Genre: Comedy, Family
Directed by: Christopher Smith
Starring: Rafe Spall, Jim Broadbent, Warwick Davis, Jodie Whittaker
Contrary to the popular song lyric, there are various reasons to be afraid at Christmas time. For cinephiles, one of the great annual causes for concern is the deluge of festive cash-ins; they’re generally as sugary as candy canes and equally as sickly. Every year someone else tries to offer their own spin on the tale of Santa and the Spirit of Christmas, but inevitably they usually end up all singing from the same carol sheet.
Stepping forward to ring the sleigh bell this time is Christopher Smith, who laudably tries to spin a yuletide yarn that’s both naughty and nice; amalgamating the cordial happiness of the season for the youngsters, the heart-warming essence of a family favourite for the mothers, and the action and excitement of a gritty gangster flick for the fathers. Mainly thanks to the spirited leads, Get Santa isn’t the cinematic car-crash you would expect from such a jumble of ideas, but Smith’s overflowing sack of ambition does cause it to be quite a bumpy ride.
Here Jolly Old Saint Nick (Jim Broadbent) finds himself on the wrong side of the law, having crashed his sleigh in London on Christmas Eve. Banged up in Lambeth Prison, Santa struggles to adjust to life on the inside while a recently released ex-con (Rafe Spall) and his estranged son (Kit Connor) attempt to break him out and save Christmas for everyone.
Dressed in the iconic red threads, Broadbent burns bright as Father Christmas, imbuing the film with a glow so warm it could roast chestnuts. His gentle nature evokes fond memories of Richard Attenborough’s Claus from Miracle on 34th Street, his eyes sparkling with the magic of a man with the power to make all your dreams come true.
With the help of Broadbent, and the sweet-natured performances of Spall and Connor, Smith (who is also credited with sole writing duties) instils Get Santa with vast amounts of heart and humour. With delightfully imaginative visuals, some gloriously silly laughs, and a substantial slice of goodwill, Smith ensures all the necessary elements integral to a festive family film are present and correct. And he then bathes them all in a host of chirpy Christmas ballads, from ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’ to ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’.
Where the writer/director struggles is in balancing such festive frivolity with his other ideas. Though the chemistry between the two actors is strong, the developing relationship between Spall’s Steve and his son feels like an afterthought used to add greater weight to the plot whenever it starts to thin out. While the peculiarly invariable attempts to fuse the film with a gritty macho beat does nothing but ingrain it with an unengagingly cold atmosphere that belies Broadbent’s warming presence. It’s by no means a Christmas cracker, but at least Get Santa isn’t the turkey we were expecting.