Dec 24 2012

The Six Strangest Cinematic Santa Claus

Published by at 10:00 am under Editorials,Lists,Movies

Alright, as my Christmas articles come to an end, as Christmas will be mere moments away by the time you read this, I figured I would bust out one last themed list. This time, focusing on actors who seem to be least likely to play Santa, yet ended up playing Santa regardless of that fact.

Though there have been many cinema Santas through the ages who seemed to embody all the ideals and visual flair of Saint Nick in all his vermilion glory, there are some that, no matter how celebrated they are as an actor, just seem like a super strange fit. And in some examples, it still has a quirky charm to it that makes it work. Yet in some other cases, you just can’t see Santa in these actors at all. Either way, they are worth noting. Also, I am out of Christmas ideas, and slightly disappointed the world didn’t end.  Sorry, I dream big.

Tom Hanks as Santa from The Polar Express

I know I am mentally insane because I am always convinced Santa is just about to molest a kid at any given moment I see him.

Alright, Tom Hanks is awesome. And Tom Hanks is pretty much awesome in everything he does. Hell, he was even awesome in the movie about the kid who goes nuts from playing Dungeons and Dragons. And even though great lengths have come in CG work, this is still Tom Hanks, who is decidedly Tom Hanks, playing Santa. I realize some will say it is voice acting, that is not how this film was made. He actually did act out all the scenes, in character, so don’t dial in that excuse.

Now don’t get me wrong, Hanks did NOTHING WRONG as Santa (Hanks can do little wrong), but, my mind wouldn’t stop incessantly talking about it was Tom Hanks, and few can argue that, as much of a boner as Zemeckis has for him, he was odd choice as Santa.

Paul Giamatti as Santa from Fred Claus

Vince Vaughn just wished for his old career for Christmas.

Alright, should I even bother talking about Fred Claus here? I mean, we can all pretend that this wasn’t a mighty shark jump for both of these guys, but the film was pretty awful. Now, all told, Giamatti is a fabulous actor, and you can see he had some fun playing jolly old Saint Nick. But in the same breath, he is well known for playing the curmudgeonly older man who hates everything, and a bit of that seemed to bleed into the role here. Intentionally, I am sure, but I am not sure if it works.

Granted, Santa does seem like he must be pretty exhausted, so perhaps Giamatti brought some realism to the role, but come on. Realism to the role of Santa is not necessary. This is Santa we are talking about here. Dude who has slave elves and travels the world in one night, and such.

Goldberg as Santa from Santa’s Slay

Yes, it is exactly as weird, and exactly as awesome as you assume it’s going to be from looking at this.

I know I just talked about this dude on my Christmas horror list, but I really feel the need to reiterate how important it is to add this film to your holiday rituals. Unlike some of the other movies on this list, which don’t seem aware their Santa casting is a bit off, this film embraces that fact from the very first frame. This is Santa, on roids, and made out of Devil meat. And it is apparent that Goldberg has a shit-ton of fun playing this over-the-top Satan Santa.

Is it odd? So much so that a great deal of people don’t believe me when I tell them the premise of this film. But that makes it no less awesome.

Ed Asner as Santa from Elf

Okay, I will admit, for the modern crop of Christmas films that don’t suck, Elf is pretty high up there.

Elf is a modern Christmas classic. Outside of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, there are very few modern holiday classics. And the reason that Elf works is, well, Will Ferrell. The elation he has as the titular character in this film is contagious to all who watch it, and this film is even from a time when Zooey Deschanel was not an absolute caricature of herself, so the film works on quite a few levels.  But I am old school, and old school Ed Asner, much like Paul Giamatti, was an old curmudgeon. That was his whole shtick. So seeing him as Santa felt like, well, I was watching Ed Asner as Santa. He didn’t do a terrible job, but what happened to the idea of a jolly, super-portly “ho ho ho” type of Santa? Where did that go, and get replaced with old, angry men?

Wait, did I just get to use curmudgeon twice in one article? Man, maybe this will be the best Festivus ever, afterall.

Beau Bridges in The Christmas Secret

” My brother has Lebowski festivals held in his honor yearly, and look what I have become? Ho Ho HOWWW??!!”

Alright, admittedly  there is not a single one of you who saw this, ABC Family, TV movie, which makes its inclusion on this list even more awesomesauce for all of you. I mean, take a minute and gaze at the sadness of that pic. I wanted to subtitle it: Look how few f*cks I give, because that is how the meme-ternet works now, but decided to make a suicidal inquiry in his voice instead, and I stand behind that choice.

Anyway, at no point during this performance do you think “Santa!” in opposition to that, actually, you watch it and feel true sorrow for the lost Bridges brother, swallowed alive in the frothing foam of family TV. A worse fate I do not know. Dude’s gotta eat. I can respect that work ideal. We all need to eat.

Tim Allen as Santa in The Santa Clause 1-12

Truth be told, I have nothing bad to say about the first film. Honestly.

Okay, so maybe there haven’t been twelve of them, but there might as well be.

Listen, the casting may have seemed a bit off, but that is what worked on the FIRST film. I yelled the word ‘first’ because, like all Disney films that seemed to make more than ten dollars, there have been a cavalcade of sequels, that have gone from bad to worse. But, even an old miser like me can give some credit to Allen for having some fun with his initial performance as the reluctant new Santa. There are some great seasonal jokes in the film, and Tim Allen, who was at his height when the first film was released, really drives the fun OF THE FIRST FILM home.

And in a weird sense of circular logic, in my head I imagined Tom Hanks as the Santa when I first watched it, so in that sense, it all comes back together.

Some (Odd) Honorable Mentions:

Paul Sorvino in Santa Baby 2: Christmas Maybe. Sorvino, who is normally more at home playing a gangster, still felt like he was playing a gangster in this movie.

William Shatner voiced Santa on an episode of one of my favorite cartoons from the nineties, Eek! the Cat. Did you read that, Shatner Claus. Pure magic. Game over. Epic win.

Alec Baldwin recently voiced Saint Nick in the Rise of the Guardians movie. I wonder how many kids got shweddy balls in their stocking this year? In the stocking is better than on the chin, I always say.

Another neo-Christmas classic, if I may be so bold.

Merry Christmas, Unreality readers, and thank you for the truly amazing year.





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