On His Way to Cleveland

There’s an ironic sentimentality to The Santa Clause. Elves still make toys, away from the corporate world that sucked in Scott Calvin (Tim Allen). It’s that iconic vision of Santa’s workshop, where kid’s toy wishes came true, but not in a Chinese factory, rather built by hand.

Then Disney bought everything and basically became Tim Allen’s character.

Absorbed into the whole, there’s greater purpose. The Santa Clause’s world is one where nobody believes anymore. Via Disney, this is softened. Calvin argues custody issues with his ex (Wendy Crewson) in a friendly way, while the toy company employing Calvin seems befuddled by any suggestion of Santa. When Calvin visits a doctor for his weight gain and instantaneous beard growth, it’s just a glandular condition. As adults, the ability to accept fantasy wanes the older we get. That Calvin inherited the Santa Claus gig is absurd (even reasonably so).

Santa Clause becomes a movie about not wanting to grow up

The Santa Clause is tender enough to work-around problematic ideas. Judge Reinhold co-stars as the villain, a psychiatrist step-father to Charlie (Eric Lloyd). Reinhold pushes back against belief in the North Pole, Rudolph, and Santa. There’s no middle ground or time where a psychiatrist is treated as an authentic profession. Reinhold is feeble and weak, those who need him equally so. Walking away from The Santa Clause feels a little dirty now, suggesting that mental health treatments crush dreams and destroy fantasies. That’s a bit much.

Then comes the admittedly sappy finish where this broken family, with a work-a-holic dad and cranky courtroom battles, put all aside for the kid. It’s Christmas, and this typical home is restored because a child refused to give in to the adult way of thinking. Santa Clause becomes a movie about not wanting to grow up, preserving imagination, and seeing value in fantasy.

That becomes clear after Calvin begins taking on Santa’s traits. Sitting in a pitch meeting, an advertising exec flips through a new campaign that envisions Santa sitting in the company’s new tank toy. Calvin wants none of this, loudly protesting about what’s being lost when turning Santa into a wartime figure. In a streamlined and marginal film, that’s a pleasant scene where the holiday spirit butts against those exploiting the Christmas season. Calvin? He’s changing too, even if the cause isn’t inherently his own self, rather seasonal magic imbued upon him by accident. A little perspective, and even the most cynical can change.


Routine mastering brings The Santa Clause to Blu-ray. Resolution lags, and not only for the early ‘90s CG work either. While facial definition escapes at times, moderate texture is the norm here. Overall softness is also conveyed via the thick grain structure, resolved well, but lacking the firmness evident in modern scans.

Dumpy color lacks boldness, limited in density. Even in Santa’s workshop (where reds, greens, and gold need pop) the image lacks wow factor. Flesh tones squeeze by, acceptable only due to the sagging saturation elsewhere.

The best stuff resides in the contrast, with black levels digging in. Snow brings the necessary counter, bright and pure. Shadows hold their tone minus crush, bringing depth where the rest of this transfer does not.


Widely spaced stereos produce more positional touches than the rears in this DTS-HD mix. Elves run about, splitting the fronts, and general city ambiance takes off into the sides.

Surrounds function only where needed. Say, the sleigh taking flight, or the soundtrack filling the soundstage. The latter two bring range, surprisingly rich in the low-end. Dynamics stretch, hefty in bulking up and adding life to a pedestrian sound mix.


An elf training short likely aired somewhere during the promotional period for The Santa Clause. Better is Disney’s Night Before Christmas Silly Symphonies short, running eight minutes, but left at SD resolution and seemingly sourced from a tape. Chef Wolfgang Puck joins kids to make a holiday treats in multiple cooking lessons.

The Santa Clause
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Bringing Christmas spirit to a cold, corporate world, The Santa Clause brings gooey sentimentality to a family story, but that works in context.

User Review
4 (1 vote)

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