Plot: What’s it about?
It seems that Santa Claus (David Huddleston) has become a little too old and now he is looking for ways to make sure his work gets done in the usual fast and concise manner. Since he isn’t able to handle all the pressure himself, he has decided to take on an extra special helper to aid him in his delivery of the toys. He needs to choose the best elf he can for the job, since millions of little boys and girls are expecting rewards for their good behavior. So his two very best elves decide to hold a contest to decide who will get the honor, which seems like a good enough idea. Patch (Dudley Moore) is one of the elves and though he has some interesting new ideas, he loses out to an elf that has a more traditional plan about the whole thing. As much as Patch loves the workshop and such, he decides to leave the firm and go into business for himself so he can issue his own ideas. But Patch picks the wrong partner in B.Z. (John Lithgow), a toy tycoon who wants to do whatever it takes to control the holiday season. Can Santa figure all this out in time to save Patch from his mistakes, while still having enough time to deliver all the presents to the good little boys and girls?
As if Anchor Bay’s resume of movies on this format wasn’t eclectic enough, now they’ve gone and released Santa Claus: The Movie. In addition to the movie, we’re treated to a disc loaded with supplements and a choice between widescreen and full frame versions. This review covers the widescreen version of the film and if you’re planning on picking this one up, make sure you choose the correct disc with the aspect ratio you want. While this is one of the lesser known of the season’s classics, Santa Claus captures all the magic and emotion of the Yuletide season. As such this one is ok for kiddies of all ages, but there’s just something about this flick that seems downright bizarre. I don’t think this is a weird movie by any means, but there’s just a strange vibe I get from the flick. This one has those heart warming moments and also has some humorous sequences as well. There’s nothing like seeing an overweight child learn to fly, just so he can reach the snacks on a higher shelf. If you’re looking for a disc you pop in for the kiddies when you get tired of the Grinch, pick up this terrific movie and the bonus materials should please the older folks also.
This film was directed by Jeannot Szwarc, who has directed several other unusual films that have picked up loyal fan bases over the years. This isn’t his best known work by any means, but this is one of his more known pieces, along with Supergirl. Much like Supergirl, this is a movie that is loaded with unique characters and some fantastic fantasy elements, but seems to have missed the masses. This storyline is adequate and rivals any other holiday flick this one, but like the others it also falters at times. But then again since this isn’t the type of movie you watch for flawless storytelling, it doesn’t detract from the film’s value at all. If you want to see more of Szwarc’s movies I recommend Supergirl, Jaws 2, Enigma, Mountain Of Diamonds, and Somewhere In Time. This film has a very good cast and while this movie doesn’t call for serious turns, the actors still do a fine job. David Huddleston (The Big Lebowski, Blazing Saddles) looks the part of the jolly old man and he seems to have a sense of warmth about him as well. I also think Dudley Moore (Like Father Like Son, Arthur) and John Lithgow (A Civil Action, Silent Fall) turn in solid performances. The supporting cast also includes Christian Fitzpatrick (Vice Versa), Judy Cornwell (Persuasion, Cry Freedom), Jeffrey Kramer (Clue, Jaws), and Burgess Meredith (G.I. Joe: The Movie, Rocky).
Video: How does it look?
Santa Claus: The Movie is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. After all the pan & scan worthless transfers this film has seen over the years, we finally have a gorgeous widescreen release to revel in. The print used seems to be in fine condition and I found no hiccups in the compression process, even the snow laden scenes look sharp and well defined. The colors stream across the screen in vivid hues, but I never detected any smears or bleeds. The flesh tones also look good, with warm shades and no distortion. Just as impressive is the contrast, which displays complex shadow patterns and no visible detail loss. This is a transfer fans of the film have been waiting for and Anchor Bay is commended for giving it to us.
Audio: How does it sound?
This isn’t the movie to load in when you want to showcase your home theater, but the included Dolby Digital 5.1 track offers a terrific sounding version of the film. As with most older remixed tracks this one sounds somewhat flat, but I’ve never heard this movie in such a rich mix nonetheless. It doesn’t stand up well to more recent tracks in terms of expansive sound, but it is still the best mix you’ll be able to find for this flick. So when the surrounds need to kick in they do, but that’s not that often. The music sounds great in this mix and really adds to the sprit and feeling of the events depicted. The dialogue is sharp also, with a crisp tone that shows no signs of separation issues in the least. This release also contains a 2.0 surround track and English captions.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This one is loaded with bonus materials as well, such as a fifty minute documentary on the making of Santa Claus: The Movie. This is an in depth look the film in all respects, from the inspiration to create the film to the public reaction that followed. You’ll find a wealth of interviews with the cast and crew and also be able to view some excellent special effects/behind the scenes footage, all of which will please fans to no end. I expected a good piece from this disc, but I had no idea it would be this impressive. Next is an audio commentary with director Jeannot Szwarc, who gives his insight into the production of the film and he joined by moderator Scott Michael Bosco, who keeps Szwarc on track at all times. You’ll find a lot of information within this track, but also laugh a few times as well. This release also includes a pair of American theatrical trailers, the German theatrical trailer, and the international release trailer. Cast bios also make the cut and Anchor Bay has included THX Optimode, which allows you to fine tune your home theater to maximize the film’s audio/video impact.