warm side, meaning that the transfer might have been color timed a little bit better. But on the whole, the video holds up quite well throughout. The magical atmosphere of Christmas (and the North Pole we all dream of) is perfectly conveyed in the richly textured sets. The sound is solid too, delivering a nicely mixed soundtrack and decent 5.1 sound effects. It could be better, and it certainly won't knock you out, but it's sufficiently spatial to get the job done. And the kids will love the music.

And then we hit the extras. This is a Christmas flick, so we're looking for all sorts of stocking stuffer goodness, right? Well, this must be Charlie Brown's stocking then, 'cause all you get here is a trailer and some suggestions as to other titles you might like. In other words, a stocking full of rocks. Oh, did I mention the trailer? I guess Santa laid-off a few elves or something.

Still, don't let the dearth of extras deter you. The Santa Clause is a great little Christmas film, that I believe will stand the test of time. So rush out into the snow, climb up your "Arose suchac" ladder, hop in the sleigh and call upon your reindeer to get you to the nearest video store. This is definitely a good DVD stocking stuffer. Just remember - if you see a fat guy laying in your yard, don't try on his suit.

Brad Pilcher
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