Two things you should know about me before reading this review: I’ll watch anything involving John Goodman, and I’ve never seen the animated classic this live-action version of The Year Without a Santa Claus is based on. So unlike when I watched the horrendous Jim Carrey-Ron Howard take on Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, in this case I hold no special place for an original.
The times are changing. Toys are becoming more complicated and violent, people are becoming more and more materialistic, and the “true” meaning of Christmas is being lost. Santa (John Goodman), now just “a toy delivery division of Santa Co.”, can’t keep up, and he’s becoming disillusioned about the whole thing. What he needs is just one kid who really cares about Christmas for the right reasons. Otherwise, he’s skipping the whole Christmas Eve present thing.
Enter elves Jingle and Jangle (Eddie Griffin and Ethan Suplee, respectively), who take off on a dangerous quest to find a boy to help Santa. These two aren’t very bright, and they get into all sorts of trouble along the way.
Meanwhile, head elf Sparky (Chris Kattan) isn’t waiting for Santa, as he finally has a chance to be “the man”. Sparky moves ahead with his plans for Extreme Santa, a cross between Tony Hawk and Spiderman who flies around on a snowboard powered by the magic of awesomeness.
In the real world, Iggy Thistlewhite (Dylan Minnette) is the boy Jingle and Jangle are searching for. Son of well-meaning but neglecting father who is also the town’s mayor, Iggy also needs to remember the meaning of Christmas before he can be any help to Santa.
Will Santa and Christmas ever be the same? Since this is just a cheesy TV movie, of course.
I have to admit that I enjoyed this movie, at least a little bit. Sure, parts were groan-worthy, but I also laughed out loud many times, and the story does have a nice, if predictable, finish. The best quality this movie has going for it is its cast. With John Goodman, Chris Kattan, Eddie Griffin, Ethan Surplee, Carol Kane (Mother Nature) and Michael Mckean (Snow Miser), this is a respectable ensemble. Griffin and Surplee are particularly enjoyable as Jingle and Jangle, as they have good comedic rapport.
The worst aspect of this movie is the pop culture references. These make for easy jokes, but you really sacrifice any sense of a timeless story. I’m sure fans of the original animated classic will rail against this updated version, and this will likely be a point of contention.
So the movie is flawed but has some redeeming qualities. How’s the DVD?
A Year Without a Santa Claus is presented on a single disc in 1.78:1 widescreen format. It looks ok at best, as the picture is pretty inconsistent from scene to scene. It’s sometimes too soft or too grainy, and the colours vary even from shot to shot. Videophiles will be distracted, but others probably won’t notice much.
The menu is static.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is pretty basic. Dialogue is clear, and the sound does fill out some at times, but overall the track is nothing special, and mostly lives on the centre channel.
Subtitles are available in English only (close captioned).
There are no special features included with this disc. It’s so basic that the menu only has one option, “play movie”.
This made-for-TV live-action update of an animated Christmas classic is hit and miss, and will likely put off fans of the original. The DVD presentation is ok at best, and includes zero special features. Definitely not a must-buy.