Review – The Santa Clauses: Season 1

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Overview

Directing Katie Locke O'Brien, Charles Randolph-Wright, Jason Winer

Producing Jack Burditt, Tim Allen, Jason Winer, Jon Radler, Rick Messina, Richard Baker, Kevin Hench

Writing Jack Burditt, Katy Colloton, Katie O'Brien, Kevin Hench, Ari Berkowitz, Alison Bennett, Eugene Garcia-Cross, Hayley Frazier, Emalee Burditt

Starring Tim Allen, Elizabeth Mitchell, Austin Kane, Elizabeth Allen-Dick, Matilda Lawler, Devin Bright, Rupali Redd, Kal Penn

Genre Comedy-Fantasy

Platforms Disney+

Release Date November 16, 2022 - December 14, 2022

A lot of original Christmas content has been released in the past month. AppleTV+’s Spirited, HBO Max’s A Christmas Story Christmas, Disney+’s Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, and the theatrical release of Violent Night have meant there’s no shortage of NEW Christmas content right now. In addition to that, we saw the return of a once beloved Hollywood franchise with the newest entry in The Santa Clause franchise, now as a streaming series on Disney+.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: Some characters dissolve into pixie dust, not violent or frightening
Language/Crude Humor: None
Sexual Content: Some of the characters discuss being in relationships, but nothing sexual
Drug/Alcohol Use: None
Spiritual Content: The film introduces a Catholic Saint as a major character and focuses on the importance of giving and generosity. A scene involves a joke with characters trying to spell “Santa” with signs and accidentally spelling “Satan,” then panicking
Other Negative Themes: None
Positive Content: Themes of family, connection, and the specialness of Christmas

Review

The Santa Clause Trilogy (1994-2006) is amusing to look back upon. It’s also one of those kinds of projects that can reasonably be said to be the kind of thing Hollywood doesn’t make anymore. It’s very hard to imagine a studio approaching Tim Allen in 2022 and saying they want to spend $88 million to make Christmas movies. I can’t tell if I’d say they’re technically good movies outside of their specific niche of Christmas movie nostalgia. Still, at the very least, I remember and have positive memories of all of them.

Sixteen years later, Disney+ has resurrected the franchise as a legacy series and fully released the first season of a new ongoing continuation of the franchise, The Santa Clauses (pulling from the Aliens school of sequel titles). 

Set decades after the events of the third movie, Scott Calvin is beginning to lose his edge as Santa Claus. The Christmas spirit worldwide is beginning to diminish and he’s having yearly accidents and beginning to fear for his life. Facing the end of his career, he meets an eccentric and foolish Silicon Valley tech bro who wants to use the North Pole’s technology to change Christmas. In doing so, he ends up revealing some secrets that affect Scott and his understanding of who he is and why he became Santa Claus.

There’s a lot to recommend in The Santa Clauses. First, it feels like a natural continuation of the original films. The world feels goofy, textured, light-hearted, and surprisingly well thought through with every character given a fun personality to make them feel notable. The new Elf characters are all brilliantly cast child actors, particularly Matilda Lawler as the stern and unflinching chief of staff at the North Pole. 

Second, it’s nice to see Tim Allen back in a major starring role. He’s gained a rather partisan reputation in the past decade for his work on Last Man Standing, and his subsequent blaming of the show’s cancelation on “political correctness.” He’s mostly been phased out of major Hollywood productions, including the Toy Story franchise, so it’s actually kinda refreshing to see him back in his element playing one of his most popular characters. 

If the show has a major weakness, though, it’s in the attempt to try and explain Scott Calvin’s backstory more clearly and give it a more epic purpose than the first film’s explanation that he just so happened to discover the Santa coat on his lawn and became Santa because of a legal technicality. There’s some fun stuff culminating with a cameo by the historical St. Nicolas of Myra, a prominent church father of early Christianity tenuously related to the modern version of Santa Claus. However, it mostly serves to create a more epic backstory and robs some of the quirkiness from the original films knowing there’s some kind of preordained destiny for this character. 

Kal Penn as Simon Choksi does a great job playing the film’s replacement Santa and eventually becomes an unintentional antagonist who doesn’t realize the negative impact he’s creating because of his Tech Bro big ideas. It’s actually a nice inversion of the villains of the previous two entries in the series which played with over-the-top evil antagonists Scott Calvin had to overcome. 

Disney+ has already announced its plans for Season 2 of this series and I am kind of happy to hear that. I was expecting this to be a miniseries or some kind of handing-of-the-torch story to send off Tim Allen’s character to a new generation…but no. Disney is actually committed to making more content like this. The original films are fun and this series manages to mostly hold together as a lower-stakes, character-focused continuation with great moments and fun comedy. 

The Bottom Line

 

The Santa Clauses resurrects the cult classic Christmas franchise and brings us back to the cute world with new characters and challenges.

 

8

Tyler Hummel

Born into the unexplored residential backwater of Chicago, Tyler Hummel is a graduate of Tribeca Flashpoint College where he studied Sound Design for Film and Interactive Media. When he isn't hosting his public access talk show The Fox Valley Film Critics or collecting DragonBall Z figurines, he enjoys writing and directing short films. As with Rick from Casablanca, "he's a man like any other man, just more so!"

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