The Santa Clauses review: Disney series dazzles with Christmas spirit and sweet nostalgia

The first episode of the TV reboot sets the big guy up for retirement

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To ensure we hadn't forgotten it’s been 28 years since The Santa Clause was released, the first episode of Disney’s TV sequel takes great pleasure in reminding original viewers how we’re all grown up and old.

And, even worse, we have stopped believing.

The Santa Clauses' premise is Scott Calvin (Tim Allen), as he's about to turn 65, realises he can't be Santa forever and so he sets out to find a suitable replacement.

Dropping in on Sara (Casey Wilson), Santa declares: “In the blink of an eye 28 years go by. At least I still look the same.”

And, if I squint a little, he kind of does, give or take a wrinkle or two.

Sara, on the other hand, does not. Sleeping on her parents’ sofa, her life has become “one endless, blurry long day broken up by Judge Judys and it’s clear the lactose-free years have not been fun.

The “28 years later” gags continue throughout the first episode, which will be followed up with new releases every Wednesday. And, while we can only assume they will peter out by episode two, it’s probable that the other main theme will not: the loss of Christmas spirit.

The Santa Clauses won’t be the last slice of entertainment, festive or otherwise, to lament the perceived decline in Christmas spirit. From A Christmas Carol via Scrooged and How the Grinch Stole Christmas to Elf, the demise of what children these days might call “vibes” lies at the heart of this reboot.

We join Santa on Christmas Eve, as he dashes over New York to land on the rooftop of Simon Choksi (Kal Penn), an etailer busy berating his staff over Zoom while his young daughter tries to decorate the house alone. It’s clear that what Choksi lacks in Christmas spirit, he more than makes up for as a potential villain audiences should keep an eye on.

On his way back to the North Pole, Santa suffers some transport mishaps as the magic meter runs low, causing the sleigh to slow and leaving him unable to perform his enchanting nose tap.

The message is clear and about to become increasingly loud: Father Christmas needs to get his groove back.

The series doesn't shy away from Christmas head-scratchers such as why Mrs Claus (Elizabeth Mitchell) has no first name or purpose. Photo: Disney

There’s plenty here to entertain children and young teenagers. The elf-run Christmas control centre (a plot device that’s funnier in the hilarious Arthur Christmas) is staffed by sassy teenagers, with elf Edie (Isabella Bennett) a scene-stealer.

“But who will be the new Santa?” she laments when the sleigh returns ostensibly without Santa. “Please let it be Harry Styles, please, please!”

Much to her chagrin, Santa is not yet down and out, but still the seed has been sown and the head elves are soon murmuring about a potential new Saint Nick.

“The world is different,” Santa laments to Mrs Claus (Elizabeth Mitchell). “People are misfiring, they’re disconnected.”

The first episode sets up a few storylines which one hopes will be expanded upon later.

Mrs Claus decrying her lack of first name and visible purpose other than to “smile and knit” is clearly a call to arms for a post-feminist version of Santa’s wife. Plus, there are the couple’s two children, teenager Cal (Austin Kane) and tweenager Sandra (played by Tim Allen’s real-life daughter Elizabeth Allen-Dick) who are feeling lonely in the North Pole and missing their dad at Christmas.

There’s also the occasional jab at wokeness that’ll keep your boomer uncle happy, such as Santa’s reply to his doctor when she asks: “How’s the Christmas spirit?”

“Fine,” the big man sighs, “except saying ‘Merry Christmas to all’ has suddenly become problematic.”

There’s also Edie's: “We’re not supposed to say naughty anymore,” during a discussion about who’s on the naughty or nice list. Both digs are funny as opposed to a rallying cry to bring back the 1950s.

The nostalgia isn’t heavy-handed, the elf banter is light and when Choksi spots Santa flying through a vortex in the sky and wonders: “Why can’t we do the same?” you just know the bad guy is coming.

Oh, and The Santa Clauses answers all those tricky questions grown-ups face at this time of year such as: “How does Santa get into our house when we don’t have a chimney?”

Watch and learn, little ones. Watch and learn.

The first episode of The Santa Clauses is out now on Disney+, with new episodes released on Wednesdays

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Updated: November 20, 2022, 4:48 AM
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