By Renee Longstreet,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Warm-hearted animated elf story with mild violence.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Meant to entertain, not educate.
Traditional messages: Our differences make us special. What kind of "elf" do you want to be -- the kind to run away or make a stand? Even villains can be changed and set in the right direction.
Positive Role Models
An elf with low self-esteem and feelings of constant failure learns that he, too, has an important part to play in his world. He becomes an enthusiastic "can-do" fellow when much is depending upon him. A dark-skinned elf is included among the featured players.
Violence & Scariness
Some cartoon action: bumping into things, zapping, falling, tackling, crashing, chasing. Two comic human villains (a mom and her adult son) glower, cackle, and threaten in a hammy way. The North Pole is invaded by a small army and their leader; they capture Santa, intimidate elves, and menace the community.
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The film's hero is a reindeer poop scooper; thus, there are scenes of poop piles (complete with flies) and mention of "fun, warm brownies." A mean, disapproving mother insults her adult son: "dunderheaded dolt," "my idiot son."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this computer-animated holiday movie with original music is lighthearted with some cartoon action. The plot, which centers on a hologram breach and a time machine with Elf Bernard reliving one day over and over again (seeing duplicate Bernards in some scenes) may be confusing for very young viewers, but the intent -- saving Santa and Christmas -- is always clear. Bad guys and heroes are chased, bumped, crashed into, and zapped in a broadly comedic way with no injuries or real scares. There's some suspense when Santa and the North Pole are invaded by a mustache-twirling villain and his small army; he's been sent by his intimidating, evil mother (a Cruella De Vil type). Bernard's job is "reindeer poop scooper" so the movie contains multiple visuals of and references to poop ("a few warm brownies"). Actors use a mix of American and English dialects.
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Where to Watch
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What's the Story?
Bernard (a delightful Martin Freeman, who sings, too) is an elf who wants to be special in SAVING SANTA, a direct-to-DVD holiday entry. Stuck in a dead-end job at the North Pole -- he's the head reindeer poop scooper -- Bernard is desperate for a promotion. His invention of an ornament that brings back our happiest Christmas memories is his latest attempt to get some recognition. But when he presents it to the proper committee, it sparks a power outage and he's sent back to the poop patrol. Meanwhile, Neville Baddington (Tim Curry) and his wicked mother (Joan Collins) want to get their hands on Santa's sleigh. They own the world's fastest package-delivery service, and Santa is their biggest competitor during the holiday season. They're determined to learn the secret of Santa's speedy around-the-world route. Lucky for Bernard, he gets wind of the evil plan and sets out to stop them. Bernard goes back in time again and again, using a precious Time Globe (the secret to Santa's speedy travel) and his own ornament invention to save the North Pole in time for the Christmas Eve journey.
Is It Any Good?
Saving Santa is an engaging, pleasant family-viewing experience for the holidays. It's not a landmark achievement in computer animation (CGI) as is some major studio fare; it's not super-inventive or super-funny; and the original music is OK, but the vocal performances are first rate and there are nice messages about becoming our best selves and the wondrousness of childhood memories. Some of the plot logistics may prove confusing to little kids (such as, though they've dirtied up one of the time-traveling Bernards, it's occasionally hard to tell which elf is which when they're playing in the same scene). Given the abundance of substandard direct-to-DVD Christmas offerings, this is a welcome change, a movie that works for little kids, older kids, tweens -- and even willing adults.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how audiences enjoy movies in which the heroes get to relive a day or a time period. Why do you think those films are so much fun? If you could relive one special day, what might you change?
Do you think Neville and his mother were funny villains or scary villains? In animated movies, how do the voice-over actors let the audience know whether they're supposed to laugh or be frightened?
One of the movie's songs asks Bernard, "What kind of elf do you want to be?" The choices are "run-and-hide" or "make-a-stand." Have you ever had that choice? When is it not a good idea to "make a stand"?
- On DVD or streaming: November 5, 2013
- Cast: Martin Freeman, Tim Curry, Tim Conway
- Directors: Leo Joosen, Aaron Seelman
- Studio: Gateway Films
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Holidays
- Run time: 83 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: May 23, 2023
Did we miss something on diversity?
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