A tale of a suburban single father thrust into the role of St. Nick, THE SANTA CLAUSE offers a holiday-themed fantasy with appeal to both children and parents. It's an ideal debut vehicle for the talents of TV sitcom star Tim Allen ("Home Improvement").
When Santa Claus falls from a roof on the night before Christmas and sustains a fatal injury, the homeowner, divorced single father and toy company exec Scott Calvin (Tim Allen), has no choice but to don Santa's suit, hop into the sleigh, and continue Santa's rounds, accompanied by his young son
Charlie (Eric Lloyd). When the job is done, Scott finds himself at the North Pole being lectured by head elf Bernard (David Krumholtz), who informs him that he has exactly eleven months to get his affairs in order and prepare for next Christmas. By putting on the red suit, Bernard explains, Scott
activated the "Santa Clause," which makes him contractually bound to perform Santa's duties. To make matters worse, Scott's growing, Santa-esque eccentricities prompt his ex-wife to file for sole custody of Charlie.
With stronger emotional highs and lows, THE SANTA CLAUSE could have become a Christmas perennial on the order of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE or the original MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET. Unlike those earlier movies, the screenplay soft-pedals inherent domestic conflicts--e.g., the rivalry between Scott and
his former wife's new husband over Charlie's affections--that might have made the narrative more involving and resonant. Nevertheless, THE SANTA CLAUSE is a charming, if mild, fantasy, distinguished by a gentle directorial touch that strikes a deft balance between dramatic and fantastic elements.
At the heart of the film are engaging performances by the two male leads--Allen, as the bewildered single father, and young Lloyd, who responds plausibly as a son whose father becomes a new man in his eyes overnight. While the film breaks no new ground, it offers the kind of simple, well-crafted,
family entertainment that used to be a staple of the Disney studio. THE SANTA CLAUSE was the surprise hit of 1994, earning domestic grosses of more than $100 million.
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