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The Santa Clause (1994)


If I found my attention flagging, maybe it's because I am not a member of its intended audience. For kids and many teenagers and their families, this is probably going to be a popular film. I personally found I just didn't care much: That, despite its charms, the movie didn't push over the top into true inspiration. I would have traded a lot of "The Santa Clause" for just one shot of Groucho Marx explaining how there ain't no sanity clause.




The Santa Clause (1994)


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Acting alongside Tim Allen, who is 69 now, in key roles are Ashlan Rowan, Rupali Redd, Kal Penn and Elizabeth Mitchell among others. The Santa Clause (1994), however, had an entirely different cast, so let's take a look at the original cast and where they are right now.


That is the other clever element to the movie. The clause which makes him Santa and transforms Tim Allen into the jolly fat man over the course of the year is the crux of the story and helps keep the movie funny. From shaving constantly, bizarre weight gain and knowing everyone who is naughty and nice, there is enough subtle elements for Allen to work with and keep the movie entertaining.


Throughout my life, and in the last few years reviewing movies at Ruthless, there have been few things that have actually terrified me. After watching The Santa Clause (1994), I noticed that there are actually two sequels to this movie. That is terrifying. I would say that I have no words, but actually I do, and these words are not going to be kind. This movie will probably wind up the Christmas movie reviews for this 2016 season. I present to you a horror known as The Santa Clause (1994)


The first film in the series, The Santa Clause (1994) is a modern take on the Scrooge story with a twist. Businessman Scott Calvin is divorced and cynical, and his ex-wife Laura (Wendy Crewson) doesn't want him to have much contact with his son, Charlie (Eric Lloyd). One fateful Christmas Eve, he startles a man who he believes is a burglar on his roof. The man falls off into the snow of their front yard, then vanishes, leaving his clothing behind- and a sleigh of flying reindeer on the roof. Scott, at Charlie's insistence, puts on the guy's red Santa coat and spends the night delivering gifts before being taken back to the North Pole, where he discovers that he inadvertently invoked a magical contract and must now take on the role of Santa permanently, being given until Thanksgiving to set his affairs in order. He tries to blow this off as a wild dream and returns to his life, but before he knows it, he finds himself craving cocoa with marshmallows and Christmas cookies, puts on weight at an alarming rate, and finds his hair whitening and a beard that grows back in five seconds. His ex thinks that he's gone crazy and tries to win sole custody of their son, and Scott has to attempt to both repair his damaged family relationships and keep Christmas going.


The third, The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006), features a North Pole visit from Carol's parents for Christmas. Mrs. Claus is about to have a baby, and Santa must contend with jealous Jack Frost (Martin Short). The harbinger of winter is jealous that Santa gets all the winter attention and decides to exploit the escape clause of the Santa Clause in order to steal the job from an overwhelmed Scott. Scott is returned to his life as it was before becoming Santa, without Carol, but is made aware of what's gone wrong and has to set it all right before Christmas Eve.


  • Franchise-Wide All Myths Are True: American myths, at least: Santa Claus, Mother Nature, Father Time, the Sandman, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and Jack Frost all exist, with the only apparent misunderstanding being that Santa is a job rather than a single person. However, adults still seem to generally believe these figures are myths, despite unexplained presents apparently appearing in their homes every year...

  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: International versions use "Jingle Bells" by Yello as the end credits song instead of "Christmas Will Return".

  • Anthropomorphic Personification: The Council of Legendary Figures, consisting of Mother Nature, Father Time, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, and Cupid (and Jack Frost in the third film, who represents winter as a whole).

  • Bad Santa: Scott's a little rough around the edges, particularly on his first midnight run before actually transforming into Santa, but is never outright malicious. However, both of the sequels feature this. Scott takes the elves up on making a toy substitute Santa so he can go search for a wife in the second film, but toy Santa takes a turn for the dictatorial. Jack Frost becomes a Corrupt Corporate Executive variety in the third film and turns the North Pole into a commercial theme park.

  • Big Eater: Scott becomes this after assuming the role of Santa. Comet is also this, overdoing it on chocolate in the sequel to the extent that he can't fly.

  • But Thou Must!: Whoever puts on the coat becomes Santa Claus. Once the coat goes on, their old life is effectively over, whether they like it or not.

  • Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: Santa is a jolly Nice Guy, while Bernard the head elf is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.

  • Casting Gag: David Krumholtz is Jewish, but plays the Head Elf Bernard in the first two films.

  • Catching Some Z's: The Sandman's magic sleeping dust consists of various Zs.

  • Chimney Entry: Traditionally, Santa goes down the chimney. With houses that didn't have chimneys or fireplaces, but rather heating vents and pipes, Scott Calvin as Santa enters the house through there and a fireplace magically appears in the room where lands.

  • Christmas Elves: The trilogy features child-like elves who are Really 700 Years Old. (Bernard, Santa's second-in-command, is noticeably taller and played by a teenager.) After meeting them in his "dream," Scott objects to the more "dwarf-like" interpretation of Christmas elves that his advertising company was going to use in a commercial.

  • Christmas Town: The North Pole is a central location in all three films. It is a large metropolis populated by child-like elves and flying reindeer. It is all owned by the current Santa Claus (in the film's case, Scott Calvin) and acts as a meeting place for other iconic magical beings (Mother Nature, Father Time, Jack Frost, etc).

  • Cool Old Guy: Bernard when he's not working is very jovial and fun. He looks like a teenager or young adult, but he's really very old even by elf standards.

  • Cousin Oliver: The sequels introduce Lucy, presumably because Charlie's actor (Eric Lloyd) had become too old to be the cute little kid. Being Neal and Laura's daughter, born in the eight-year gap between the first and second movie, Lucy's introduction is less shoehorned than in many other examples.

  • Deadpan Snarker: Scott Calvin is easily the snarkiest character in the whole series, in typical Tim Allen fashion. Bernard and Charlie have their moments of this as well.

  • Dork in a Sweater: Neal wears goofy sweaters, one of which Bernard thinks was made at the North Pole.

  • Forced Sleep: The Sandman can cause people to fall asleep. He uses it on Bud and Sylvia prior to taking them to the disguised North Pole.

  • Grumpy Old Man: When he's working, Bernard is very impatient and serious. He looks like a teenager or young adult, but he's really very old even by elf standards.

  • Hey, You!: Scott keeps misnaming Bernard, and Bernard only addresses Scott as Santa.

  • Honorary Uncle: Scott for Lucy, a sign that Scott made peace with the Millers after the first film.

  • Hyperspace Arsenal: Santa's bag is functionally empty until one reaches a qualifying house, at which time it produces the requested gift. This is Hand Waved to an extent with the mention of the bag's magical properties during Scott's orientation as Santa.

  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Despite how much of a Jerkass he is at the beginning, it's clear Scott loves his son Charlie and would do anything for him, which is proven when he puts on Santa Claus's suit and delivers the toys just to make him happy. The last movie indicates that he would have become even more cynical and wrapped up in his work if he hadn't.

  • Legacy Character: Santa Claus is not one set person or even an actual name (or at least hasn't been since the very first). It goes from person to person, with succession happening whenever Santa dies or retires. The next person to don the suit gets the job. Apparently, most Santas die instead of retiring and are usually lost through rooftop falls, as that's the first thing that Bernard (correctly) assumed happened to the previous Santa when he meets Scott.

  • Lighter and Softer: The first film is rated PG and the next two are both G. Although the first was just barely a PG thanks to a few raunchier bits from Allen, this trope is still present in that both sequels have a more child-friendly tone.

  • Marquee Alter Ego: Tim Allen spends a significant chunk of all three movies as Scott and only really becomes/reverts back to Santa in time for the Happy Ending.

  • Never Land: The elves are ancient but look mostly like preteen children.

  • Nice Guy: Scott after he loses his jerkass behaviors and accepts being the new Santa Claus.

  • Novelization: Junior Novelizations for the first and third films, at least. The third differs from the finished film in that Bernard's still around though.

  • Older Than They Look: The elves are all but stated to be this. Curtis in particular looks like he's no more than 12-14 years old, but Bernard points out he's at least 900.

  • Post-Modern Magik: Santa's workshop has become modernized, with the elves manufacturing toys in a factory. Santa's sleigh has been tricked out with gadgets like a cookie cocoa dispenser, and even the literal North Pole has a keypad on the side.

  • Practical Effects: In all three movies, Comet is played by an animatronic whenever the reindeer aren't shown to be flying.

  • Pun-Based Title: The series' title is a pun on "Santa Claus" and "legal clause". This is blatantly spelled out in the first movie: Bernard: ...So when you put on the suit, you fell subject to the Santa Clause. Scott: The Santa Claus? Oh, you mean the guy who fell off my roof. Bernard: No no, not Santa Claus the person, Santa Clause the clause. Scott: What? Bernard: (sigh) Look, you're a businessman, right? Scott: Yeah. Bernard: Okay, a clause as in the last line of a contract. (Beat) Bernard: You got the card?!

  • And again in the second movie:Curtis: Santa, there's a clause. Scott: That would be me. Curtis: No, I mean there's another Santa clause. Scott: Curtis, in case you haven't noticed - this time of year, the malls are filled with other "Santa Clauses". Curtis: Yes, but there's another Santa clause. There was a first clause, but also a second clause. Puppets: Get on with it!

  • Purely Aesthetic Era: Although many of the elves dress in very old-fashioned clothing, they also take full advantage of the latest technological advancements and appear more technologically advanced in some areas than humans.

  • Rapid Hair Growth: Once the main character is destined to become the new Santa, his beard grows at an unbelievable rate.

  • Really 700 Years Old: The elves are very old but all look like adorable children who happen to have pointed ears. Bernard resembles a teenager or young adult and is older than a millennium according to some of 2's behind-the-scenes material. An elf who Scott runs into when he first arrives at the North Pole says that he has pointy shoes older than Scott after he was called a kid by Scott. When Judy made Scott a cup of hot cocoa, she says it took her 1,200 years to get the recipe just right.

  • Remember the New Guy?: This happens in all of the sequels with the North Pole elf characters due to the long production gaps resulting in most of the child actors growing too old to reprise their roles. The only ones to appear in multiple installments are Bernardnote since David Krumholtz was already a teenager when he first played the part, his aging wasn't as noticeable and Curtisnote with Spencer Breslin still having a noticeably deeper voice in his second appearance due to just hitting puberty.

  • The Sandman: In the second and third films, the Sandman is a respected member of the Council of Legendary Figures, along with Santa, Father Time, Mother Nature, Jack Frost, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy.

  • Santa Claus: The films' central premise is how someone transitions into becoming the new Santa Claus, which in this universe is a Legacy Character.

  • Saving Christmas: What Scott ends up doing in each movie, with the help of elves and his family.

  • Secret Identity: Scott has to keep his identity as Santa a secret as part of the "Secret of Santa" ordeal, otherwise the spirit of Christmas would cease to exist.

  • Secret-Keeper: Charlie and his mother and her new psychologist husband, and later their daughter Lucy. They all know Scott is Santa but can't tell anyone. Charlie takes this particularly hard for a while.

  • Sequel Non-Entity: Because of the choice to cast pre-teens as elves who are Really 700 Years Old, few return for the sequels. Bernard is one because he was already an older teenager in the first film, and Curtis is another because the gap between 2 and 3 was just close enough to not be that noticeable.

  • Significant Monogram: Scott Calvin. In the sequel series, Simon Chokski also qualifies.

  • Someone Has to Do It: The world needs Santa, so there must always be one.

  • Steam Never Dies: Steam trains show up all over the place at the North Pole.

  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Abby in the second film, for Judy in the first film as both are elves who bring cocoa to Santa, have very close names, and wear similar costumes. An unnamed elf played by a different actress briefly appears in the third film wearing the same costume as Abby, but it's not clear if she's meant to be her.

  • Weirdness Censor: When you think about it, the fact that almost no adults believe in Santa is more than a little ridiculous in the face of a bunch of mysterious presents (including rather conspicuous items, like a freaking kayak) showing up en masse in everyone's houses on Christmas morning.

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