Nearly 35 years after the original theatrical release of Santa Claus: The Movie, the KQ4 Team is pleased now to share a different aspect of the film's overall status by comparing what was said about the film then with what's being said about it now. The majority of this new segment of our site was compiled from the review sections of Amazon.com, various site links as provided through Wikipedia, and assorted other sources. As per our usual policy, portions of the texts have been corrected for purposes of grammar. Enjoy!
ROGER EBERT, from the files of RogerEbert.com:
It seems strange at first that the producers of the Superman movies would move on to an epic about Santa Claus. But in a way, it makes sense: both Superman and Santa are legendary superheroes, able to cure our pains through magical intervention. Both of them can fly through the air. Both have their respective large supporting casts: Superman has Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White; whereas Santa has Mrs. Claus, the Elves, and, of course Dasher, Dancer, Donner and Blitzen.
Ilya Salkind, Executive Producer of the Superman movies, has extended the similarities by making Santa Claus: The Movie roughly similar in shape and form to a Superman epic. .... The movie does an interesting job of visualizing Santa's workshop, and introducing the residents there. The Elves seem to have a sort of Craftsmen's Guild. Burgess Meredith, wearing a white beard several strands long, plays the Ancient Elf, who briefs Santa on his duties. Dudley Moore is Patch, who is not as efficient as he should be. There are long rows of new toys, all made in a sturdy, old-fashioned way out of wood and nails. There's not a piece of plastic or polyurethene in sight.
.... For me, the high point of the movie is the Senate hearing where a shocked Subcommittee Chairman orders an aide to empty out the stuffings of one of Lithgow's toy animals. What he had it stuffed with? Why, nails, rusty razor blades, and shards of broken glass, of course! .... Lithgow is supposed to be in the great tradition of superhero villains, like Gene Hackman's Lex Luthor in Superman, or all the bizarre enemies that Batman had to face. While Lithgow gives a nice, hateful performance, the villain is not drawn big enough, and he doesn't really have enough to do. Indeed, the central weakness of Santa Claus: The Movie is its lack of real conflict. The film needs a super-Scrooge, and it only has the sort of bad guy Ralph Nader might have invented. .... Little kids will like it, and, come to that, most of the film overall. The film's one weakness is that older kids and parents, deputized to escort the little ones, are likely to find much of it a little thin.
From the files of Wikipedia:
"Vincent Canby in the New York Times was less positive than Ebert, calling the production 'elaborate and tacky.' Canby described the film as having 'the manner of a listless musical without any production numbers.' Unlike Ebert, he offered little praise for the film's production design, quipping that 'Santa's workshop must be the world's largest purchaser of low-grade plywood' and that the flying sequences 'aren't great.' The sole praise Canby had for the film's acting was for John Lithgow, who, Canby said, '(gave) the film's only remotely stylish performance.' "
From Jim Jr., Buffalo, NY:
Anyone who buys this film should really get the widescreen DVD version. The flying scenes are so much better in widescreen, as are the scenes at the North Pole. The full-frame 'pan-and-scan' version can't hold a candle to the widescreen (I have carefully compared them both).
There's an excellent commentary track featuring director Jeannot Szwarc, with Scott Michael Bosco asking him the questions ... It's worth the price of the package alone. However, there is also a great 'making-of' documentary that was originally prepared for TV, and was broadcast after the film's theatrical release.
It is really tragic that Dudley Moore eventually suffered from the disease that made it impossible for him to perform. That makes this film that much more of a treasure, as it shows him at the top of his form as an actor. (It's also a shame that the producers never used his musical talents in some way.)
Trim your tree, fire up your fireplace, pour some egg nog and enjoy this very special holiday treat!
From Angela Nelson, Groton, CT:
I love this movie! I watched it every year (on VHS) until my sister taped over it --- and now, I am so happy to have found it! This classic has the best Santa ever --- and the story of how he became Santa is beautifully crafted. It's a wonderful story, and it ranks up there with Rankin/Bass' Rudolph and all the other Christmas classics!
From Daryl Brown, Jackson, MS:
I have enjoyed this movie since it was released in 1985. Henry Mancini's score definitely puts you into that Christmas spirit. Sheena Easton's Christmas All Over the World is a classic in and of itself. I'd recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys the holiday season. The story is gentle enough for the little ones, but it's just as enjoyable for adults.