Tuesday, December 15, 2015

When Boomers Did Christmas Movies: The Santa Clause

Boomers had to break rules. They had no clue what the rules were for but they thought they knew and what they knew was that the rules were bad. Big rules, written rules, unwritten rules, old rules, new rules and small rules, it did not matter. A rule within the Christmas movie genre was there is a family, and that family learns the meaning of Christmas. If it is about a single person, they make a romantic pair or learn about the joy of having a family. Boomers had to screw everything up when they made The Santa Clause.

It's a simple comedy where a man named Scott Calvin (S.C., wink wink) finds the true meaning of Christmas with his son and the help of Santa's elves by becoming Santa himself. They decided not to go with the distant father who lost his fun side like in the film Hook. Maybe it could be a "family on a down swing who comes together for Christmas and renews bonds" movie? No. The Santa Clause goes the divorce route. Tim Allen plays a divorced dad who is required to take on the duties of Santa. The entire friction to the story and plot movements in the set up of him being Santa and his son knowing relies on divorced couple problems.

Scott Calvin has funny bits where he is unconsciously taking on the Santa role, and there is physical comedy there if that is your thing. The terrible Boomerness to it all is every single family stress point. He has an ex who has a frosty relationship with him. He himself does not have a relationship. His ex-wife remarried a psychiatrist, which is perfectly Boomer. She doesn't go to a shrink after divorce, she marries one. The child's knowledge of his father being Santa is not brushed off as childhood make-believe after a divorce but instead are delusions that could be signs of worse trouble. This is 1990s America, everything is pathologized, even small children talking about Santa.

It actually gets worse and even more Boomer. There is a dispute over the child that results in a restraining order and police involvement. Adults cannot settle things, let's call in the authorities. Now there are supernatural circumstances with it being a comedy about Santa. If that is the case though, why have the third act be about the cops, custody disputes, and a divorced couple that has not resolved everything? Why? Keep it a comedy. If you do go that route, go absurd and have a nonsensical Santa and the cops stand-off. Instead we get a realization that Santa is real for the adults, this is about Boomers remember, and the ex-wife tears up the restraining order.

This is Boomer. They think the visual of the restraining order being torn is needed for the audience, as if that paper grants supreme authority. It's a scene in a kids' movie. This is a problem of Boomers. They gave up settling things between people, couples, families and neighbors by taking to heart the creed, "I'll sue". They also falsely believe restraining orders work or matter. Yes, the mean ex-boyfriend with a temper must stay 100 yards from your daughter, but that piece of paper is not stopping him from walking up to her in her car and shooting her. Roles come with duties. Families have roles and responsibilities. Being the generation that saw women charge into the workplace, raise their kids at latch-key kids and then settle everything in court, Boomers tore those roles to shreds and made anyone still wanting to perform them feel like second class shits. It also helps men relinquish our generations old duties, "I don't have to be a protective father and beat the shit out of my daughter's ex, this piece of paper will keep her ex-boyfriend away".

This did not have to be the case. Tim Allen as a well intentioned and goofy dad was a winner in 1994 with the success of Home Improvement. Allen could play the everyman dad who might need to learn a lesson and be reminded of his duties, but when he pulled it off, made a kid feel fantastic. On Home Improvement, his scenes with Jonathan Taylor Thomas were great because besides resembling one another (great casting), they had a chemistry and acted believable with one another. No dad is perfect, and no son is perfect, but when those two reconciled or fixed a mess they had created, it felt real. A dad assuming the duties of Santa and figuring out what matters most with his son would have been gold.

Hollywood could not give us that. They had to give us a movie of Boomers divorced and fighting over their kid. It was inclusive as those divorced kids could see a movie that reflected them. It was a modern tale. If this movie reflected any reality it would have had a scene of the parents bickering over who gets Christmas night versus Christmas morning. The Hollywood illusion is not that Scott Calvin and his son performed Santa's duties on Christmas eve, but that the next morning Scott Calvin was not waking his son up early because "we need to unwrap gifts and get you back to your mom's before she yells at me". It's better than what some extended families have to endure with the every other year set up, and magically Jimmy or Jane is missing from every even numbered year Christmas family photo.

This movie has its funny moments, but misses some softballs. It doesn't even hit the easiest of funny points with kids of divorce. Hollywood missed the idea of parents one-upping each other with gifts, and kids manipulating their divorced parents into buying their kids' loyalty. Why? This movie is not about kids. It is about the parents. Boomers must always be the stars of the show. They are hitting old age now, so their deaths will be theatrical just as everything else was.

The other change in the Santa Clause was that the parents did not reconcile. There would be no reunion. The Santa Clause was a year after a similar themed movie came out, Mrs. Doubtfire, with the same message. "Divorce happens, and it definitely was not about you. Hell, if it had been about you, they would have stayed together because this divorce is obviously killing you. Kids, mom and dad are not getting back, but at least they will stop fighting for a moment and move on with their lives... and oh yeah, they love you, too."


John J said...

This is excellent. Keep writing stuff like this I love it.

EvolutionistX said...

Sadly, they made a sequel.

Fighting over holidays is such ridiculous, self-centered bullshit. I know people whose kids are adults and they still make a stink every year. It's behavior unworthy of parents, much less grandparents.

Sandra Johnson said...

Beverly Hoodz Presents - There Is No Such Thing As Santa Claus ..!!

alina mark said...

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