Tim Allen’s Scott Calvin/Santa Claus is terrific in The Santa Clauses, and there’s some magic, but the Disney+ sequel miniseries may have worked better as a film.
As a child, I was obsessed with Disney’s The Santa Clause franchise, and Tim Allen in general. I remember going to see The Santa Clause 2 (2002) in the theater and dancing in my seat as “Santa Claus Lane” by Hilary Duff played during the end credits. Once the 2002 sequel came to video and DVD, I remember watching it repeatedly. It did not matter that Christmas was months away, these movies were on in my house year-round. When The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause hit theaters in 2006, I did not see it right away. The advertisements for it did not pull me in as much as the first two did, and the plot struck me as generic. Those feelings would be proven right when I eventually saw the third entry in the series.
The thing that piqued my interest in The Santa Clause films, other than Tim Allen’s presence, was the idea that this regular man just become Santa Claus, and even as a kid, the universe just fascinated me. I would pose questions about the elves, the magic of the North Pole, and how exactly Santa Claus worked in this world. For example: What was the deal with the Santa that fell off Scott Calvin (Tim Allen)’s Roof in The Santa Clause (1994)? For a long time, it appeared that these questions would remain a mystery. When a Disney+ miniseries that would take place after the films entitled The Santa Clauses was announced, I shrugged it off.
Not long before the Miniseries scheduled two-episode premiere, I came across a Hollywood Reporter interview with Tim Allen. He expressed his frustration over 2006’s The Escape Clause and said that The Santa Clauses would answer the question of why the first Santa fell off the roof in the original film. Combine that with the return of David Krumholtz as Bernard, Scott Calvin’s former right-hand elf (a favorite character of mine from the series), who was nowhere to be found in The Santa Clause 3, and I was sold.
The Santa Clauses sees Scott Calvin/Santa Claus (Tim Allen) having lost a step as his 65th birthday approaches. Believing that he is losing his magic due to his age, Scott decides to retire from the role of Santa and spend more time with his wife, Carol/Mrs. Claus (Elizabeth Mitchell) and their teenage children, both of whom have grown up entirely at the North Pole. Before he can retire and take on a new adventure, Scott must choose his successor as Santa Claus.
Allen has not lost a step as Scott Calvin/Santa Claus, he slips the red coat back on and does a wonderful job throughout. There is not really a moment where his portrayal of both sides of the character feels forced out. Whenever you have an actor returning to a role after some time away, there is always the potential for things to go wrong and not feel right. In The Santa Clauses, Tim Allen brings one of his most famous characters back with all the holiday cheer, charm, and wit that he has. There is one moment in the first episode of the Disney+ miniseries where one could say Allen was using Scott as more of a mouthpiece for his own beliefs, but everything else felt in line with who the character was in the original trilogy of Santa Clause films.
The message that The Santa Clauses delivers is an effective one that stresses what the Christmas season is all about, and the importance of family. Everything is not supposed to be about consumerism and gifts at this time of year, and nowadays, that can be easy to forget. I am sure that some of you just rolled your eyes at the idea that a miniseries produced by Disney of all people wants you to focus on something other than consumerism at Christmastime. I think there has been a genuine effort by Tim Allen and the creative team behind this show to create something with a heart that does not focus on gifts and gift giving during the holiday season.
Scott goes through more of an arc than he did in The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006) as he learns this lesson, and it mostly works. There is a rocky road to the overall message, largely because at times the plot can feel overstuffed and not every element is necessary. This Disney+ miniseries has a lot going on in just six half an hour-long episodes. I must admit that I was particularly satisfied with Bernard’s return and the explanation given for his disappearance (and sudden aging). Everything with Scott’s former head elf felt in line with what I remembered about the character and David Krumholtz instantly reminded me why I loved Bernard with a fun performance. I felt the writers did an excellent job of tying the history of this universe and several long-awaited answers to Scott’s current situation.
The Santa Clauses could have cut some things out, though. There is a whole subplot involving Elizabeth Mitchell’s Carol/Mrs. Claus that plays out like a retread of her story in The Escape Clause. Her arc here is better off rewritten or could have been sacrificed to better streamline the miniseries. Certain side characters could have also been written out entirely rather than being used for cheap laughs.
Part of me wants to write these pitfalls off as a product of The Santa Clauses being a show for kids, but in all honesty, I am not sure that it is that. With all the callbacks, and returning characters, I think you must look at this Disney+ miniseries as something that is just as geared towards nostalgic older viewers as it is to kids. As a show for kids, it works better as a miniseries because there are gags and things that only kids will laugh at to go along with the plot. For adults, there is so much going on that the message and narrative will lose some effectiveness. So maybe this would have been better if the creatives met in the middle and made a movie that with the potential to appeal to both demographics.
So much stands out in The Santa Clauses, from Scott’s arc and the overall message to the return of Bernard and additions to the lore of the universe. I also really loved seeing an older Buddy “Cal” Calvin-Claus, Scott’s youngest son (Austin Kane) and meeting his youngest child, Sandra Calvin-Claus (Elizabeth Allen-Dick). The idea of Scott and Carol having these two kids that only know life among elves at the North Pole was clever. This is a cool contrast to Scott’s oldest son and Carol’s stepson, Charlie (Eric Lloyd), whom audiences saw be a real kid thrust into the magic of the North Pole in the original trilogy. Cal and Sandra superbly serve as comic relief, have their own well thought out arcs, and support Scott in his arc. Sandra is the more interesting of the two, based on her unique personality. Elizabeth Allen-Dick (Tim Allen’s real-life daughter), in her first acting role, is slightly green at times, but in all honesty, this fits her character perfectly. Sandra is supposed to be awkward and shy, and Allen-Dick captures that well on screen. Watching her and Sandra grow throughout the Disney+ miniseries is one of the more rewarding aspects of The Santa Clauses.
The special effects of The Santa Clauses can be spotty, but when you consider how badly some of the effects from the first film have aged, and the fact that this is a streaming show, they could have been consistently bad and are not. What I loved most as a kid was the setting of the North Pole and all the different things there. It has been scaled down a bit due to the transition from film to miniseries, but I love a lot of the sets and how they do not really look like any other version of the North Pole that I have seen. The set really brings you into the magic of this world more than any of the special effects could.
Despite the narrative having issues, The Santa Clauses is an interesting return to a universe that has always had a magical charm. This Disney+ miniseries is worth a watch if you are a fan of The Santa Clause trilogy of films. Tim Allen is in top form in his return to the role of Scott Calvin/Santa Claus and the message of the story, once it does come to light, is perfect for the Christmas season.
The Santa Clauses is now available to watch on Disney+.