Certainly a film called Santa Claus: The Movie would feature the jolly old bearded one in the starring role, right? Well, not so fast. Dudley Moore (Arthur) actually had top billing, as an elf named Patch, and Santa would have to suck it up and take a supporting role in this 1985 holiday feature.
The film opens with a brief history lesson about Santa’s origins. Mr. and Mrs. Claus are simple reindeer herders who find themselves caught in a formidable blizzard while trying to deliver toys to the local children. Facing a frigid demise, they are miraculously transported to the North Pole. Santa and the missus set up shop in their new surroundings and are given a crew of helpful elves to assist in toy assembly. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Flash forward to the future and we meet an elf named Patch, who has some revolutionary new ideas to bring the toy factory into the modern age. Unfortunately, his changes cog up the tried and true system, ending in disaster. Embarrassed, Patch leaves the North Pole and heads southward to The Big Apple to make a new life for himself. His path crosses with an unscrupulous toy maker named B.Z., who is in plenty of hot water himself for filling his dolls with razor blades and rusty nails. Offered a job, Patch quickly accepts, thinking that he is going to become the toymaker’s right-hand man. But B.Z. has other sinister plans. He hopes to steal the secret of making reindeer fly so he can create the ultimate toy and promote his idea for a new holiday – Christmas II. Patch soon finds he could sure use some help from ol’ St. Nick but it’s cold and flu season and Santa and the reindeer are all under the weather.
With John Lithgow doing what he does best and taking on the sinister role of B.Z., along with David Huddleston cast as the picture-perfect St. Nick, Santa Claus: The Movie had high box-office hopes. Unfortunately, the film only managed to make back about half of the $50 million in production costs, thanks in part to the lofty special effects created by the same techno-wizards that made Superman fly. Of course, to the littlest moviegoers, budgetary concerns are of no matter when the subject is Santa Claus. One glimpse of the jolly man in the red suit flying over New York City and they were sold.
Do you remember seeing Santa Claus: The Movie in the theaters? If you have any memories you’d like to share, we’d love to hear them in our comments section!