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The Santa Clause
Rating: PG
Release Date: October 29, 2002
Running Time: approximately 97 minutes
Ten-second Rundown: Santa Claus suffers a fatal fall at the home of toy company exec Scott Calvin, who dons the fabled red suit and finds himself endowed with all the powers and abilities of a big fat magic elf.
Version: Special Edition

  • Sneak Peek at The Santa Clause 2
  • "So You Want To Be An Elf?"
  • Guiding Santa interactive set-top game with trivia
  • Wolfgang Puck's Holiday Recipes
  • DVD-ROM: "Write A Letter To Santa" and Christmas Countdown calendar
  • previews of upcoming Disney attractions
  • free ticket to The Santa Clause 2 (expires 12/13/02)

    Tech Specs: Widescreen Anamorphic format (1.85:1), English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, French and Spanish mono, Spanish subtitles, close-captioned
    Type of disc: Dual Layer Format

    The average fanboy has no problem getting in touch with his inner child year-round. For ten months out of the year, the rest of society looks down upon him. But come the Christmas season, we get inundated with books, TV specials and movies aimed at helping everybody else remember their sense of childhood wonder, or at least cashing in on it.

    When such a project manages to balance things out with a couple of dark twists to avoid being too cloying, it is to be valued. For all its family film hype, The Santa Clause accomplishes that trick. Spinning off of a pretty black premise (and borrowing a little from Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality), the movie sort of lures the viewer into feeling good about Christmas. Thankfully for those with small children, it moves fast enough to distract people from the realization that it begins with the violent death of Santa.

    Sure, Tim Allen quickly takes his place, literally, thanks to that pesky Santa clause. But there's still, briefly, a Santa Corpse in the front yard. Reducing our cherished childhood myths to simple bureaucratic succession is a little subversive, and yet has a little ring of bitter truth. (Do you think Michael Eisner ever puts on a Walt Disney suit? Insert your favorite scene from Silence of the Mice here.)

    The movie works because it has genuine heart and humor, and director John Pasquin reined in some of Tim Allen's bits. A pretty funny stand-up, Allen had to prove he could act, and this movie unexpectedly raised his stock. (Never mind some of what came after it.) But the film also provides decent character roles for the supporting actors; if not for this, Judge Reinhold might have disappeared completely.

    Like a lot of their catalog, Disney has already released this on DVD once. As a sop to those who already have it, there is a rebate coupon for buying the upgrade included (will Fox do that with X-Men?) The real timing for this is to cross-promote with the release of The Santa Clause 2; while small children might enjoy the extras, there's nothing really new for Disney fans to wild over.

    In an interesting diversion for kids, the studio doesn't just include the usual trivia game (though it's there). Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck demonstrates how to make certain treats for Santa, sharing the spotlight with his Spago's pastry chef. The recipes also get included in a frame by frame section, so this might be a practical fun activity for a night during Christmas vacation. If nothing else, kids will dig Puck's accent.

    A more cynical man might accuse this extra of being crass cross-promotion for Puck's restaurant at Disney's California Adventure. Well, Mister Smarty Pants, Puck pulled out of that project a few months ago, so it just couldn't be that. It is suspicious that he keeps insisting that Santa wants pizza by the fireplace, though.

    Forget the little bits of commercialism. If you don't have this movie already, it's worth checking out. Should an older DVD be sitting in your collection, the upgrade choice really lies in your hands. But definitely watch it before heading out to see the sequel, which in itself is entertaining.

    The Santa Clause 2 retains some of that sly love-hate relationship with the season. Eight years have passed, and Scott Calvin has proven himself the most popular Santa Claus ever. But trouble brews at the North Pole. Scott has begun to mysteriously lose weight in a desantafication process, while back home his teenaged son Charlie has earned himself a place on the naughty list.

    By the title, you understand what plot complication has arisen: Scott has to find himself a wife. And about twenty minutes in, it will come as no surprise who it's going to be. However, the dark streak still runs through; in Scott's absence, an evil plastic Santa tries turning the North Pole into a fascist regime dedicated to giving all the children in the world lumps of coal. It just goes to prove that we were right not to trust that toy family in the old Duracell campaign.

    By the Fanboy Planet standard, SC2 is worth , and the current DVD - well, out of the kindness of your heart, we invite and encourage you to click on the Amazon link below. Thus endeth the crass commercialism. For today.

    The Santa Clause (Widescreen Special Edition)

    Derek McCaw


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