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  Get Santa Absolutely Crackers
Year: 2014
Director: Christopher Smith
Stars: Jim Broadbent, Rafe Spall, Kit Connor, Ewen Bremner, Warwick Davis, Stephen Graham, Joanna Scanlan, Jodie Whittaker, Nonso Anozie, Matt King, Perry Benson, Joshua McGuire, Bjarne Henriksen, Hera Hilmar, Michael Walter, Graham Hughes
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Steve Anderson (Rafe Spall) got out of prison today, and his first thought had been for his son Tom (Kit Connor) who he had not seen for over two years. He was inside for being a getaway driver, and not a very good one if he had been caught, but now he is conscious he wishes to reform and live up to his son’s damaged hopes for him, that in spite of his ex-wife Alison (Jodie Whittaker) taking up with another man, one without a criminal record. However, when Steve phones her she makes it clear she is not keen on him spending too much time with Tom, and refuses to allow him to head over straight away, tomorrow afternoon will do. He has to comply – until that evening when the boy calls him about an unusual occurrence in the garage.

At this stage it’s difficult to find much novel to do with Christmas movies, especially since the market has been saturated and cheapened by an abundance of shallow cash-in television product cynically produced to fill up gaps in the schedules with a distinctly phony quality to its attempts on exploiting good cheer at the season to be jolly. Therefore it was a brave moviemaker who opted for something different, especially for the cinema where if it wasn’t a horror movie or far worse, an all-star, laugh free Christmas comedy then it didn’t appear to make much of an impact in the landscape of Yuletide entertainment. Director Christopher Smith was one such moviemaker, working from his own script to deliver a truly offbeat treat.

Smith had been best known for his horror movies himself, and when Get Santa was announced it was expected to be very much in the Christmas chillers vein, possibly an unofficial follow-up to Don’t Open Till Christmas if he wanted to get really trashy. But this wasn’t like that at all, actually a sweet natured take on of all things a prison escape flick, where the titular Santa (Jim Broadbent twinkling like there was no tomorrow) is banged up for endeavouring to rescue his reindeer from Battersea Dog’s Home. Quite how he managed to lose them and wind up in Tom’s garage was not wholly clear, but what we did know was Santa moves in a mysterious way, and he had a plan of sorts to rescue the season.

As the song goes, it’s clichéd to be cynical at Christmas, and while this plot could have easily slipped into lazy, sneering anti-festive mood, Smith to his credit was not interested in that. What was on offer was a comedy that wasn’t too crude, farting reindeers and shit guns apart, but did generate a decent amount of solid laughs when Santa, the least likely prisoner you could imagine, appeals to Tom and more importantly his dad Steve to get him out of the pickle he has landed in. He had a way of proving to disbelievers that he was the real deal by telling them of their early Christmases, allowing a light theme of the child being the father of the man (or woman, though it was the males this was interested in) to develop as we can see how an ill-served upbringing can affect one in later life.

The point being, Steve just cannot allow that to happen to Tom, he’s a good kid and doesn’t need to have his life ruined through the lack of a role model he can look up to with genuine respect, which at the beginning his dad doesn’t especially fall into the category of. Don’t expect a bunch of stern or even schmaltzy life lessons, however, as Get Santa was more eccentric than that, so while it conformed to the regulation feel good tone by the end, and indeed at various points throughout, there were enough bumps on the road to give it its curious texture. Smith assembled a very capable cast who all pitched their performances, from caricature to something more grounded, just right, and Spall winningly represented an ex-con who had made a bad choice along the way but was by no means a bad person. Rest assured, in spite of the prison setting there was a magical element that grew stronger the further this progressed, and the overall feeling may not have been classic, but it was a job well done. Music by Ilan Eshkeri (though The Saturdays and not The Waitresses? Not cool).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Christopher Smith  (1970 - )

British writer and director with a penchant for the macabre. After making short films at film school, it was seven years before his first feature was released, the London Underground-set chiller Creep. He followed it with well-received comedy horror Severance and shipboard puzzle Triangle, then the medieval horror quest Black Death. As a change of pace, he next directed his own spin on Christmas, family fantasy Get Santa, and was also responsible for one of the Borley Rectory horrors, The Banishing.

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