A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie shows the importance of selfless giving during the holiday season and contrasts this with the evils of selfish greed.
Positive Role Models
Early in the movie, Santa and Mrs. Claus, before becoming Santa and Mrs. Claus, are shown to be a kindly couple who give presents to all the children of their village every Christmas season.
Violence & Scariness
Kids bully and taunt two of the lead children in the movie for claiming to have met Santa Claus. Early in the film, the elderly couple who eventually become Santa and Mrs. Claus seem to perish when their sleigh gets trapped in a blizzard.
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"Crap," "sucks," "hell."
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Products & Purchases
A Coca-Cola can is prominently displayed in a scene in which a homeless boy is given dinner. The antagonist is shown pouring a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon into a glass. One scene is filmed inside a McDonald's restaurant; several types of McDonald's food are prominently shown.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The antagonist is never shown without a smoking cigar. He's also shown drinking beer. A man dressed like Santa Claus on a New York City street is shown drinking from a bagged bottle presumed to be alcohol.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Santa Claus: The Movie is a 1985 holiday film that is both about the origin of Santa Claus and the story of an evil toymaker (played by John Lithgow) who seeks to take over Christmas with the help of a prodigal elf (played by Dudley Moore). Although the abrupt shift in tone from the first half of the movie to the second is jarring, of greater concern is the constant smoking, as Lithgow's character is always shown smoking a cigar. There also is lots of consumerism (product placement for McDonald's) and mild profanity ("crap," "sucks," "hell"). Although the movie does teach lessons on Christmas being a time of selfless giving, and there are some clever moments along the way, overall, the movie's inability to decide exactly what it wants to be makes the cynical tone of the second half a bit much for both parents and kids. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The biggest problem with SANTA CLAUS: THE MOVIE is its jarring shift in style, tone, and attitude from the first half of the movie to the second. In the first half, the viewer is presented with a story of how Santa Claus came to be, and the film has the basic air of a wholesome and traditional Christmas movie. However, somewhere along the way, the tone shifts to something more cynical, perhaps like Scrooged in its humor, as the movie moves into 1980s New York City and follows a corrupt and greedy toy manufacturer looking to take Christmas (and its profits) all for himself. Santa Claus makes occasional appearances in the second half, but his scenes are flat-out stolen by the evil toymaker (played with over-the-top gusto by John Lithgow) and his unwitting accomplice, played by Dudley Moore.
If the movie had been entirely like the first half, or entirely like the second half, it would have been much better. Unfortunately, as a movie that tries to be two movies in one, it falls short in every way -- as both an attempt to present a heartwarming story of the origin of Santa Claus and as a satire of corporate 1980s-style greed at the expense of the real Christmas spirit.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.