UK National release:December 5th Rating:(U)Runtime: 102 mins
Director:Christopher Smith Writer(s):Christopher Smith
Cast: Rafe Spall, Jodie Whittaker, Kit Connor, Warwick Davis, Stephen Graham, Ewen Bremner, Nonso Anozie, Joanna Scanlan, Joshua Mcguire, Matt King, Hera Hilmarsdóttir and Jim Broadbent.
The great understated British Christmas family movie. If it’s not middle class couplings, made up of Working Title’s Rolodex of middle-class actors, singing round a crooked christmas tree then it’s cheeky kids and bumbling Englishmen, on a quest to bring christmas cheer throughout our fair island. To be fair, amongst all the decades of hollywood greats, the British family christmas film still manages to hold their own.
Get Santa tries to incorporate all of the traits that make a British film quintessentially British including sardonic dialogue; bad weather and animals – but there’s also a slight embrace of the magical realism that we’re used to getting from American movies, and though it feels slightly misplaced at times in it’s less than glossy settings, its well intentions makes for a pleasant warming winter watch.
When Steve (Rafe Spall) is released from prison, he’s eager to reunite with his son Tom (Kit Connor), and get his life back on track, but unfortunately for him, to everyone else he is and always has been a failure (failing to drive away from the scene as a getaway driver and landing yourself in prison, is perhaps the ultimate tell-tale, but he’s determined to prove Tom that he can be a good father. It just involves, breaking an entering, systematic kidnapping, jumping parole, tying up a police officer … and breaking someone out of prison. Parenting skills 101, if nothing else Steven proves that he isn’t a failure at being a sort of simple-minded pushover. His ex (Jodie Whittaker) knows it, his vile parole officer (Joanna Scanlan) knows it and even the prison warden (Matt King) knows it.
One person who doesn’t think so is Santa, and he’s hiding in Tom’s shed. Adjusting to his protective role as caring father rather easily, Steve alludes that the old man in the shed is nothing more than a crazed pervert. Still he manages to weird Steve out enough to walk free, but not before St Nic rambles on about losing his reindeer and not being able to fly without his sleigh and magic powder. Obviously Steve doesn’t believe Santa is real, but he loves his son, and when news spreads of Santa goes missing on Christmas Eve on one side of the world, on the other, Australian kids are waking up to no presents! Tom explains to Steve that they have get Santa back from wherever he’s disappeared to otherwise — christmas is over.
Not the most ingenious or original of ideas – Miracle on 34th Street is more or less the same plot but more dramatic with its courtroom setting – still Get Santa has one glorious ingredient. Jim Broadbent as Santa Claus. It’s an utterly brilliant casting – the batty, eccentric old man is a role Broadbent carries so spectacularly well.
When Santa is thrown in jail for trying to breakout his reindeer from Battersea Cats and Dogs Home, he enlists the help of Tom and Steve to help find his sleigh and gather his reindeer. Tom manages to persuade Steve to help, no surprises there, as we established, Steve is a pushover.
However he’s got a parole meeting scheduled, with a nasty piece of work half Ms Trunchbull, half Dolores Umbridge. As fate would have it the police are already looking for Steve and now they definitely have a reason to arrest him.
Back in prison Santa is making friends with some familiar mean faces who
aren’t Vinnie Jones soon become allies. Stephen Graham (Boardwalk Empire) and Nonso Anozie (Brighton Rock) are two of those jailbirds and of course the third is Warwick Davis, dressed for most of the film – unironically ironically – as an elf.
The humour treads the borderline between drama, when the very real prospect of Steve going to back to prison starts to become the one defining vehicle in proving that Santa really is real. The concentration on the sparkle and spectacle that usually goes hand in hand with overzealous films about Santa, is very tepid in Get Santa, allowing for the story of how Steve ran away with his 9-year-old son and skipped parole trying to prove the unexplainable.
It’s an interesting subplot and underlying danger. I can’t say it’s explored with the depth or knowing that it initially begins with – by the end we’re walking with elves, escaping Lambeth prison and communicating with a farting reindeer and an escape artist squirrel.
A relatively strong beginning and disjointed middle gives way to a lacklustre and rushed ending. The final scenes involve a Steve and Tom breaking into prison to break Santa out and a less than thrilling more ridiculous car chase that involves santa firing pellets at Police cars… but its O.K. it’s only poo!
Then it all comes to a head in a park, somewhere in London, where Santa manages to get back his Sleigh and ride off into the night – like he couldn’t be happier to get off the island. And after the time he’s had who could blame him? Not as strong, funny or nearly as eager to go on the charm offensive as many films that have gone before it have done both badly and extremely well (Nativity being one), Get Santa is a good family christmas film, but it’s not a classic.