‘The Santa Clauses’ REVIEW: The Clause Isn’t Clear
Millennials’ Santa Claus, aka Scott Calvin (Tim Allen), is back in the new Disney+ series, The Santa Clauses. Now, full disclosure, I enjoyed The Santa Clause when I watched it growing up, but I didn’t fall in love with it the way much of my generation did. It doesn’t define Christmas for me (that belongs to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation), nor does it make me nostalgic for my childhood. And yet, when I picture the North Pole, I see Judy and her hot cocoa, and I think of Neil whenever there’s an ugly sweater in a department store, and point this out to my husband every time. Heck, even my father can verbatim quote the first film. Even if I didn’t think it was, The Santa Clause is a verified Christmas classic, one whose legacy The Santa Clauses tries, and may struggle to, live up to.
Old St. Nick
The series timeline stays true to real life, picking up 28 years after Scott took up the reins of Santa (the first film came out in 1994). Scott’s loving his job, doing extreme stunts in the sleigh to catch a kruller in his mouth, and bringing the spirit of Christmas back to adults who had lost it. But his Christmas spirit comes into question when Scott notices that his magic is beginning to falter, as less and less kids believe in him every year. He begins to question his role as Santa, and whether or not he should hang up the red suit once and for all.
The decision to retire becomes an easy one when Scott realizes that his family isn’t thriving at the North Pole. His wife (Elizabeth Mitchell) can barely remember her name (Carol) and feels trapped in the anonymous role of a Mrs. Clause, his son Cal (Austin Kane) is constantly using VR to experience the regular world, and his daughter (Elizabeth Allen-Dick) Sandra’s only friends are animals. And so, the hunt for a new Santa Claus begins.
The Presents Under the Tree
The premise of the show is easy to get behind and makes sense for the modern era. People argue that today’s kids grow too fast and lose their childhood innocence earlier than past generations. Given all that has transpired in the past few years, I am inclined to agree. Scott’s desire to leave and reluctance to do so until finding a suitable replacement fits the man that we met 30 years ago.
What I most liked about The Santa Clauses was that it’s actually enjoyable. Most media aimed at the younger generation relies on making TikTok references and alienating older viewers. It doesn’t have that overwhelming sense of cringe that makes most modern Disney and Nickelodeon shows unpalatable for anyone whose age is in the double digits.
The acting in this show is also at a high caliber, and not just due to Allen and Mitchell’s performances. The child actors, namely those portraying elves, are giving it their all and engaging with the script in a way that doesn’t feel forced, and liven up the North Pole, bringing it into the 21st century. A standout is Matilda Lawler, playing head elf Betty. David Krumholtz’s Bernard left big pointy shoes to fill, and she’s wearing them well.
While we don’t see too much of Kal Penn’s Simon Choksi, the manic energy of this character has a Bezosian quality that I am excited to see more of in coming episodes and provides what I think will be a fruitful contrast to Allen’s Scott Calvin.
A Big Old Lump of Coal
This may be a case of looking at the actor rather than the character he portrays, but hearing “‘Saying ‘Merry Christmas to all’ has suddenly become problematic” seems a lot less Scott Calvin, and a lot more Tim Allen. When an elf also chimed in, adding that they “can’t say naughty anymore” and have to call it the “misunderstood list”, it pulled me out of the magic. It felt out of place and incorrect for the program, shoehorned in by someone with a very public agenda. It ultimately detracted from my viewing experience and made me concerned about what Scott might have to say about the real world in the episodes to come.
Like the original Santa before him, and like Scott does at the end of episode one, the comedy in this series fall flat. The films in this franchise were never a joke-fest full of one-liners, but even the corny jokes would get a smile. The first time I let out a laugh when watching this was in the last few minutes of the second episode. That’s an hour of content before the first actually humorous scene. It’s a weak start for a show headlined by a veteran comedian; hopefully future episodes will find the groove of the first film’s hallway dance.
To All A Good Night
The Santa Clauses endeavors to bring holiday spirit back to the masses at a time where we need it most. It pulls off something rare in revivals and expands on the original universe, teasing the mythos and lore of Santas who came before Scott. While this sleigh might not be off the ground yet, there’s still a lot of runway left.
The first two episodes of The Santa Clauses are available to stream on Disney+ starting Wednesday, November 16th.