Call Me Claus

 
Predictable, dated holiday film is refreshingly multiracial.
  • Review Date: July 3, 2014
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2001
  • Running Time: 90 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

If you keep the spirit of Christmas alive, you can survive anything. Loved ones who have died can live on if you share the love they gave to you with others. Part of a B.J. Wrights' poem is recited, explaining that Santa's appearance changes to take many different forms and races and that the most important thing about Santa is that he believes in you.

Positive role models

Lucy Cullins is a bit of a Scrooge for most of the movie, neglecting her family, trying to ignore Christmas, and never showing appreciation to her coworkers. Nick (aka Santa) models the best of the Christmas spirit. He tries to change Lucy's heart with kindness and patience. The large cast presents a lot of positive models of African-Americans in positions of authority and power in a contemporary world in which race is largely ignored.

Violence

There's no violence, but there's a sad scene early on when young Lucy learns her father has died in Vietnam. Part of his funeral is shown, with family members crying. Very young kids might be scared by a scene when a minor character's face starts to morph demonically as he talks about acquiring wealth and power.

Sex

There's a close-up of a woman's breasts when she's auditioning for a television show. A man's "plumber's crack" is shown. Sexual innuendo includes Lucy mentioning she wants a vacation with "two cabana boys and a lot of lotion," a minor character mentions "bumping uglies," and goblins are defined as what happens when leprechauns and gnomes get drunk on the beach at night. In one instance Lucy blames her own grumpiness on PMS.

Language

"Crap" is used a lot. Also used once or twice each: "ass," "hell," "bitchin'," "piss," and "butt."  There's one instance of potty humor when a man asks if a reindeer is "doing his business" on the man's leg.

Consumerism

QVC and Home Shopping Network are mentioned once each. Fiji water and the Staples Center are shown. Hooters is mentioned. "AOL keyword" appears on a television screen. Although he's working for a home shopping company selling Christmas items, Santa tries to combat gross commercialism and refuses to sell some products he feels aren't in keeping with the holiday spirit.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A couple of scenes take place in a bar where beer is seen in abundance, although Santa only drinks hot cider. Champagne at a celebration is offered and seen being opened and poured. Goblins are defined as what happens when leprechauns and gnomes get drunk on the beach at night.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Call Me Claus presents standard holiday fare along with a lot of mild profanity (especially "crap") and some sexual innuendo (Lucy mentions she wants a vacation with "two cabana boys and a lot of lotion," a minor character mentions "bumping uglies," and goblins are defined as what happens when leprechauns and gnomes get drunk on the beach at night), making it better suited for older kids. Very young kids might be scared by a scene wherein a minor character's face starts to morph demonically as he talks about acquiring wealth and power. The real attraction is a world that shows African-Americans in positions of authority and in relatable, everyday circumstances. But the film doesn't ignore race, either: The movie explains that Santa appears in lots of different ways, and it straightforwardly presents a multiracial society as unremarkable.

What's the story?

Every 200 years, Santa has to retire and find a replacement. If he doesn't, there will be catastrophic global flooding. With only a few weeks to go before Christmas, this Santa's (Nigel Hawthorne) turn is over and he hasn't even selected or started to train the next Santa. He remembers how, years ago, his hat glowed with Christmas magic when he put it on the head of young Lucy Cullins, making her the only real choice for the job. Fast-forward to today, and Lucy (Whoopi Goldberg) is now the producer of a major home shopping channel's Christmas programming. But Lucy has become quite a Scrooge over the years: She doesn't keep in touch with her family, and she's pretty mean and ungrateful to her coworkers. Can Santa get through to her and convince her that she's the one who should take over in time to save Christmas and the world?

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

CALL ME CLAUS serves up standard holiday fare: The world will end if Santa doesn't save Christmas in time. The predictable story gets where it needs to go, with a few heartwarming moments and very little real suspense along the way. Abrupt cuts to black (where commercials would have been) is a bit disruptive to the streaming format. The real strength of the movie is the way it presents a positive, multiracial society with African-Americans at the forefront, making it a worthwhile holiday choice. But the contrived plot, flat acting (although adequate, none of the veteran cast members really shines), and dated, made-for-TV format keep it out of the pantheon of great holiday movies.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Christmas spirit. What does it really mean? Which characters in the movie (besides Santa) show Christmas spirit?

  • This movie shows a lot of familiar things about Santa. Does it show you any parts of his life or story that are new to you?

  • Do you think Lucy will make a good Santa? Why, or why not?

Movie details

DVD release date:December 2, 2001
Cast:Whoopi Goldberg, Nigel Hawthorne
Director:Peter Werner
Studios:Columbia TriStar Television, Turner Network Television, Red Strokes Entertainment, One Ho Productions
Genre:Drama
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Holidays
Run time:90 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

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