Santa Claus doesn’t bother trying to reinvent the sleigh, but just sprays a fresh coat of paint on it, in mostly agreeable and somewhat clever ways. After three films over a 12-year period starting in 1994, Tim Allen He’s back again in the Disney+ series that, in six half-hour episodes, brightens up the holiday airtime.
After stumbling across the job, Santa Allen, née Scott Calvin, has settled down at the helm of his empire with Mrs. Claus (Elizabeth Mitchell) and their children (Austin Kane and Elizabeth Allen Dick, the latter being Allen’s real-life daughter). Not that the Arctic isn’t cute, but the younger Calvins grew up immune to the wider world and, in the case of the older one, more than curious about it.
Santa’s used to things going without a hitch, and he’s having a few unsettling hiccups on his latest round of deliveries, admitting to his comically loyal elf sidekick, Noel (Devin Bright), “Maybe my magic has let me down.”
After briefly trying to hide his gift-giving dysfunction, Santa begins to contemplate retirement, but of course he means it Find a possible replacement. Given that his story overlaps with that of game technology developer Simon Choksey (Kal Penn), a single father with work problems, it doesn’t require a Ph.D. In English lit to see where this trend might be.
Still, producer/showrunner Jacques Burdette (a veteran of “Modern Family” and “30 Rock”) packs his bags with a few surprises, and “The Santa Clauses” does a great job of changing up his episodes, even ones that drag a little, to draw the audience in from one to the next.
There’s also an overall fun to the proceedings, not only in terms of drawing on material and characters from the previous films (the last one came out in 2006) but also contemporaneousness of the message, which includes children becoming more weary amid the overconsumption of this movie-click shopping age. Plus, some of the jokes, from the Bigfoot-inspired visual gag to the play of 1987’s The Untouchables, are clearly not afraid to sail over the heads of young experimentalists.
However, to say the show works takes a few qualifications, with a heavy reliance on humor about eternal elves (played by children) and ample time devoted to the Calvin bloodline, in a way that can only help the Disney Channel. It feels like reheated leftovers.
However, “The Santa Clause” is one of those concepts that fits almost perfectly with this type of revival made for streaming, with fairness to the previous films but no real need at this point to include this theatrical trio in a quartet.
Allen, in particular, was at the height of his sitcom stardom on “Home Improvement” when the first movie came out, followed a year later by “Toy Story.” In other words, his association with Disney goes back over 30 years and has been mutually beneficial and then some.
“The Santa Clauses” expands that relationship, in a festive package that’s bright and colorful and unburdened by higher pretensions – just the kind of easy lift that should provide for a good few nights.
The Santa Clauses premieres November 16 on Disney+.
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