Animated Movie Reviews, Animated Movies, Reviews

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus Review

It’s time to look at a classic short about the origin of Santa Claus. It involves cosmic beings and a debate on if mortals should become immortals. It’s a pretty fun special but one where the length works against it to an extent as it ends so quickly. The plot appears to be on turbo mode the whole time so you’ll stay entertained, but Santa doesn’t get to properly prove himself. By the end of the special you’ll be on the fence about making him an immortal. If anything you may want to give him the thumbs down.

The short has a time jump near the beginning but essentially when Santa was a boy he was raised by a tiger. After that he was stolen by a fairy god and taken to the realm of the gods. They showed him how to live and eventually showed him how sad Earth was in comparison. Still, Santa decided that he needed to go there and help those who couldn’t help themselves. He was given a few holy beings to help him as well as some sprites. At last he could make the world a better place for those who didn’t have enough. He would make Christmas fun for everyone. Unfortunately, some cave trolls don’t like this and decide that they will rob all of Santa’s presents for themselves. Can Santa stop them or will he needs the gods to save him?

Naturally you’ll hope that it’s the former right? Unfortunately, Santa is able to do very little against these guys. He barely even tries to come up with a good plan and just does the same things over and over again. He insists on just walking through this dangerous valley over and over again to no avail. Santa is a nice guy of course, but he just doesn’t seem all that capable. Without all of the magical beings helping him I feel like he would have been absolutely doomed. The guy wouldn’t have even known how to live on his own since he was raised in a world where food is unlimited.

I will admit that the scene where the gods show up to fight the trolls was hype though. In particular, the Great Ak (The main god) shows up and basically tells the trolls to surrender or die. They choose the latter option and that’s it for them. In stories like this the high above beings usually just watch from afar and do absolutely nothing. I’m glad that this wasn’t the case here as they should be willing to come and help Santa out. They were his friends for a while after all and want him to succeed. Maybe they should have prepared him a little more before sending him to Earth.

Also, why should Earth have all of these supernatural beings anyway? You’d think that the gods would have wiped them out or established some rules as otherwise the normal humans are basically doomed from the start. These are all world building questions though and the special is way too short to deal with all of that. These aren’t really negatives, just observations. At the end of the day I thought this special was pretty fun. It had a little more action than I had expected and the premise is pretty interesting. It’s really not what you’d think of at all when you picture a movie about Santa Claus’ origin.

I’m still not a big fan of the animation style, but what else is new right? You either like it or you don’t by this point, but it won’t really hurt the film. It does limit how good it can be from the get go, but the movie stays in the positive area. I think if it had been just a little longer it could have possibly earned an extra star, but as it stands the movie ends up losing to most of the big Santa Claus titles or the more iconic Rankin/Bass productions. There’s a reason this one isn’t very well known.

Overall, This film will certainly teach you a very interesting way to look at Santa’s origin. I’d recommend checking it out if you’re curious. You certainly aren’t very likely to see the story play out like this again. It’s not their best production but it gets the job done and since it is fairly short it’s not like it’ll take a whole lot of time out of your day to check it out. Maybe one day we’ll get another Santa origin and it’ll draw inspiration from this one.

Overall 6/10

Live Action Movie Reviews, Live Action Movies, Reviews

Miracle on 34th Street Review

It’s time to look at a very iconic Christmas film. Miracle on 34th Street is a film that I know by reputation but I was never aware of the plot. I figured it had something to do with a kid finding out his father was a famous basketball player but clearly the sport spinoff is completely different. It’s definitely a solid film and one that holds up quite well throughout the years. Mixing Santa Claus with the court room is a recipe for success!

This movie starts off with Santa Claus deciding to take a break for a little while to see if New York understands the Christmas spirit. Unfortunately it seems that they don’t and buying gifts is all they care about. He quickly replaces drunk Santa at the annual Macy’s parade and is a big hit. His boss doesn’t believe in Santa but Mr. Claus aims to change that. Unfortunately a psychiatrist wants him out of the picture and tries to tell the world he is crazy. Santa is now in a legal battle to prove he is the real deal but the opposition has a smoking gun in the fact that they found his home address…in Long Island!

With almost every delusion there’s a point where it breaks and a point where it should burst if enough facts are provided against it. Often the individual in question will have an identity crisis, stay in denial, or suddenly be very rational about it. That’s not the case in this movie as Santa sticks to his theory that he is the real deal. Of course, nobody challenges him with the tough questions like how many presents he delivers a year or why he doesn’t live in the North Pole. We can probably assume that he was asked those questions in the original nursing home but it’s still a pretty interesting premise. The big question of course I believe he is Santa? I’m going to have to say No here. I just think there are too many strikes against him. The evidence is overwhelming and leaving his cane in the House is the only impressive part by the end. I like to think he left it there to hint to the leads that they should buy the house which could be done without the supernatural. Still, even if Kris Kringle is a little deluded here, he is still a pretty fun main character. Seeing him confront the drunk Santa was pretty intense even if you could argue that the drunkard won that battle. Santa can just be a little too naive and shocked at times to take on a battle weary New Yorker.

The cast is actually pretty solid as a whole. Doris is a likable enough lead and I was on her side of the debate. She has decided to raise Susan practically. She teaches her daughter early on that Santa is fake and shows her that there is a trick behind everything. It’s certainly a different way to grow up but I can roll with it. At the end of the day there isn’t much of a reason to believe in Santa. It’s not like it’s going to help you in the future. Unfortunately the message of the film is against her and that believing in a little magic is good for you. I don’t buy into it, but at least the message wasn’t shoved at the viewer too much. As it is most of the characters don’t believe in Santa and just use him for the publicity.

The romance between her and Mr. Gailey is a little weak though. Considering that they didn’t know each other pretty well, they got serious pretty quickly. I couldn’t really get behind that, but Mr. Gailey is also a fun character. He actually comes up with strategies to improve his odds which is commendable. Getting Santa to stay at his house was certainly a brilliant nice and one that really helped him out. He was also persistent in trying to get Susan to believe in Santa even if that did turn out to be a little trickier than expected.

Susan is a nice enough kid. She can still be rather greedy for her age as she immediately asks for a huge house to put Santa on the spot. Why couldn’t you ask for a doll house or something like that? Even at Santa’s big party she comes across as a big ingrate the whole time. This was a big moment for him and all of Macy’s, you’d think she could have at least pretended to be happy. Of course, she is just a kid so I’ll try to cut her some slack but it does support my theory that often times the kids can get in the way.

The supporting cast can be pretty solid as well. Doris has a colleague who is able to quickly get on board with the Santa idea. When an opportunity presents itself you have to quickly get with the flow or be swept away. In this case Doris may have been swept away if not for this guy’s quick thinking. Santa’s jolly actions of sending customers to other stores is crazy but it brought results so of course you would want to throw your lot in with him. Mr. Macy’s is also a very reasonable character and doesn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. His visions of the newspaper during the court scenes were certainly handled really well. When push came to shove, Mr. Macy’s was definitely ready. The guy from Gimbles was also pretty solid but at least from this movie it’s clear who is in the lead. Gimbles is merely following while Macy’s leads. It’s pretty nostalgic to see Macy’s as well since it’s been years since I set foot in there. I should probably change that one of these days.

Really the only bad character here was the self proclaimed expert who had a grudge against Santa. That guy was definitely not even meant to be likable though. The kid that Santa mentored was also on the annoying side I suppose. I keep on forgetting that the kid even exists since he really doesn’t even serve a purpose in the story. I guess they needed a reason for Santa to hit someone and get in trouble but I’m sure we could have had other routes. Santa definitely should not have gotten in the car with the others either. You always want to let the top boss know what’s up in case things get tricky.

As always I definitely enjoyed the courtroom scenes. Seeing them debate on if Santa exists or not is definitely an interesting concept. The mail delivery may have been on the really convenient side of things but I suppose we take those. Both sides did a decent job debating and in this case I would actually be against team Santa. After all, there’s no way that guy exists even if the post office has conceded. Putting the kid on the stand was a low blow as well. This is why you always want to leave the kids home before engaging in serious business.

Overall, Miracle on 34th Street was a really solid movie. The pacing was tight and it went from start to finish quite smoothly. I wouldn’t say that it ever dragged on and the writing was solid. Kris Kringle could tow the line on whether he was a good character or simply an annoying one the whole time. For the most part I would definitely say that he was handled well though. I think making him the real Santa would have made the film even better but I suppose they wanted to keep the grounded aspect of the movie. If you haven’t seen it yet then you should definitely check the film out. It’s got heart.

Overall 7/10

Animated Movie Reviews, Animated Movies, Reviews

Rise of the Guardians Review

Rise of the Guardians is a film that looked like a lot of fun right from the first trailer that I saw of it. The movie looked like it would have a surprising amount of action in it and the idea of a Holiday Mascot crossover had a lot of potential behind it as well. The film turned out to be about as good as I had hoped and it’s definitely got some nice visuals for the action scenes. I can safely say that it is rather underrated considering how obscure it appears to be, at least relative to other big animated films.

The plot starts off with a lonely guy named Jack Frost. He has ice powers but nobody actually knows him. Guys like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny have a lot of fans but not poor Jack. Despite trying to help people out and enjoy himself in the process, people just can’t see him and as such it all goes for naught. 300 years pass by and nothing changes. However, a mysterious villain has arisen and is determined to destroy all of the iconic holiday legends. Santa Claus and his team of icons realize that this is one battle that they cannot win. Their leader tells them to enlist the help of Jack Frost. Can this team really be enough to take down this villain or is the battle over before it has even begun?

As I mentioned earlier, the battle scenes are handled really well. The energy effects are vibrant and you can feel the power behind Jack’s blows. The rest of the graphics are fairly standard but solid nonetheless. The character models look good and the screen is always clear. If this was more of an action movie then the film would probably be able to prove itself even more. There isn’t much of a soundtrack so that is regrettable but still, having one of the two big technical components to the film at the ready is a good way to start off.

One slight issue with the film, or at least a concern for when the fight scenes would occur is that Jack appears to be the only power hitter on the team. The rest of the combatants just pale in comparison and they don’t seem to have any really useful special abilities. Jack has complete control over the ice and can fire blasts so concentrated that the they are basically lightning strikes. He is really the only one who puts up a decent fight against the villain while the others are basically just watching. At the very least you would expect Santa to be really powerful but surprisingly this was not the case.

Santa is a twin blades user who strikes with pure power. The problem is that he isn’t very fast nor does he seem to be very smart. He’s a nice enough chap and makes sense as the leader of the team but making him a little stronger would have definitely been a good move for the film if you ask me. They still could have had some reason as to why he couldn’t hear the main villain without simply making him weak.

The Easter Bunny is also weak but he’s not nearly as likable as Santa. He talks a good game but just can’t compete when the chips are down. You can tell what his character is after a single scene with him. The trope of acting super tough when you’re actually weak can make for really good characters but typically the film or show has to at least be a little self aware that the character is all bark and no bite. This one never really gets into that. He still isn’t the worst character though or even the 2ns worst. He can still be somewhat reasonable.

The 2nd worst character is definitely the Tooth Fairy. She can’t fight at all and is a little too obsessed with her teeth gimmick. It wouldn’t even be a problem if there was more to her character but there really isn’t. Her role in the film is so small that you could take her out entirely and I doubt a whole lot would change. The worst member of the team is the Sand Man. He’s one of the most annoying kinds of characters as he is always sleeping but actually ends up being the strongest kind of all. He didn’t have to work to get his strength but in fact he was just born into it. He has a lot of arrogance when fighting but not the cool kind as you’re still just annoyed at the guy. It gets to the point where you already dislike him so much that his potentially good moments don’t even work. As you can tell, I did not like this character and giving him the pivotal moment at the end of the film wasn’t a great move if you ask me. Why couldn’t Jack have gotten the big blow and ended his character arc on a grand note? If you ask me, that would have been perfect.

The villain is pretty solid. His plan to take down everyone who believes in the legend is pretty solid as then they will be too weak to put up much of a resistance. He should have picked them off way before that though instead of focusing on the main goal even when there was just one kid left. At that point you just have to pick off the main characters one by one. In his defense, Jack’s plan was pretty good though and it’s easy to make the kids believe when you actually move stuff around right in front of them and use your supernatural abilities in an obvious manner. The villain made for good fight scenes so I’d definitely say that he did a good job fulfilling the role.

I’ll also give the film kudos for not giving the kids much of a role. Lets face it, they would have had some cheesy scenes and I’m not sure I can buy into the kids as solid characters just yet. Still, since they were crucial to the villain’s plan they needed some screen time. The way the film handled it was pretty solid so that’s another feather in its cap. The writing in general was pretty solid and while the cast of characters may not have been amazing, Jack was likable which is really what counts. He’s a solid lead and I’d be up for a sequel.

Overall Rise of the Guardians is a solid animated film with a good amount of action and heart. It’s a film that I would definitely recommend checking out. Where else are you going to see a film where Jack Frost finally gets to shine and prove himself as one of the big Christmas characters? He really doesn’t get a whole lot of attention compared to the other big characters in most media so this may be the only time to really see him take the starring role. Maybe it’s time I get the game adaption of this movie to see if it holds up well. Getting it for Christmas would have been fitting but that day is already booked with presents so most likely it would be later on if I purchase it.

Overall 7/10

Animated Movie Reviews, Animated Movies, Reviews

The Year Without a Santa Claus Review

Time for a Christmas special about Santa and we already saw that the last one didn’t fare quite as well as the average special. Unfortunately, that continues as The Year Without a Santa Claus may have ended up being the least interesting Christmas Special to date. Perhaps Santa Claus just isn’t cut out to be the main character of a film. It could also just be a bad roll of the dice and then he can get em all next year.

Well, the plot is pretty self explanatory from the title. Santa is feeling tired and sick this year. His doctor lets him know that nobody cares about Santa or Christmas anymore and Santa quickly buys this story. He decides to take a day off and his two elves are sad about it. Ms. Claus thinks about being Santa herself, but ultimately decides not to do it. Her Elves must now find some Christmas spirit in South Town to show Santa that there is still hope. One thing leads to another and one of Santa’s reindeer is placed at the pound. Can the Elves make it snow in Southtown so that the Mayor can believe them and free the Reindeer? It’ll be a pretty dicey challenge for the heroes.

Well, the biggest problem with the film is that it’s simply uninteresting. Santa isn’t really the main character since he’s taking a break so the two elves…I guess I’ll just say their names, Jingle and Jangle must team up with Ms. Claus to be the main characters. They mean well, but they are definitely not main character material. Jingle and Jangle making mistakes and one of them beating up the other one gets old very quickly and Ms. Claus is a nice person, but her type of character isn’t great for the lead. She’s the nice old lady that everyone is actually afraid of and I’ll admit that I’ve never been a fan of this kind of character. It’s decent comic relief I suppose, but the film can certainly do better.

Things get a bit better once Snow Miser and his brother Heat Miser show up. First we have to listen to their songs of course and then we get to see a display of their abilities. I think it’s safe to say that Heat Miser would probably win in a fight, but Snow Miser is a lot more reasonable and he is definitely the better character. This guy doesn’t miss a beat and he’s always ready to throw a little snow your way. These two added a supernatural effect to the special and then we got to meet their boss.

Once again, the film tripped a little in how it handled the situation. Mother Nature was a being that scared even Ms. Claus and everyone talked about how tough and vicious she was. Then…she’s actually a really nice lady who scares the two Misers. It was not entirely unexpected, but it was still not a great twist and you’ll probably wince a few times. “This can’t be happening” is something that you might say as she forces the Misers to compromise.

Even the ending is rather odd as the moral is that the kids decide to give Santa his own holiday so he can rest. It’s all going well until one kid can’t hold her feelings back any longer and guilt trips Santa by letting him know that her Christmas is going to be terrible without him. The other kids start to cry too until they finally force Santa to don his old costume and take up the tradition once more. The holiday is cancelled and you wonder what the point of it all was. What just happened here?

The film certainly made me drowzy as it powered through all of the tropes imaginable. At least the Reindeer got a happy ending since everyone else wasn’t doing very well at the time. I will admit that the Mayor was a pretty great character since he mocked the heroes until the bitter end. He even danced with a little kid to show just how tough he was when he let the elves know that he wouldn’t release the Reindeer. He’s just that kind of guy, he’d rather let the animal stay at the pound than find him an owner. It’s the kind of thing that could definitely make him unlikable, but I like to think that this is a nice pound where the animals are cared for.

Overall, This film was a bit of a miss compared to the other Christmas specials. There is no sense of wonder or amazement here. You can’t even really call it a cheerful/happy film. Santa definitely doesn’t look good here and the film never really knew where it wanted to go with the plot. Ms. Claus’ decision to abandon her Santa adventure was so sudden that you know a last second script re write must have happened. If only the characters had been more interesting, the film could have had some hope. I can’t recommend this film and you should watch A Charlie Brown Christmas instead.

Overall 4/10

Animated Movie Reviews, Animated Movies, Reviews

Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town Review

This is one of those old Christmas stories that didn’t become quite as legendary as Rudolph or Frosty. It’s still big enough that you will likely have heard of it though and who doesn’t want to learn about Santa’s origin story? I don’t think that it holds up quite as well as the others though and Santa just isn’t as much of an endearing lead as he could have been. Still, the film is a little more serious than the others and the stakes are much higher than usual.

A nice guy by the name of Mr. Kluger is getting ready to deliver some gifts when he realizes that a lot of children are asking questions about Santa Claus. Since he is the resident expert on the subject he decided to take some time out of his busy schedule to humor them. He tells them the story of Santa’s origin. Santa was left at the doorstep of some nice dwarves and they decided to call him Kris Kringle. They liked to make presents, but they could never deliver them because of a sinister Warlock who lived in the mountains. Time went by and Santa grew up enough so that he could defeat the Warlock. He set off, but little did he know that the true threat was waiting to pounce!

It’s a pretty cool plot on paper and it’s filled with twists, but it didn’t hold my attention quite the same way that the others did. It’s simply less charming and it’s not filled with wonder and excitement like the others. It may be in part because of the stop motion animation though because that style makes the world seem rather bleak in universe. The snow is not quite as majestic even though you can definitely tell that it is in fact snow. The animation isn’t bad for its time though and it’s not hard to watch, but stop motion is certainly one of my least favorite styles of animation.

Burgermeister is the big villain of the film and would you be shocked if I said that he doesn’t end up turning into a good guy by the end? This guy wasn’t going to fold so easily and you can practically see his sinister nature the instant that you hear his name. I know that Burgers are usually synonymous with excellent, but the meister part is what should make his name ominous. He’s not very powerful…he’s just a normal guy, but he has a lot of influence. As a villain, he’s actually quite good and he’s always munching on something. It keeps him ready for what comes next.

Santa Claus is a nice enough guy. He decides that he is going to get the toys to the kids one way or the other and he sets off on a very dangerous quest from which he knows that there may be no return. It’s the kind of heroism that you may remember from the good ole days. He’s pretty selfless and he lets bygones be bygones with the Warlock in the end. His reasoning for only giving gifts once a year by the end is pretty sound since everyone starts to weaken eventually. He’s a nice guy, but I still stand by my claim that he’s not quite as good as Frosty. He’s simply not as charismatic.

The Winter Warlock is an imposing figure who becomes sympathetic as the film goes on. It all happens so fast that you’ll probably be suspicious of the Warlock for a while, but he ultimately seems genuine. That being said, he doesn’t look very good considering that he has a nice array of magical abilities. By the end, we find out that most of his spells are actually pretty useless in a fight and breaking out of a simple prison is beyond his capabilities. He may have powers, which makes him stronger than most of the other Christmas special villains, but it’s still not saying a whole lot.

Jessica has a twist hear that you will start to realize as the film goes on. She plays the main heroine, which may be a first for the Christmas stories. Frosty’s Winter Wonderland had one, but I’m thinking that the title came after this one anyway. She plays a key role when she reminds the Warlock that he has a lot of magic so he takes out the corn. Otherwise, the heroes had basically given up and they wouldn’t have lasted much longer. Her screen time is a little limited, but everyone’s ultimately was since the film is still pretty short.

I think that one more factor which impacted the film was that Santa Claus wasn’t all powerful here. It’s always fun to see him being portrayed as an invincible being who can do just about anything. If we’re going to make a legend, we may as well make him an invincible one right? Santa should have inherited the powers of previous or future Santas in the climax and materialized some kind of super gift. It may be asking for a lot, but that would have been a good way to end the film on a pretty high note.

Overall, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town is a pretty decent film, but it’s one that could have been a little better. Santa Claus just doesn’t draw a crowd the way that his Christmas counterparts do, but it was nice to see how it all began for him. Having a villain with the word “Burger” in his name was pure genius and the Warlock made for a unique villain since most of them didn’t have magic powers back in the day. The special is well over an hour so it won’t take too long to finish it. Considering this, I think it’s probably a good bet to check it out as we are not too far past Christmas, but you could also watch the original Frosty The Snowman as a good alternative. After all, you’ll want to stay frosty during these cold days right?

Overall 5/10