A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Santa Clause is a 1994 Christmas-themed movie in which Tim Allen plays a toy industry executive who transforms into jolly old Saint Nick himself. The original Santa Claus takes a fatal, accidental fall (yikes -- Santa dies!). Guns are drawn as Tim Allen's new "Santa" gets arrested by police. There are grown-up (and gross) jokes, and the movie deals with divorce and estrangement between a father and son. While the whole plot revolves around the idea of Santa being real, many characters talk about the fact that he might not be -- so this may not be the best fit for families looking to extend kids' belief in St. Nick. There is also some potty humor involving human and reindeer flatulence, as well as a vague reference to being on drugs in the 1960s.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
It's Christmas Eve. Scott Calvin (Tim Allen), a toy company executive, collects his little son Charlie from his ex-wife. When Santa Claus arrives on his roof, Scott's shout startles Santa into a fatal fall. The body disappears, leaving only the famous red suit. Scott takes over the sleigh and reindeer, completing Santa's annual rounds. At the North Pole, elves tell Scott and Charlie that according to the "Santa Clause" Scott is now required by law to take on Santa's identity. After Charlie tells his mom and child-psychologist stepfather (Judge Reinhold), they're convinced that Charlie has been warped by his dad. Months pass and Scott transforms into Santa until court hearings decide that he's nuts and cut off his visitation rights. Another December 24 approaches, and Scott must convince his employers and ex that he's not crazy.
Is it any good?
The jokes in this movie are just as funny for adults as for kids. The really nice thing about THE SANTA CLAUSE is that it takes its far-out premise all the way to a logical conclusion; there are no cheats or easy outs for Scott Calvin when the biggest job in the world is thrust upon him. Aided by excellent special effects, this likable guy has a slow, whimsical change into St. Nick -- persistent in a disbelieving world -- that is supernatural.
For a Disney fantasy, The Santa Clause is forthright about divorce and its aftermath but doesn't dwell too much on the agony of a broken home. There's pathos enough just in the separation of Scott Calvin from a son who still looks up to him. Commendably, Charlie's new stepdad appears not as an ogre to be defeated but as an OK guy who lost his faith in Santa Claus because he never got the Oscar Meyer Wiener whistle he wanted at age 3 (does that foreshadow the ending or what?). Some parents may be disappointed that this movie overlooks the religious significance of Christmas in favor of present-giving and childhood wish-fulfillment, but the movie ends on an appropriate note of good will and reconciliation.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about holiday movies. Why are the same titles -- such as It's a Wonderful Life and Scrooge -- shown each season?
How is this film similar to or different from other Christmas movies?
How often do holiday-themed movies center on the children of divorced parents? What are some other examples? How accurately do you think this movie conveys the challenges of that holiday for both the kids and the divorced parents?
- In theaters: January 1, 1994
- On DVD or streaming: September 29, 2002
- Cast: Judge Reinhold, Tim Allen, Wendy Crewson
- Director: John Pasquin
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Holidays
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements.
- Last updated: April 23, 2020
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