As we finish our ho ho homework for this semester, most Yale students are eager to see that magical person who visits every child’s home with gifts this season. No, not Michael Jackson, but Santa Claus. Yes, Big Red himself is coming to town, and kids just aren’t impressed by a man on a sleigh when even FedEx can ship gifts to “the world on time.”
But this isn’t the magic of Santa. More impressive than his team of flying reindeer and bottomless bag of toys is a certain aura of joy. In this fast-paced world of PS2 and Pokemon, where does anyone find the time to really appreciate the essence of Santa?
Why, in the movies — the one place where children’s attention span is longer than a few seconds. And so, to save some time, we here at the Yale Daily News have compiled a list (but we only checked it once) of the most Santa-centric movies we could find. Immense care was taken in judging these films, which are rated on four basic criteria:
The Look: What’s Santa without a potbelly, a slick red outfit and a snow-white beard?
Jolliness: Nobody likes an angry Santa: he’s gotta be jolly and fun so all the children love him. Just look at “Bad Santa” and how terrified the children look (of course, Billy Bob Thornton scares children — and adults — anyway).
International Relations: These movies may have been filmed in the U.S., but a true Santa networks globally.
Santa Skill: All those mystical talents, like driving an enchanted sleigh and sliding down chimneys, are part of the basic skills that any Santa just has to have.
The following movies are rated on a 1-5 scale.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947 version)
“A Christmas classic.”
The Look: 5
International Relations: 5
Santa Skill: 2
Edmund Gwenn is by far the best-looking Santa. As round as he is cheerful, Gwenn has a nice, full beard and always sounds like he’s having fun. Best of all, this Santa speaks Dutch! He appeals to kids of all ages. But though he spreads cheer to children, he’s not always so jolly around adults. At one point, Kris Kringle smashes a patronizing psychiatrist across the head with his cane.
The biggest problem is Gwenn does not exhibit any of Santa’s requisite magical attributes. There are no reindeer and no big bag of gifts. And while he’s really cool-looking as a Santa, he’s still just a regular happy old man on screen. The ending leaves the audience unsure if this Kris Kringle is the real deal. It’s like meeting Clark Kent but never seeing Superman. Nonetheless, he’s still the Santa to beat.
The Santa Clause
“Ho ho horrible.”
The Look: 3
International Relations: 3
Santa Skill: 5
This is, by far, the angriest Christmas movie ever. Tim Allen gets into a fight with almost every character in the movie, which includes his ex-wife, his son, his boss and, most importantly, his little elves, who act like they’re working in a sweatshop. The new Santa fails to look even a little happy until the very last 15 minutes of the movie. Everyone pretty much hates everyone else, and every other scene is filled with lots of angst. Scrooges and humbugs who want to spend Christmas alone and angry will find this the perfect holiday film.
Santa does, however, display some ingenuity. The sleigh flies really fast; Allen can shape-shift to fit into any chimney, anywhere, and the reindeer have attitude.
In addition to being magical, “The Santa Clause” wins points for showing a vast array of children dressed in all kinds of ethnic outfits. The costumes all look nice, but Santa himself is still the average American guy. It’s hard to imagine Tim Allen speaking any Dutch, especially since his one catch phrase in English is a series of grunts. This image problem is inherent to casting Tim Allen as Santa, because Allen is still just Tim the Toolman from “Home Improvement.” Even with the beard and potbelly, Santa still looks like he’s about to whip out a power drill or chainsaw. And his voice ain’t all that cheery either.
Bottom line, don’t bother to see the sequel.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Quality — no bones about it.
The Look: 2
International Relations: 3
Santa Skill: 4
He’s a skeleton, he’s the king of Halloween, and he’s one of the happiest Santas the world has ever seen. Jack Skellington may not be much to look at, but he’s so wound up in the Christmas spirit it doesn’t matter. Even when his sled is hit by an artillery shell, Jack keeps singing “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!” as he sails downward in a ball of flames.
Sadly, Jack’s enthusiasm doesn’t make up for the fact that he gives a kid a human head as a Christmas present. The fact that most of the presents try to eat the children doesn’t help his case either. But hey, it’s the thought that counts, right?
As for having an international flavor, the only time Jack stops by a house that doesn’t look American is when he flies by a home and some Chinese girls are there (with the squintiest and slantiest eyes possible).
Despite some small misunderstandings about Christmas, Jack still makes a great Santa Claus. He’s jolly, he’s fun, and most importantly, he wants to make all the children happy. And that, in the end, is what Christmas is really about.
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