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Santa Claus

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
Santa Claus Movie Poster Image
Good-hearted thief is set straight by kid; some swearing.
  • NR
  • 2014
  • 80 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Even thieves know right from wrong.
 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Antoine is an honest boy whose mother has raised him well. He is also head-strong and doesn't listen to grownups even when they give him direct instructions. He seems remarkably comfortable with heights and frightening situations. The Santa thief is a skilled climber who knows knots well, but he exposes a small boy to extreme danger without giving it much thought, until later, when he comes to like the kid. Although the thief later proves to be a decent person, he lies repeatedly throughout the story.

Violence

A boy nearly falls off of a roof. A man is hit by a car. Thugs beat up a fellow thief. Cops and neighbors chase a thief. A boy's father has died.

Sex

A dancer is seen briefly in a revealing outfit, with her breasts covered only by a few strategically placed sparkles. No body parts are shown but a boy is seen sitting on a toilet with his pants down.

Language

"F--k," "s--t," "bastard." "piss," "boobies," "hell," and "damn."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults smoke cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Santa Claus, in French with English subtitles, is an odd buddy movie in which a career thief dressed as Santa breaks into high-end Parisian apartments on Christmas Eve. In one, he encounters a 6-year-old boy who is too excited about Santa's arrival to sleep. In a highly implausible scenario, the boy follows the larcenous Santa, while his mother sleeps, for a night of unwitting crime and bonding. The pair climb the rooftops of Paris in search of jewelry, evading police and thugs, and at least one time nearly slipping down ropes to the streets below. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," and "bastard," and a fan dancer is seen briefly in a costume that covers only her nipples.

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What's the story?

On Christmas Eve, a thief (Tahar Rahim) dressed as the title's SANTA CLAUS breaks into apartments that he's been instructed contain jewelry stashes. In one, he encounters 6-year-old Antoine (Victor Cabal), too excited to sleep. Thinking it's the real Santa, he follows the thief out of his home and attaches himself to the guy. This attracts the attention of citizens on the subway who send the police after them and nearly gets the thief caught. To the police, the thief claims to be the boy's father and the boy for some reason plays along. After evading the cops, the thief then spins a yarn for Antoine about being the real Santa but with a waylaid sleigh, forcing him to enter apartments looking for gold to fix the damage. Although he first tries to send the boy home in a cab, Santa realizes the boy has his loot and runs into the street after him, only to get knocked down by a car. The injury rules out climbing down ropes into apartments for the rest of the night, but his unforgiving bosses aren't letting Santa off the hook so he recruits the kid as Santa's official apprentice and embarks on a spree of breaks-ins, sending the 6-year-old down dangerous ropes into targeted homes. Wearing a miner's light and equipped with a walkie-talkie and backpack, the boy has an implausibly good time trashing apartments as he searches for gold. As the thief grows fonder of the boy, he finally does the right thing and sends him home, right after they conspire to set up Santa's bosses and get them arrested. The movie suggests the thief goes straight after this adventure.  

Is it any good?

This quirky holiday movie has some enjoyable moments even if it isn't everyone's cup of eggnog. Throughout Santa Claus, despite great performances by Rahim and Cabal, the thief's actions seem so utterly unbelievable that certain sequences are actually difficult to watch. Would a grown man really send a 6-year-old down the side of a four-story building for the purpose of breaking-and-entering? Would he trust a kid that young, one that he just met, to go into those homes and steal hidden jewelry? If the police caught up with Santa, surely they'd add kidnapping to the robbery charges, and maybe even wrongful death if the kid fell off the roof. If not for the language, this would probably be most entertaining for kids. 

As for resolving the ethical issues -- an attractive guy shows a child how to steal -- by the end, it turns out the lying and scheming Santa actually has a conscience and grows fond of the boy. Even then, he doesn't take the boy home but rather sends the kid traipsing across Paris roofs until he gets to his own house and drops in through the window, just in time to wake his mom for Christmas morning. Implausible? Certainly. But older kids looking for a quirky holiday movie might enjoy the nontraditional tale.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the likelihood that a small boy would venture out of his house in the middle of the night to follow a young guy dressed in a Santa outfit. Do you believe that a boy would go out late at night on his own? Do you believe that a thief would jeopardize a small boy's life the way Santa does in Santa Claus? What is "suspension of disbelief"?

  • "Santa" says he has been stealing since he was young. Does the movie persuade you that he later turns his life around?

  • How does this compare to other holiday movies you've seen?

Movie details

For kids who love the holidays

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