This article is part of The Daly Planet Presents: The Twelve Days Of Christmas Movies, a daily series leading up to Christmas Eve 2015.  To see all other entries click here

When you say the same word over and over and over, it starts to sound like a weird non-word. You actually notice the word as a sequence of sounds, as a series of mouth-movements and vibrations.

The Santa Clause.
The Santa Clause.
The Santa Clause.

Sometimes circumstance dictates that you watch the same movie over and over and over. Such as when your toddlers decide, inexplicably, that this is their favorite movie, and demand this be the movie you put on, despite the availability of other, better, and less crass movies.

The Santa Clause.
Th-ah. Sahn-tah. Claw-z.

And so, you notice things about the movie you never would have seen otherwise. Maybe “notice” isn’t quite the right word, because at some point you lose track of where you’re just inventing interpretations to make sense of something inherently bizarre and whimsical.

For example, why doesn’t Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) call the police when a man falls of his second-story roof and lands hard, unresponsive? Instead of immediately running inside to call an ambulance, Calvin rifles through Santa’s pockets in search of identification. Then, when Santa disappears, Calvin steals his clothes (“He’s naked somewhere!”) and sleigh. Our protagonist is not off to a good start.

Santa Clause Gif

And later in the movie, why does he continue to pretend he’s not turning into Santa Claus? Why doesn’t he just shave and let his beard grow back super-fast before his doubting ex-wife Laura’s (Wendy Miller) eyes?

Ultimately, none of this nitpicking matters. The Santa Clause is a silly movie powered entirely by whimsy and Tim Allen’s charisma. If the movie is about anything, it’s about the childish, willfully irrational joys of the Christmas season. When asked how Santa visits every house in the world in one night, Calvin’s son Charlie (Eric Lloyd) explains that “there’s some kind of time continuum that breaks down once Santa’s in his sleigh”. The film embraces this type of magical thinking with full self-awareness.

Calvin’s arc exemplifies this theme: he’s a kid at heart, who has grown callous and cynical from age and hard experience. One of the things that becomes really striking after watching this movie forty seven times is how tremendous of an asshole Calvin is for most of the movie. With only twenty minutes left on the running time, he violates a custody order, threatens to physically assault his son’s stepdad Neil (Judge Reinhold), and kidnaps his son. It’s not until the last eight minutes that he concedes that his son should be left in the care of his mom and Neil. Thus, Calvin eventually learns to mellow out and stop “denying his inner child” as he connects with his son over their shared magical experience, while simultaneously becoming a more responsible parent.

Neil’s arc is similar. He’s an analytic-minded psychiatrist who delivers, for me, the most emotionally impactful moment in the film, when he finally receives the Christmas present that had been the linchpin of his Santa-denialism and utters, in tones of pure childlike wonderment, “My Wienie Whistle!”

The sequel to this film, The Santa Clause 2: The Mrs. Clause, is a surprisingly fun follow-up, which I hadn’t seen until this year, when, in desperation, I reached a compromise with my toddlers that I could put on any movie that wasn’t actually The Santa Clause as long as Santa was still in it and was still played by Tim Allen. The success of this franchise with my kids is probably the most meaningful endorsement that can be bestowed upon a Christmas movie.

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