Needs More Whoopi
As I sat down to watch "Call Me Claus" I really wanted to like this movie, it not only starred Whoopi Goldberg but also Nigel Hawthorne and Victor Garber. And trust me I really tried to like "Call Me Claus" but something about this movie just doesn't work despite every endeavour by the producers to try and capture the magic of other Christmas movies. If you don't know what I mean by that then "Call Me Claus" uses ideas from other well known movies both Christmas movies such as "Miracle on 34th Street" and non Christmas movies such as "Holy Man". In fact the biggest problem is that "Call Me Claus" ends up unsure who its audience is with a general child friendly tone which is punctuated by some adult moments of humour.
As a young girl Lucy (Whoopi Goldberg - Rat Race) visited Santa (Nigel Hawthorne - Madeline) in the department store and wished for her father to come back from Vietnam, unfortunately he did but not how she hoped and it turned her off of Christmas. But something happened that night as Santa put his hat on her and it glowed. Many years later and Lucy is a producer at a shopping channel holding auditions for Santa for the Christmas sales extravaganza. At the same time Nick, the Santa from the department store who is in fact the real Santa, has his own problems as his 200 years as Santa is coming to an end and unless he can persuade Lucy to be his replacement it could mean Armageddon, not easy with Lucy being anti Christmas.
So as I said "Call Me Claus" draws on several other movies to come up with its story; there is a touch of "Miracle on 34th Street", "Holy Man", "Scrooge" and a few others as well. There is nothing wrong with that as the production values are high enough that it doesn't just feel like a movie ripping off these other better known movies. In fact I was pleasantly surprised by Nigel Hawthorne's take on St. Nick which almost stands up to Richard Attenborough's take on Santa Claus.
But despite having the right look "Call Me Claus" lacks something, maybe a few things starting with Whoopi Goldberg. As a fan of Goldberg I expected big laughs and sarcasm but for so much of the movie she is anonymous, acting crotchety in the background and never seeming to be embracing the character. In fairness Hawthorne's performance is a scene stealer but even then Goldberg is outshone by both Victor Garber and Brian Stokes Mitchell in lesser roles.
But the other thing which I struggle with is who this movie is made for as 90% of it is child friendly; in fact it has a very child friendly look and story. But then it has some moments which jar with everything else from a scene where Lucy says the word "crap" half a dozen times to a joke about how goblins are a misadventure on a beach between drunk gnomes and leprechauns. They are too in your face and seem out of place in a movie which for the most seems to be targeting a pre-thirteen year old market.
What this all boils down to is that "Call Me Claus" has the look but it ends up lacking the substance with a general lack of Christmas magic spoiling things, well that and some moments which make me wonder who the intended audience is.