The Santa Clauses doesn’t try to reinvent the sleigh but does give it a fresh coat of paint in mildly amusing ways. Tim Allen returns to Disney+, where he stars in six half-hour episodes. He has made three movies in 12 years, beginning in 1994.
Allen’s Santa, nee Scott Calvin has stumbled into the job and is now presiding over his Elfin Empire with Mrs. Claus (Elizabeth Mitchell), and their children (Austin Kane, Elizabeth Allen-Dick, who is Allen’s real-life child). The North Pole isn’t bad, but the younger Calvins grew up in a world that was more closed off than the older one.
Santa, who is used to everything going smoothly, experiences some disconcerting hiccups during his latest round delivery. He confesses to his comically loyal elf sidekick Noel (Devin Bright), that his magic might have failed him.
Santa attempts to conceal his gift-giving disorder for a while, but then he begins to think about retirement. Of course, that means looking for a replacement. It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to tell his story. His story is interwoven with the one of Simon Choksi (Kal Pen), a toy tech developer, and a single dad experiencing difficulties at work. This is an example of English lit.
Producer/showrunner Jack Burditt, a veteran of “Modern Family”, and “30 Rock”, still has plenty to offer. “The Santa Clauses,” however, does a great job of cliffhanging its episodes. Even the ones that drag, it pulls the audience along.
The proceedings are also playful in that they draw on material and characters from previous movies (the latest came out in 2006), but also contemporize the message which shows kids growing more jaded in this age of one-click shopping. Some of the jokes, ranging from a Bigfoot-inspired visual gag to one based on the 1987 movie “The Untouchables,” are not afraid to go over the heads of younger people.
The show is still a success, but there are some limitations. There’s too much humor about the ageless Elf (played by children) and too much time spent on the Calvin family, in a Disney Channel-ish way that makes it feel like leftovers.
The Santa Clause is still a great idea for this kind of streaming revival. It has the equity of previous movies, but there’s no need to make that theatrical trio into a quartet.
Allen was, perhaps, at the peak of his sitcom stardom with “Home Improvement”, when the first movie premiered. A year later, “Toy Story” followed. His relationship with Disney goes back over 30 years and is mutually beneficial.
“The Santa Clauses,” extends that relationship in a festive package bright, colorful, and unburdened with loftier pretensions. It’s just the kind of easy lift that should bring a few good nights.