December 10, 2011

Eyes on Christmas: Call Me Claus

The fifth movie in my Christmas marathon is probably the most traditional in terms of actually being a Christmas movie. I have watched a scarcely connected horror movie, a surreal Mexican Santa movie, a tale of drugs and commercialism, and a misbegotten story of a dysfunctional family that will bore you to tears. This time around I have a holiday movie that actually has a little bit of the Christmas spirit and is actually easy to watch, it is not exactly the best one around, but it was mildly enjoyable and actually felt like a Christmas movie I could see my family watching.

Mind you, this is no It's a Wonderful Life, or A Christmas Story, or even Elf. What this is is a direct to television movie that appeared way back on 2001. I had never heard of it before now, and I probably would have been just as happy having never seen it in the fist place, however, as I search for movies to watch this season, I am bound to stumble across the likes of these.

Call me Claus is an inoffensive little tale of Santa Claus and his search for a replacement. You see, every 200-years a new person is picked to take up the mantle of the legendary gift giver. This particular year sees the current Santa (Nigel Hawthorne) in his final ride and unwilling to give it up. The rest of the elves are now trying to get Santa to do the right thing because there is a contract involved. Of course there is, without it we wouldn't have a story.

The elves refer to it as the water world clause. If a new Santa is not selected the clause kicks in and I guess that is the end of the world. Wow, I did not notice the apocalyptic overtones when I was watching, but there it is. Why is this so? One of the elves mentions Noah and the flood and alludes to it being caused by the lack of a Santa selection. Hmmm..

Anyway, he story starts some years ago when a little girl named Lucy wishes to have her father home from Vietnam. She also asks to put his hat on, which he obliges and the hat glows. Could it be a sign? Maybe. In any case, Lucy and her mother and brother go home only to learn that her father had been killed. Way to put a downer on things, right?

We jump ahead to the present day and pick up with a now grown Lucy (Whoopi Goldberg). She is a grouchy TV producer of a QVC-esque home shopping network. She is looking for a Santa to sell stuff on air and it just so happens that the Santa of her youth (and the real Santa) is looking for her and stumbles into the audition.

What follows are Santa's attempts to get Lucy to lighten up and embrace a new career path. Meanwhile, she and her boss are focused on selling lots of junk, and the real Santa, despite some quirks is doing a great job of it. Of course there will be some miscommunications along the way, but Lucy will ultimately see the light and take up the reigns.

The movie is a trifle, disposable entertainment. I will say that I really liked Nigel Hawthorne's performance as Santa. He brings class to the role, he is believable and has great warmth. Sadly, it was his final performance as he passed away in December 2001. Whoopi, on the other hand, is, well, Whoopi. She doesn't do anything particularly great and is annoying at times. Among the supporting cast the standouts are Victor Garber, who always does the job well, and Taylor Negron as the head elf, this is a strange dude who does a fine job being weird.

Sure, watch it, it is harmless enough and has its heart in the right place. Besides, you can picture Whoopi goldberg as a Predator!

Mildly Recommended.

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