Moore is not a Patch on Santa Claus
Edmund Gwenn, Richard Attenborough, Tim Allen, Steven Guttenberg and Kevin Sorbo may sound like a random collection of actors but they all have one thing in common, they have all donned a Santa suit in a movie, some more than others. Of course there are many more and one of my favourites is David Huddlestone's traditional take on Santa in 80's Christmas classic "Santa Claus". Now the irony of calling it a classic is that on its release back in 1985 "Santa Claus" was a flop but since then has become a festive favourite with each year children being introduced to Huddlestone as Santa and Dudley Moore as Patch the elf, whilst those who grew up during the 80s going out of their way to watch it as it has that important ingedient, Christmas magic.
Several centuries ago, whilst out delivering toys to the children in the surrounding villages, toy maker Klaus (David Huddleston - Smokey and the Bandit Ride Again) and his wife Anya (Judy Cornwell) get caught in a terrible snow storm and look likely to die when some elves magically whisk them of to their home at the North Pole. Klaus discovers that the elves are an industrious bunch making hundreds of traditional toys and more importantly he has been chosen to become Santa Claus who thanks to some elf magic delivers toys to all the good children around the world. Hundreds of year's later and enthusiastic elf, Patch (Dudley Moore - Arthur), decides to run away from the North Pole and ends up being duped into helping evil toymaker B.Z. (John Lithgow - Footloose) as he tries to take over Christmas. It's now up to Santa to rescue Patch and preserve the spirit of Christmas.
Part of the trouble with "Santa Claus" is that it is a movie of two distinct halves with the first half setting up a nice magical movie only for the second half to ruin it by being a little throw away. When you watch the first half, the introduction to Santa Claus, the history and of course his toy workshop full of happy elves beavering away is all fun and magical. You can't but help enjoy it and even though it is full of terrible puns it still brings a smile to your face. But then when the second half gets introduced the movie loses all that magic and becomes a bit of a nonsense. Now I know it needed to introduce a storyline with some form of immediacy about it but the story of Patch going walk abouts or the overall feel of it is wrong. It doesn't gel with the first half of the movie and turns "Santa Claus" into what it was most likely intended, a vehicle for Dudley Moore.
Now I know that "Santa Claus" is a relatively old movie, especially when you consider it inline with technical advancements in movie making, but even so the few special effects which appear in the movie are to say the least laughable. Yes I am on about those animatronic reindeer which may appear cute for younger audiences are really quite poor whether viewed close up or from afar. It really cheapens the movie having such dodgy special effects and I can only say that thanks to the great set designs, especially Santa's workshop, the special effects can be ignored.
As for the performances well David Huddleston does make for a very fine Santa and probably one of my favourites when it comes to the various versions which have appeared in Christmas movies over the years. He gives Santa that nice, kind feel yet someone who expects respect and it works well. Judy Cornwell is lovely as a warm motherly Mrs. Claus although I have to be disappointed that she didn't get more screen time as between Huddleston and Cornwell they add so much magic to the movie.
But as already mentioned "Santa Claus" was primarily a vehicle for Dudley Moore and like the movie it is a tale of two halves for the comic talent. The first half where he is in the mix with all the other elves he does really well and is likeable but yet when the movie changes track and he pretty much takes centre stage there is something missing from his performance and starts to become annoying. Was Moore the right choice for the movie, despite the issues I think he was and put most of the blame on the second storyline for his performance failing to really work.
Alongside Huddleston, Cornwell and Moore you have the likes of John Lithgow who camps it up perfectly as the evil B.Z. and amongst the other cast there are a few familiar faces such as Melvyn Hayes, Don Estelle and Burgess Meredith as the white bearded ancient elf.
Now the thing is despite all the criticism of the jarring storylines and the terrible special effects "Santa Claus" the movie definitely delivers that Christmassy feel and has that bit of Santa magic about it. As an adult it is easy to see the faults and yes they do spoil a movie which I loved as a child but then this is a movie for children first and adults second. As a children's Christmas movie and even a family Christmas movie it works because it is innocent and delivers a wholesome, heart warming message that makes it feel such a wonderful movie.
What this all boils down to is that "Santa Claus" the movie is not a great movie, it has too many issues even if it is primarily aimed at children. But even so it has that special feel that makes up for it faults and it is no surprise that with a wonderful performance from David Huddleston and a heart warming message it has become engrained into our hearts during the build up to Christmas day.