The Santa Clauses is a fine adventure for families and kids, but is let down by a rushed story

It’s been 16 long years since we last saw Tim Allen don the big red coat. Now, Santa and his family have made the jump to the small screen for an all new adventure in The Santa Clauses. It follows Scott Calvin as he sets out to find a replacement for the role of Santa, while preparing to return to life in the USA.

This franchise has always been full of cheesy family fun. It’s the reason why the original trilogy was so enjoyable when I was younger. So going into this series, I was expecting more of that tone – and that’s exactly what we get. It’s very lighthearted, silly and kid-friendly, while still bringing in the occasional moment for older audiences and parents. The comedy itself was a little too silly for my liking. Some jokes are fun, and there’s a couple of one-liners that garner a little chuckle, but there’s nothing more substantial than that. It’s very much focused on appealing to kids, especially in terms of the elf humour, and so that whole aspect of the series didn’t resonate with me. That doesn’t mean I was hating it – I still enjoyed a good chunk of the series, as it does send the characters on some fun-filled adventures – but I wasn’t really laughing per se.

As a result of the comedy not pulling its weight, I ended up leaning on the story to draw me in and keep me hooked. For the most part, the narrative works, although there’s a glaring flaw which ruined the effectiveness of the story. It kicks off quite well with the first two episodes. It’s nothing amazing, but it sets up a neat little story and a few character arcs that could turn out to be interesting. It’s fun, it’s quirky and I was on board. Then comes the middle of the series, specifically the third and fourth episodes (and a little of the second episode). This is where the short six-episode run ends up being a detriment to the series. It rushes through core story beats and character developments that could have been greatly fleshed out over time. In fact, not only does it rush through a pretty important character arc, it seemingly just skips over a substantial chunk of story. Because of how much it glosses over, I lost almost all emotional investment in the story and its characters during that time.

This huge narrative flaw makes the entire middle of the season hard to watch. Some of the fun is still there – so it’s tonally in line with the rest of the season – it’s just that there’s so much time covered and skipped that it does a disservice to how it’s all initially set up. Following that, the last two episodes are by far the strongest. The pace slows right back down and we get a very fulfilling conclusion with some genuinely interesting arcs and very fun moments. It really hones in on the core story and focuses on actually showing us the development of the characters. It’s just a shame we didn’t get to see a lot of that in the middle of the season. If the entire season ran at the pace of these last two episodes, with the events of the middle two episodes stretched over four or five episodes, this could have been a genuinely great series. However, we don’t have that. We have a decent opening, a disappointing middle and a very strong finale. The ending saves the series, but not quite enough.

In terms of the performances, it was cool to see both Tim Allen and Elizabeth Mitchell leap right back into their respective roles. They’re clearly having a lot of fun, and that plays into my overall enjoyment of the show. New characters in Cal (Austin Kane) and Sandra (Elizabeth Allen-Dick) are good, with the performances behind them being just fine. Kal Penn enters the franchise as Simon Choksi, a character who is truly infuriating to watch. That’s nothing against Kal or the writers, since it was very clearly by design. Again, a huge chunk of his development is wrongfully skipped over, but what Kal does bring to the role is worthwhile.

In the end, I still had fun with most of The Santa Clauses, but it ended up being a disappointment with how it tried to cram too much in too few episodes. Humour-wise, it’s what I expected it to be, so I don’t criticise it for aiming at a younger audience. Some moments of dialogue put a smile on my face and the spreading of festive joy is a neat touch. Despite the condensed story and rushed pace, I would still say this is a worthwhile watch for families, kids and anyone looking for a hit of 90’s nostalgia. Don’t expect something of the quality of the original film – go in expecting a dash of lighthearted fun and you won’t be disappointed.

5.4/10

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