Well, with Christmas in the rearview and the countless photos of masked folks on social media, it’s clear now that this Christmas was perhaps the strangest and most uncommon in the holiday’s long, bizarre history.
That being said, perhaps it’s now time to metabolize Christmas and what it brings us every year. Cheer? Check. Cookies? Check. Presents? Check. Family? Check. Bizarre movies? Uh, yeah, definitely.
From the bizarrely dark and frightful Rankin-Bass Christmas movies which feature toothless abominable snow monsters and “Heat Miser and Snow Misers” that both look like the work of some acid-fueled nightmare to a movie in which Santa Claus literally “conquers” Mars – Christmas has been the subject of many great and often bizarre films.
In fact, no holiday probably has Christmas’s breadth of films aimed directly at it. Even if a large portion of them are Dickensian adaptations. So, with that breadth and wealth of films on one particular subject, we’re bound to come across some great films, some bad films and some insanely bizarre but also kinda great films?
With that caveat, let me introduce you to the bizarre world of that modern Christmas-classic, the Tim Allen starring “The Santa Clause.”
Before we begin though, I must air my possible bias that might place Tim Allen’s film and film series in the pantheon of “classic.”
You see, I hail from Toledo, Ohio, the fourth largest city and fifth largest metro area in Ohio. (I know, confusing, right? Dayton metro has a larger population but more people live in the city of Toledo. But I digress.)
Toledo itself lies nestled on Lake Erie a mere 50 miles (or one hour’s drive) away from Detroit, Michigan. A once brilliant, now has-been, still beautiful, but also blighted city. Toledoans love Detroit and they hate Detroit, they root for its sports teams and despair over being forced to root for them (or Cleveland) due to mere geographic fault. And so, it is with that geographic bias that I assume the greatness of “The Santa Clause.”
How so you ask, wondering what Tim Allen a.k.a. Scott Calvin, our film’s selfish, loserish protagonist becoming Santa Clause has to do with these woeful Erie burgs? Well, Tim Allen is from Detroit, a fact that is so obvious and well-known among people who hail from the Western Erie locale.
In fact, his voice is burned into my memory of the tiny Ohio-Michigan border town because everytime I think of Michigan, I think of Tim Allen’s voice.
For the uninitiated, let me explain – in 2008, the state launched an advertising campaign to drive up tourism to the slowly depopulating midwestern state by using large, sweeping shots of Michigan’s more beautiful scenery; from the lighthouses of northern Michigan, to the forests that litter the mitten (the colloquial name for Michigan, due to it being shaped like a literal mitten), to the more beautiful parts of Grand Rapids, Detroit and some of its smaller towns.
Playing over all of this scenery was the theme song to the Michael Caine and Tobey McGuire movie “The Cider House Rules,” complete with a stirring narration by the one and only famous Michigander (not really, but he probably thinks so) Tim Allen.
The thing is, I’ve been to Michigan. It is a very pretty place, but it’s also a place where you can tell you’ve entered it simply by the horrifying sound your tires make upon crossing its border. Seriously, there are videos online about how bad Michigan’s roadways are. It is a major problem.
So, with this in mind, understand that in my brain “The Santa Clause” resides in the same pantheon as the best of Rankin-Bass, as George Bailey’s feel-good anti-suicide message and 19th century rich British misers getting the old Dickens frightened out of them so they start paying their employees better wages. A message we could all use right about now, am I right?
With that long-winded explanation out of the way, let’s tackle this film and why it is, probably one of the weirdest Christmas movies out there.
Let’s start with the fact that it’s a Christmas movie that features the death and literal vanishing of Santa Claus within the first five minutes.
Hold up – actually, before we tackle how Santa Claus dies in the film’s opening, let’s tackle the film’s name, which has ruined how children in the English-speaking world spell the main figure of the holiday’s (outside of Jesus, but we’re not gonna drag religion into this, please) name.
“The Santa Clause” a clever name for a film about how there’s a clause in being Santa Claus, get it? Except, no, I didn’t when I was eight and this movie came out because I was a child.
It’s weird, right? The fact that the writers of the film thought they were being super clever with that pun, yet they didn’t realize that almost zero kids ever have seen an actual contract in their lives and thus would have no idea what a clause was. So from then on the world was plagued by even more people assuming that Santa Claus was spelled like “Santa Clause” despite the fact that there’s no “e” on the end of his name.
Thanks, Tim Allen.
So then, what is this clause? Also, it should be noted, before I go into this that yes, David Krumholtz, who plays “Bernard, the Head Elf” explains to the audience what a clause is, but again, it should be noted that most of the audience is made up of children who are currently distracted by the fact that Tim Allen is walking around the North Pole.
Speaking of children and the North Pole, let’s rewind a second and point out that the “elves” in Santa Claus’ shop are, well, children. Is Santa okay with child labor? Maybe. That’s kinda dark, right?
But they’re elves, you say. Okay, they’re elves, I’ll buy that but only because they seem completely despondent and distracted when some random guy walks in dressed in their former boss, possible friend’s clothes.
Something that, as fellow-editor Ayzha Middlebrooks pointed out, might hint at the fact that these “children elves” are thousands of years old and at this point are completely unphased by the countless deaths of mortals.
Yeah, feeling heavy yet? I’d like to point out at this point that Bernard just disappears by the third movie. Now, obviously, David Krumholtz was either too old or tired of making these movies, but taking the in-world logic that these “children elves” are immortal, that means that Bernard just disappears – a fact again pointed out to me by Ayzha.
Why? Was he murdered? Was he on some guy’s roof and then a quasi-famous actor yelled at him and he fell off the roof to his death? I don’t know, but it’s something to think about.
So, to get back on track, Santa arrives and Bernard, the elf who eventually just disappears (because we can only assume he called out all of the horrors that happen in the North Pole and was then fed to a narwhal or something) gives Scott Calvin the clause, which is that Tim Allen put on the suit, so he’s the new Santa.
Again, no mention of the now vanished (as in he literally vanishes like Obi Wan in “Star Wars: A New Hope”) Santa Claus and how Bernard is sad that his colleague and close friend is now just joined the choir invisible.
So, yeah, Tim Allen accidentally murders Santa, then he puts on his clothes…which, like, let’s not just blow by that fact because who accidentally kills someone and then just puts on their clothes because a card tells them to? A psychopath, that’s who.
He then travels all over the world, delivering Santa’s presents and eventually goes back to the North Pole, is greeted by “child elves” and told by a very apathetic that his former boss is dead, eventually narwal food elf, that he’s the new Santa Claus.
And with that, I fear we’ve overstayed our welcome and will have to finish this in Part 2.