Thursday, 23 December 2010

Santa Claus: The Movie

Masterminded by Superman producer Ilya Salkind, Santa Claus: The Movie is the flip side to Richard Donner's franchise kicker Superman: The Movie. Both address prime Americana properties, reworking - you might say panel beating - them into hero quest film features. With The Man of Steel, Donner and screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz gently crafted a film about an alien's dissociation with his adoptive planet, lacing in an arc that dealt with the pressures of trying to please two fathers. Jeannot Szwarc's Christmas fable, from a screenplay by Superman alumni David and Leslie Newman, is instead a clod. A half-hearted tale of ancient unknowable mysticism, and pseudo-religious prophecy, as foundation for the idea of Father Christmas.

This Claus isn't simply a jolly old soul with a limitless generosity of spirit. He is instead an anointed one, who transcends death to toil for eternity in the company of a magical tribe of little people. He's barely even the film's focus; once Claus is established, attention rapidly shifts to Dudley Moore's Patch, a simpleton elf who dreams of industrialising Santa's work shop. When his production line starts cranking out half-finished toys, Patch steals some levitation dust and travels to New York to work for John Lithgow's BZ, a Commie hating toy maker who peddles death traps. Although Patch is quite clearly a bit of a shit, Santa Claus: The Movie can never be bothered to acknowledge it. His self-centred need for attention is played as if it is charming. We endure endless scenes of witless capering that do not entertain, his idiocy nothing more meaningful than a mechanism to allow for the next inane development. And so it goes - children enjoy deadly inappropriate courting scenes, and Patch's skill makes an entire work force redundant just in time for Christmas. The film concludes with a North Pole hoedown and BZ drifting off into space to die. Har har! Santa Claus: The Movie is best regarded as a curio in which everybody's best-ish efforts combined to create a mutant thing geared for holiday season repeats, whilst accidentally being a fair illustration of the perils of rampant capitalism.

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