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Jeannot Szwarc
Dudley Moore, John Lithgow, David Huddleston, Burgess Meredith, Judy Cornwell, Jeffrey Kramer, Christian Fitzpatrick
Writing Credits:
David Newman (and story), Leslie Newman

From the team who brought the three Superman blockbusters to the screen comes a story to stir the imagination - and warm the heart.

This is the story of a master toymaker who discovers a magical kingdom of elves at the North Pole. He is entrusted with special powers to become Santa Claus! He meets Patch (Dudley Moore), an eager-to-please elf who becomes mixed up with a dastardly toy tycoon’s (John Lithgow) plans to take over Christmas.

Box Office:
$50 million.
Domestic Gross
$23.717 million.

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
PCM Stereo
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 109 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 10/26/2010

• “The Making of the Movie” Featurette
• “Shooting the Press Conference Scene” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Trailers


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Santa Claus: The Movie [Blu-Ray] (1985)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 24, 2010)

Made by many of the same folks, Santa Claus: The Movie tried to do for St. Nick what they did for the Man of Steel seven years earlier: retell a popular legend in a clever, exciting manner. It didn't take. While 1985’s Claus isn't a bad movie, it lacks the spark, wit and charm that made 1978's Superman such a hit.

A lot of that stems from the fact that old Santa (David Huddleston) really isn't a very interesting character. After all, it's not like there's any ambiguity about the guy; he's as good as they get, and he can't be shown in any other light. Granted, the film gives him some moments of self-doubt which at least broaden the character slightly, but otherwise, he's just a nice fat guy who hands out toys.

Such a role doesn't exactly lend itself to exciting plots, either, and that's another problem with this film. As with Superman, a significant portion of Claus creates the legend; we find out exactly how Santa came to exist and how the whole North Pole operation got going. This portion of the film seems mildly interesting but it depends too much on attempted magic and charm, elements that don't come across well on-screen. Obviously, some movies can transmit those concepts nicely, but it takes filmmakers with greater skills than any involved here, and the North Pole scenes come across as somewhat forced frivolity.

Once Santa's clearly established, the story goes off on a tangent. Forward-thinking elf Patch (Dudley Moore) tries to modernize the production of toys but fails. He runs away from the workshop and eventually ends up working with greedy and careless toy manufacturer BZ (John Lithgow), who desperately needs some goodwill toward his corporation. Patch hooks up with him so he can make a special product and prove his worth to Santa. Of course, things go wrong since BZ is the villain and complications must ensue. Eventually Santa has to enter heroic mode and set things right.

It doesn't work as a film. Two token kids - Joe (Christian Fitzpatrick) and Cornelia (Carrie Kei Heim) - enter the story in its second half and they become buddies of Santa. It all seems silly and contrived, and I frankly couldn't care less about the threat BZ creates for Santa.

The entire package moves slowly and goes nowhere. Of course we know that Santa will prevail in the end, so I won't criticize the movie for being predictable; it's not like we ever thought Superman would fail either. However, that tale provides interesting and tense events along the way and succeeds as storytelling, whereas the plot of SC just sits there like a lump.

Moore seems mildly charming as Patch, though the script saddles him with far too many allegedly-clever lines; basically take any phrase that uses the word "self" but substitute "elf" and you have the majority of the film's jokes. Huddleston creates a decent Santa, though he lacks much charisma or spark and makes the big man seem fairly pedestrian.

Lithgow is simply terrible as BZ. He camps up a storm and creates one of the most annoyingly cartoony characters I've seen in a while. Granted, that’s part of the effect they attempted, but there's no fun to be had in his annoying portrayal.

I also think the kids seem limp and without charm – especially androgynous Joe, one of the more wooden and stiff child actors on record. Their roles felt tacked on and superfluous.

Santa Claus isn't a terrible movie, but as with another film by the same team - 1984's Supergirl - the entertainment is sporadic at best, and the picture fails to accomplish its goals. Unlike efforts such as A Christmas Story, this one tried hard to be a "holiday classic" right off the bat and bit off more than it could chew. Frankly, few want to see a Christmas movie that turns Santa into an action hero, and the lack of charm behind this project leaves it high and dry.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

Santa Claus: The Movie appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The picture displayed some concerns but it usually looked pretty good.

Sharpness seemed clear and crisp for the most part, as most scenes were well-defined. However, definite softness intruded on some segments of the film; most of these occurred when we found wide shots, but the haziness wasn't restricted to those parts. No issues with jaggies or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no edge haloes. Source flaws remained absent.

Colors were accurate and cleanly-saturated. The film tended toward a fairly golden brown palette, but the workshop showed some nice greens, reds and yellows, all of which looked concise and clear. Black levels were fairly dark and deep, and shadow detail appeared generally acceptable, though some scenes seemed overly thick. Overall, the movie presented a positive image.

Although the DVD from 2000 offered a 5.1 mix, the Blu-ray reverted to a PCM Stereo track. In the front speakers, we got fairly good movement. Music showed nice stereo spread, while effects moved across the spectrum well. The track used the right and left speakers to demonstrate pretty nice localization and panning.

Quality generally appeared good. Dialogue could be a little dull at times, but speech usually sounded fairly natural, with no problems related to intelligibility. Music could have used a slightly brighter tone, but it worked well and seemed dynamic enough, with nice use of the lower register. Effects were clean and largely realistic and rich; some flatness affected them at times, but they usually sounded accurate and clear. All in all, the soundtrack provided a reasonably solid experience.

How did the picture and sound of this Blu-Ray compare with those of the 2000 DVD? Visuals showed the expected boost in clarity that comes from Blu-ray. The DVD looked pretty good, but it lacked the precision often found here.

Audio was a more complicated factor since the Blu-ray dropped the DVD’s 5.1 mix. However, I didn’t think this was a major loss. The stereo mix opened up the spectrum well, and it’s not like the old 5.1 track was a world beater; it used the surrounds to decent effect, but it still showed its 1985 roots. I’m disappointed the Blu-ray didn’t include 5.1 audio, but I remained pleased with the 2.0 track.

The Blu-ray mixes old and new supplements. The major extra here is a 50-minute, 16-second documentary called Santa Claus: The Making of the Movie; this piece was created contemporaneously with the flick itself. We find all sorts of great material here, from some of details of how the animatronic reindeer were created to shots that show how hard it was to coordinate the synchronized efforts of all those elves.

The show includes frequent narration and some interview clips, but mostly we see "behind the scenes" material from the set; even when we find movie clips, most of them are shown as basic footage filmed by the documentary crew and few of the scenes are from the final product. The program seems pleasantly raw; although it certainly works hard to promote the film, it does so in an honest and frank manner. We see some "warts and all" moments and the whole show creates a lively impression of the shoot. I found the program to offer an entertaining and informative look at the making of the film.

Shooting the Press Conference Scene runs 28 minutes, 12 seconds and consists solely of raw footage from the set. We view the sequence in question and get to check out a “fly on the wall” perspective. That makes it a cool glimpse of the production.

26 Deleted Scenes fill a total of seven minutes, 13 seconds. Yup, you read that right: the disc packs 26 pieces into barely seven minutes. That’s because virtually none of these exist as full-fledged “deleted scenes”; they’re more like deleted snippets. They fly by quickly and add little more than a bit of attempted comedy.

The disc opens with ads for Spy Next Door and “Epix”. We also get two trailers for Claus.

The Blu-ray loses one extra: an audio commentary from director Jeannot Szwarc. I’d guess it got the axe due to rights issues, but it’s still a disappointing omission. No, the commentary wasn’t great, but I’d like for it to reappear.

Santa Claus: The Movie isn't a terrible picture, but make no mistake: it's cinematic product and it lacks much spirit or life. I found the film to be fitfully entertaining but generally less-than-compelling. The Blu-ray provides erratic but generally good picture and sound along with some interesting extras, including an excellent documentary. Santa Claus may go over better with families than it did with me, but it doesn't seem likely to be a holiday staple in many households.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5 Stars Number of Votes: 6
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