Let's be frank, Americans sometimes get it really wrong. The case in point, last Christmas two competing Santa movies hit the snowy US streets. The first, Miracle On 34th Street, was a beautifully performed, unpretentious, genuinely touching ode about believing in the guy in red. It rustled up less business than the Sinclair C5. The second, The Santa Clause, was a bloated, wretched concept comedy about a dysfunctional dad donning suit and hat, and taking on the mantle of the big guy body and, before long, soul. Hey presto, it was a hit the size of Greenland.
Allen (from TV's Home Improvement) is the dad in question. He's cynical. He's corporate. He can't communicate with his kid. And he really can't stand his ex-wife's new man - psychiatrist Judge Reinhold complete with big sweaters. Allen's schtick is a jabbermouth know-it-all, and he's fine while he can poke fun at Reinhold, and quip hard on the Crimbo front, but - and here's the rub - there's a whole heap of second-rate sentiment waiting to send him flying.
Santa - the real Santa - lands on his roof, Allen cries foul, Santa topples, pops his boots, and at the behest of a mysterious contractual clause, and his squealing son, Allen takes a new career direction involving reindeer and a bottomless sack. This allows Allen to snap at ungrateful kids and morph down chimneys, but once the smirking comedian starts actually transforming into Santa, the film turns into a ghastly seasonal take on Mrs. Doubtfire.
There's elves, Lapland, toy factories and sleighs but none of it connects. The film drops from obvious comedy into a ready melt slush which no amount of make-up and special effects can rescue. No doubt, Clause 2 is on the Disney Christmas wish list this year, and, no doubt, Allen is a huge star in the making. Thankfully, though, this Santa Clause is just for Christmas, not for life.