There are certain films that take a shellacking on their release. Others that time has not been kind to. Santa Claus: The Movie manages to tick both of those boxes.
It is, without a doubt a tacky, chintzy, over the top, full of hot air, kaleidoscope of a movie. Everything about it reeks of 80’s excess, from the over the top score, courtesy of Henry Mancini, to the tacky product placement courtesy of McDonalds and Coca Cola.
Despite the movie managing to boast some interesting cast names, with David Huddleston as Santa Claus, and Burgess Meredith making a special appearance, no one really manages to lift the film. Not even Dudley Moore as cheeky elf Patch, with his overly rouged cheeks and inexhaustible list of Christmas cracker elf puns, manages to do much with the material given. Hardly his fault; it’s pretty thin stuff.
There is also a slew of great British actors to keep you entertained with the ‘What do I know them from?’ game, including Judy Cornwell as Mrs Claus, more familiar to many British audiences as Daisy, the sister of Hyacinth Bucket in Keeping Up Appearances. Here she manages to go toe to toe with Huddleston, matching him blow for blow in the twinkle-eyed, broad smile stakes.
The one actor who manages to stand out is John Lithgow. Apparently no one told him he wasn’t playing the lead in The Grinch, and his villainous B.Z. is wonderful, just making you wish that someone had given him far more to do, despite his fantastic delivery of the line “Santa Claus is finished!”.
The story covers the origins of Santa Claus, right up to the modern (mid-80s) world, where B.Z. launches a dastardly scheme to take over Christmas, after a foul up at the workshop leaves children disenchanted with Santa, and Patch alone and vulnerable in New York. Spoiler: in the end they save Christmas.
But this movie does have its saving graces. The sleigh flying scenes are actually quite nice, and director Jeannot Szwarc obviously learned a few things from the previous year’s Supergirl. The stand out has to be the vision and creation of the magical world of Santa Claus. Despite the money lavished on the North Poles of The Santa Clause, Fred Claus, or even Elf, the petroleum-jelly-smeared-lens, pinewood-fest manages to capture some kind of odd authenticity. It honestly does feel like Santa’s workshop.
The restoration is excellent. The movie, being of the mid-eighties, high gloss variety, looks wonderful with the extra coat of lacquer and polish that Studiocanal have given it. Special feature wise, the only thing not seen on their previous DVD release is an interview with Judy Cornwell, and as lovely as she is it does feel like something of a let down.
The features as a whole do give an insight into the work put in behind the scenes, and it turns out it was a massive undertaking. Given how the movie ended up, it lends the feel of a noble struggle to the endeavour, turning the film into a sort of gaudy ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’.
Despite all its flaws, this is a movie that has endured, at least in the UK. For many who grew up with it, it has a rosy glow that is hard to diminish; even your reviewer had to take a long drink impartially when watching. But will this re-release create a whole new legion of fans? With an RRP of over £20 it feels unlikely, even for parents giddy with nostalgia. But who knows? Christmas is a time of miracles.
Santa Claus: The Movie is out now on Blu-ray, 4K UHD, DVD and Digital from Studiocanal, and back in cinemas from 24th November.