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 Claus in this made-for-TV movie is discouraged by the increasing materialism of Christmas and his belief that no one believes in him anymore, which makes him awfully grumpy for most of the movie and causes him to lash out verbally at others a few times. An adult chugs a beer in front of a young boy, and a man in a Santa suit drinks from a flask while tending to a donation can on the street. The humor here is mostly based in the characters' quirky personalities (like a head elf just itching for his chance to step out of Santa's shadow), so little kids will probably miss a lot of it. Families looking for a show filled with jolly elves, Christmas tunes, festive decor, and lots of holiday spirit won't find much of that here.
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What's the story?
In this live-action movie, Santa (John Goodman) is frustrated that the true meaning of Christmas has been lost forever. His head elf, Sparky (Chris Kattan), also seems sucked into materialism. Discouraged, Santa decides to take the year off. But while he's making plans to pack up and move with Mrs. Claus (Delta Burke) to Mythopolis -- a retirement community for mythological figures -- two of his elves set out to find someone who can convince Santa that the Christmas spirit is alive and well. They travel to South Town, U.S.A., to find young Iggy Thistlewhite (Dylan Minnette), who is trying to revive the true spirit of the season in his hometown.
Is it any good?
Despite boasting such a stellar cast, The Year Without a Santa Claus is a disappointing mix of a slow plot, poor writing, and subpar visual effects. Chris Kattan's presence is definitely a high point, and his hysterical portrayal of a deviously ambitious elf looking to make his mark on Christmas often carries the scenes he's in.
Families with tweens and teens might enjoy the character-based humor this movie offers, but if your kids are little, they'll probably be turned off by the grumpy, sarcastic Santa and general lack of holiday spirit that exists for most of the show.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the importance of showing appreciation. Why is it important to get recognition for a job well done? When have your kids felt that their efforts haven't been appreciated?
Families can also discuss how this movie compares to the book that inspired it, or the animated Rankin-Bass movie that first adapted it in 1974. What portions of the book were changed for the movie? Why do your kids think they made those changes? Did they make the story better or worse?
Do you like stories like this with animated characters or live ones? Why?
For kids who love Christmas
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.