Film / Santa Claus: The Movie

A 1985 film from the producers of the first three Superman movies (and the director of Supergirl), starring Dudley Moore as one of Santa's elves and John Lithgow as a Corrupt Corporate Executive who seeks to commercialize Santa's Christmas magic. David Huddleston plays Santa, but doesn't get above-the-title billing despite playing the title character.

The film's first act presents an origin story for Santa and proceeds to follow the growth of his legend over the centuries. The remainder of the film takes place in the Present Day. While Santa befriends a Street Urchin and another girl in New York City, the aforementioned elf Patch — after screwing up one Christmas with an ill-fated attempt to bring an automated production system to the workshop — heads to the Big Apple himself and falls in with the sinister toy mogul B.Z.

Not to be confused with the Mexican film Santa Claus (1959).

The film provides examples of:

  • Award-Bait Song: "Christmas All Over the World".
  • Bad Santa: The drunken Salvation Army-type Santa.
  • Beta Outfit: The elves make his suit, but Mrs. Claus doesn't think green works. When red is suggested, everyone is enthusiastic (except for another elf who suggested 'brown'), as it goes with Santa's rosy cheeks.
  • Big Damn Heroes: This may be the only movie where North Pole Reindeer get this moment.
  • Billed Above the Title: David Huddleston doesn't get it, but it's justified, since the film was initially marketed to suggest that Santa Claus was playing himself, since no actor could do him justice. And though his billing isn't at the top of the cast list proper, Huddleston is the first performer listed/shown in the end credits.
  • Broken Aesop: Puffy's approach (quality with careful craftsmanship) is shown to be superior to Patch's approach (mass production with no quality control), yet Patch is a plucky hero, and Puffy is a stick-in-the-mud minor antagonist.
  • Cassandra Truth: Subverted with Cornelia. She thinks the police don't believe her warning, but, given their response, they obviously do.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Patch.
  • Chekhov's Skill: The Super Duper Looper, a special reindeer flying maneuver that Santa's team has never quite been able to pull off.
  • Chewing the Scenery: John Lithgow, with a knife and fork.
  • The Chosen One: Santa is actually called this.
  • Christmas Elves: Of course.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: B.Z.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Dooley and Patch tend to repeat their own phrases in inverse order. ("I'm sure they're fine and dandy, dandy and fine!")
  • Didn't Think This Through: B.Z., on a couple of occasions.
    • In one case, he plans to mark his magic candy canes for hundreds of dollars. When asked where kids will get that kind of money, he says he doesn't care; he'll just sell the item and watch the money come rolling in. A fundamental rule of economics: if your target audience can't afford the product, they won't buy it. End of discussion.
    • B.Z.'s plan to avoid the authorities by fleeing to Brazil. One small problem. Depending on the scope of his marketing, Brazil may not have an extradition agreement with the U.S., but it might have one with some country where B.Z. has marketed his goods. Secondly, depending on how successful his marketing is (and whether he can overcome the flaw mentioned above), his product could end up killing a significant number of the children (and a fair number of adults) in the country. Obviously, this movie was made before 9/11, but in hindsight, it is clear that, especially in the wake of a tragedy that could dwarf 9/11, the U.S. wouldn't let such niceties as extradition treaties (or lack thereof) stop them from taking down B.Z. by any means necessary.
    • Ultimately, considering the end result of B.Z.'s attempt to evade arrest, he obviously didn't think that one through.
  • Disney Villain Death: Inverted. B.Z. flies up to his doom after eating the candy canes to evade the police.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: B.Z.'s plan to charge astronomical fees for his magic candy canes, not caring where kids get the money, sounds a lot like an Aggressive Drug Dealer.
  • Evil Uncle: B.Z. is Cornelia's step-uncle. He treats her pretty well, but he doesn't seem to care much about her. ("He probably doesn't know what grade I'm in").
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Most of the elves seem to be living in the ancient past, utterly aware of the outside world or how times have changed. Notably averted with Patch, who seems to be aware of modern technology such as television and indoor heating.
  • Fish out of Water: Patch in New York.
  • For the Evulz: B.Z.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: B.Z. exclaims "shit!" under his breath when Joe bites him near the end of the film. Presumably this wasn't audible enough to be considered a problem or noticed by the censors, but it's easier to tell on the home video releases where it can be rewound.
  • Hollywood Law: B.Z. plans to flee to Brazil to escape prosecution, given that Brazil had no extradition treaty with the U.S.. Two problems: 1) At the time of the movie, Brazil had an extradition treaty with the U.S. for twenty years (and, for the present-day sequence, this is not meant to be a Period Piece); and 2) lack of an extradition treaty doesn't prevent a country from voluntarily extradititing a fugitive, particularly if the fugitive is a foreign national (and if the U.S. puts on the pressure).
  • How Can Santa Deliver All Those Toys?: Santa is gifted with the ability to hold sway over time, so Christmas Eve doesn't end until he finishes his job.
  • Innocent Inaccurate: The reason Patch decides to throw in his lot with B.Z. He arrives in New York City and sees a display of B.Z.'s toys in a store window — and assumes that the store employees clearing out the lot are doing so because they're popular. It's actually because they're all being recalled. When B.Z. realizes that Patch doesn't know about his corrupt ways and legal problems, he makes sure that Patch can't find out the truth.
  • Karma Houdini: Patch is responsible for the catastrophic Christmas delivery and somewhat to blame for the mess caused in the second half of the movie, but he's Easily Forgiven.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Santa starts to become disillusioned by the progress of time. Depressed that Christmas has lost a lot of its magic and sanctity over the years. People lack any goodwill towards one another, and the holiday season seems to now bring out the worst in them. Children don't appreciate the hard work his elves put into their gifts. Mrs Claus reminds them of their purpose and reason for being. But this development/story arc cannot be addressed properly, due to Patch running off.
  • Large Ham: B.Z.
    B.Z.: For FREEEEEEEEE!!!!???!?!?!!?!?!?
    B.Z.: We'll call it... CHRISTMAS 2!!!!!!
    B.Z.: Santa Claus... is FINISHED!
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Towser and Grizzard are both arrested for the kidnapping. B.Z. avoids this fate, for a worse one.
  • Left Hanging: The ending doesn't resolve several outstanding conflicts:
    • What's Patch's role rejoining the team? Puffy presumably is still Santa's Assistant.
    • Did Cornelia have a home to come back to? Her uncle seems to have been her benefactor and he's dead.
    • Is Joe homeless when he returns to New York in a year?
    • Santa's name is still mud after the disastrous Christmas Delivery halfway through the movie. Any redemption is never shown.
  • Made of Explodium: The candy canes contain a large quantity of volatile stardust and will explode if they get too hot.
  • Mrs. Claus: In this adaptation, Claus and Anya are an elderly couple without children before they become Santa and Mrs. Claus.
  • Ms. Fanservice: The dancers and singers for Patch's commercial are just a step below Vegas Showgirls.
  • My Little Panzer: Every toy B.Z.'s company made, including a teddy bear stuffed with sawdust and construction nails. (Most of these, like the bear, seem to be For the Evulz given that they would cost more than just doing it right.)
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Opening with an iconic view of Capitol Hill, the British trailer for this movie makes it seem like a story about corporate corruption and politics, with Santa having a minor part at best. (By comparison, the full-length U.S. trailer presents it as the cinematic-Superman-meets-Christmas adventure it actually is.)
  • New Technology Is Evil: The elves' first foray into mass production is a disaster.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Patch, from his appointment as Santa's assistant until his rescue of Joe.
    • Quite literally, too; his inventions tending to work for a while and then break down is how he keeps screwing up.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: Subverted. See Cassandra Truth.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: B.Z.
  • Only One Name: Everyone except Towser.
  • Periphery Demographic: In-universe. The magic lollipops are marketed to kids, but it seems some adults like them even more.
  • Product Placement: For Coca-Cola and McDonald's. The latter had several giveaway premiums — storybooks and reindeer ornaments, of which this troper still has two.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Both ways with B.Z.'s henchmen. Played straight with the Adorkable toady, Towser, who doesn't seem malicious, just weak-willed. Inverted with Grizzard, who is a genuinely mean bastard.
  • Saving Christmas: Averted, believe it or not. The main plot of the second act is to rescue a stray elf from the consequences of his actions after Christmas went awry six months ago.
  • Santa Claus: It's in the title, after all.
  • Santa Clausmas: Christmas is all about the sacred duty of Santa to give toys to children. There are hints that toymaking is a religion in itself to the elves, but the religious meaning of Christmas itself is omitted.
  • Smug Snake: B.Z.
  • Stock Sound Effects: The Patchmobile makes the Batwing noise in the climax.
  • Street Urchin: Joe.
  • Stupid Evil: B.Z.
  • Weight Woe: As the elves are reading to Santa the poem, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, Santa gets self-conscious over the line about his "little round belly that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly." Mrs. Claus tells him it's probably from all the cookies. The next scene shows him eating vegetables, but then it's never touched upon again.
  • When It All Began: The first part of the story.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Cornelia tells Santa she called the police to warn them about B.Z.'s candy canes and Joe's kidnapping, but she doesn't think they believed her. Apparently, they did, because they try to arrest him shortly afterward.
    • Probably because they believed Joe had been kidnapped, and child kidnapping isn't taken lightly by the NYPD at all.
    • If nothing else, given all the legal troubles B.Z. was facing to begin with, Cornelia probably had the police's attention the minute she mentioned him.
  • Your Size May Vary: The elves vary between a few feet tall to normal humans but a bit short.