“Now, all those within the sound of my voice, and all those on this Earth everywhere know that henceforth you will be called Santa Claus.” – Ancient Elf
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the ‘Bottom’ Christmas Special, but there is a wonderful piece of dialogue between the two main characters, Eddie and Richie, which for me perfectly sums up the attitude we have to Christmas traditions:
Eddie: God, seven o’clock. Another twenty-seven hours of Christmas to go. I don’t think I’m gonna survive it, I’ll have to blank out in front of the telly.
Richie: You hold that finger right there young man, no-one in this house watches the telly until the Queen’s Speech!
Eddie: But it’s “Noel’s Christmas Family Video Accidents”!
Richie: I don’t care, we’re English here and we’re going to do Christmas properly. Alright? Well, unless there’s a Bond film on, obviously. Okay? Now let’s keep it Christmassy. Right now look, there’s only five hours until lunch, I’ve got to get my sprouts on. Don’t want them all crunchy.
Eddie: Not sprouts! I hate sprouts!
Richie: Oh will you stop whinging, Eddie! Nobody likes sprouts…
Eddie: Then why are we having them then?
Richie: BECAUSE IT’S CHRISTMAS!
“Because it’s Christmas” – a phrase that instantly legitimises even the most peculiar and nonsensical of things at this time of year. All the sentimental, mawkish or corny things, and all the things that we wouldn’t dream about doing the other 11 months of the year.
That brings me to today’s film – the hokey, sugar-coated 80’s classic ‘Santa Claus: The Movie‘. I’m not even going to try and defend it – it is an awful movie, reflected by it’s fairly tragic score on IMDB of 5.3 out of 10. Much less than the sum of it’s parts, it is overblown, confused, and so cheesy in places, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was dipped in fondue during pre-production.
I’ve actually got no issues with Santa himself in the movie – David Huddleston does a stellar job as the most archetypal Coca Cola Santa you could possible imagine, and he is equally matched by the impossibly bubbly Judy Cornwell who, for me, is probably the greatest on-screen representation of Mrs Claus I’ve ever seen.
(By the way, it may interest you to know that David Huddleston was also the actual Mr Lebowski in ‘The Big Lebowski’. “I’m not Mr Lebowski! YOU’RE Mr Lebowski! I’m…The Dude!” Yeah, it kinda blew my mind too when I found out…)
But in a movie that is supposed to be all about the big jolly guy delivering the presents, he is pretty much sidelined halfway through the movie (along with the two frankly appalling child actors) in favour of an almost permanently sloshed Dudley Moore and a scenery-chewing John Linthgow, who play an elf and a dastardly toy manufacturer respectively. Seems a bit odd.
It all comes together in the end though (of course it does) when Santa comes back to show the world he’s not a has-been, deadbeat fuddy duddy – he’s the best goddam Santa the world’s ever had, and ain’t no sucka got the swag to beat him, yo. And Santa ends up saving the day. Rocky In A Red Suit, if you will…
To be honest though, in spite of the bizarre plot, the garish production, and now fairly dated special effects, I still absolutely love this movie. It’s not cool to like it. Hardly anyone outside of our family likes it. And even if it gets to the stage that I finally see it for what it really is, I’ll STILL watch it every year until I die.
Because, like watching the Queen’s Speech, attending watch-night carol services, or turning the lights off when the carol singers are outside and pretending you’re not it, it’s a tradition. Because it’s Christmas.